We get it: when you’re running low on funds, and your tires are nearing Patrick Stewart levels of baldness, the price tag on used tires starts looking like a great option. Ringing in at around half the cost of new tires, used tires seem like an affordable choice.
Used tires are growing in popularity across the United States, but they continue to be a risky business if you don’t know what you’re doing. In this blog, we’ll discuss the challenges associated with second-hand tires and help you know what to look for if you ultimately opt to purchase used tires.
Where do Used Tires Come From?
Used tires come from a variety of different places depending on how reputable the used tire dealer is. A good used tire dealer would most likely get their inventory from vehicles that were totaled in an accident or a natural disaster. In those instances, the vehicle was damaged, but the tires remained in good shape. Less-than-reputable dealers might buy the tires off of marketplaces like Craigslist or from scrapyards and may even scrub off the DOT manufacture codes from the sidewall (more on that later).
What would make a used tire dangerous?
The main risk in buying used is that you just don’t know what they went through before they came to you. Unless you are willing to put in the time to learn how to inspect them, you might end up purchasing worn out, damaged, or possibly recalled tires. Additionally, the used tire dealers lack the regulations that new tire dealers have to follow, so there’s no real way of knowing what you are getting.
What should you look for when buying a used tire?
Used tires aren’t inherently bad, and if you know how to inspect them, they might even save you a lot of cash. On the flip side, bad used tires can wear out quickly, costing you more than it would to buy a new pair. They could even cause an avoidable accident that could result in damage to your vehicle and/or yourself. You should keep these potential consequences in mind as you shop around for an appropriate set of used tires. If you really take your time and do your research, you could end up on the better side of a bargain.
If you have done any car maintenance before, you know that most people consider tires to be “worn out” when they don’t pass the penny test. With the penny test, you insert a penny head-first between the treads on multiple spots on the tire. If you can you see the top of Lincoln’s head, there is less than 2/32” of tread left on the tire, which can be extremely unsafe—even in the best driving conditions. New tires have between 10/32” (standard tires) and 15/32” (tires meant for off-roading), so anything less than 4/32” isn’t worth your money.
You should also look for uneven wear on the tread because that could mean that the tires were underinflated, overinflated, or incorrectly aligned when they were on the vehicle before yours. Whenever possible, you should at least try to get tires with the same amount of tread on them so that they wear evenly as you drive.
Slowly move your hand across the sidewall and feel for any bumps or bulges. These bubbles might indicate that the rubber has released itself from the belts inside and is damaged and could blow out without warning.
You should also look at the sidewall for the tire’s identification number. You’ll find it on the sidewall with the letters “DOT” right in front of it (Ex: DOT 4B08 4DHR 1810). That piece of information tells you where the tire was made, its size, the construction code, and the tire’s age (1810 means 18th week in the year 2010). Never trust a tire that is more than six years old because the chances are really good that the rubber has been weakened from age or dry rot.
It’s important to note that while patches in the tread aren’t necessarily a cause for concern, patches on the sidewall will give you more trouble than they’re worth. The long and short of it is this: if there’s a hole anywhere in the sidewall, stay away.
Look at the inside of the tire and keep an eye out for large amounts of “rubber dust,” which could mean that the tire loses air quickly and therefore rubs itself raw.
Take your time looking for holes, cracking, or areas that are missing large chunks of rubber. If your tire has been repaired in the past, know that a patch is much safer than a plug in the long run.
While used tires can be a liability, if you know what to look for, you could also score a screaming deal on a new set of wheels. Be sure to take your time, and don’t be afraid to walk away from a set that has a few too many red flags.