How to Check the Health of Your Tires: A Beginner’s Guide

Tires-Mechanic-Balancing-Tire

The tires on your car can make or break your driving experience. A good set of properly inflated tires is the key to good fuel efficiency, safe stopping distances, good traction on the road, and a strong performance for your car.

What goes into a good set of tires? You’re about to learn the answer to that question and much more. We put together some helpful tips and tests to keep your tires spinning forever!

Penny Test

The first way to keep your tires healthy is by using the “penny test”. You might have heard of this phrase before. It’s a way to use a single penny to check your tires’ health.

Grab the penny so Abe is facing you, upside down (the top of his head is pointing towards the ground). Insert the penny into the tread of your car and look at the penny. Is the rubber of your tire covering any of Abe’s head? If so, then your tires are healthy.

If you can see all of Abe’s head, then you don’t have enough tread on your car. It’s time to replace your tires and see if something is mechanically wrong with your wheels.

How does this test work? Your treads need a certain thickness of the rubber to be efficient. Using a penny test to measure the thickness of rubber you have.

Check the Pressure

Checking your pressure should be a daily, if not weekly, event. It takes a few seconds and doesn’t take much effort at all.

For some cars, you can see a digital readout of your tires’ pressures on your dash. If you have to go old school, there’s a simple physical method. Grab your tire pressure gauge and take it to one of your tires. Unscrew the valve stem cap from your tire.

For reference, the valve stem is the black rubber tube that sticks out of your tires. They have a threaded cap on the end that you can use your fingers to unscrew.

With the cap off, you should see a shiny tip to the valve stem. This is where you insert the gauge and read the pressure. Not sure what pressure you need? Open your driver’s door and look at the exterior wall near your seat. There should be a piece of paper that has recommended tire pressures printed on it.

You don’t want too much or too little tire in your pressure – either option will result in worse performance from your car.

Checking the tire pressure
Checking the tire pressure

Tire Rotation

Every time you change your oil, you should rotate your tires. This method is different depending on which wheels are driving your car. Keep in mind that any time you move a tire from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side, you need to reverse the tire on the rim.

Rotating your tires ensures even wear across the tires. Having uneven wear can result in your car swerving and further wearing your tires unevenly.

Front-Wheel Drive

This process is specific to FWD cars, make sure you do so carefully:

  • Front left goes to rear left
  • Rear left goes to front right
  • Front right goes to rear right
  • Rear right goes to front left

Rear and Four-Wheel Drive

Again, this process can only be done on RWD or 4WD (or AWD) cars.

  • Front left goes to rear right
  • Rear right goes to front right
  • Front right goes to rear left
  • Rear left goes to front left

Directional Tires

Your car might have directional tires. This means the tread pattern is different on the left and right of your tires. In this case, you want to swap the tires along the same side of your car.

In other words, go to the driver’s side of your car and swap the front and rear tires. Do the same for the passenger’s side.

Repairing a Puncture

What about if your tire gets punctured or goes flat? There’s an easy solution. You can find a tire patch repair kit for less than $20 online or in your favorite automotive store.

The kit will come with a handled prodder, rubber, and rubber cement. This is really all you need to path a puncture. The kit will have instructions that tell you how to operate it.

Keep in mind, not all punctures can be repaired. You cannot repair a puncture if:

  • The hole is larger than 1/4 inch in diameter
  • Two punctures are within 16 inches of one another
  • The puncture is on the sidewall or shoulder of the wheel

In these cases, you’ll need to opt for a replacement.

Spend More to Get More

Speaking of new tires, this is an industry where it saves you money by spending more money. A high-quality set of tires will last longer and drive better than a cheap pair of tires. The suggestion is always to spend extra for a good set of tires if you want healthy tires for longer.

Conclusion

Now you have some methods to keep your tires healthy. Remember – healthy tires result in the best possible driving experience for you. Go further with healthy tires.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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