Here’s Why Driving with Bald Tires Can Kill You

Here's Why Driving with Bald Tires Can Kill YouIf you are someone who has had a car for a few years, there is a good chance you have encountered a bald tire. Generally speaking, people drive on average about 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year. If you fall in that range, then you will probably get a lifespan of three to four years out of your tires. If that lifespan is coming to an end, the tread on the tire is going to get very low and this can become a dangerous situation if left unchecked.

It is dangerous to drive on bald tires. You will still be able to operate the vehicle, but the performance is going to suffer. If the tire tread is low enough, operating the vehicle with control will become increasingly difficult. Driving with bald tires puts you at risk for the following -

  • Understeering which can make steering a lot more awkward.
  • Longer stopping distance - which could be fatal in case of an emergency brake. 
  • Skidding in poor road conditions, such as rain.

 Clearly, driving on bald tires in any weather conditions is a very bad decision.

Safety is the most important consideration when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, and the proper care of your tire is an integral part of that. Keep reading to get all the details about driving on a bald tire and remember - when in doubt, consult with a mechanic. The information you read online is for informational purposes only and can never replace the opinion of a qualified professional.

What is Considered a Bald Tire?

In order to determine what is considered a bald tire, it would be good to first define what a new tire looks like. Tire grooves do not go very deep, so even a brand new tire does not have particularly deep treads. A new tire usually has a tread that is about ⅓ of an inch deep.

On the other hand, a tire can be considered bald when at least one of the treads reaches a depth of 2/32 of an inch. It is important to note that tires that are this worn down should not be driven on in bad conditions. Even 4/32 of an inch will run you into problems when facing wet conditions.

Most tires do have some form of notification within the tire that will let you know once they have reached ‘bald’ status. If that is the case, your car is not even going to be able to pass a state inspection, so it would be best for you to have them replaced.

How to Tell If My Car Tires Are Worn Out?

Bald trailer tires
Bald Tires 5 | Photo by Paul Sullivan

There is an easy way to determine whether or not you need new tires, and it is referred to as the ‘penny test’. Here’s what you are going to do. Grab a penny and head over to your tire. Find one of the vertical grooves, you will want to test the one in the middle but you can test them all since this technique is so easy.

You are going to insert the penny into the groove of the tire with Lincoln’s head facing down. If the penny goes down deep enough that Lincoln’s head is covered by the tire, that means your tires should be fine. However, if you cannot place the penny deep enough for Abe’s head to be covered at all, that means you are driving on bald tires.

Do Bald Tires Make Noise?

There are situations where bald tires may make a humming noise. The noise is usually not directly linked to the baldness necessarily, but the fact that the car is slightly unbalanced because one or two tires are bald while the others are not.

That same sound may also have to do with the bearings, so do not immediately jump to the conclusion that humming wheels are a bald tire issue. However, most of the time this sound is being caused by uneven wear on your tires.

Generally speaking, if uneven tire treads are the cause of the noise, you are going to hear the sound coming mostly from one tire. The best way to prevent this from happening is to regularly have your tires rotated so the treads stay even between all the tires.

Why Are My Front Tires Wearing Out So Fast?

Different types of tires can wear faster than others. For example, performance tires for sports cars usually wear out more quickly than other, more durable options. As to the front tires specifically, there can be other factors if all of the tires on your car are the same.

Plenty of tires are front-wheel drive. This means that the car accelerates using the front wheels rather than the back. This means that there is going to be more wear and tear to the front tires. You also need to keep in mind that when you brake, most of the force is going to the front tires since the front of the car needs to slow down first. Also, it is worth noting that usually, the front of the car is heavier than the back.

When you steer, the back tires do not move. Turning is initiated solely by the front tires. When you take all of these factors into consideration, it becomes clear why front tires wear out more quickly than back tires. They are exposed to more powerful forces and more of their surface area touches the road. This is why tire rotation is so important.

Does Driving Fast Wear Out Tires Faster?

Driving fast can absolutely wear down your tires faster. If you frequently step on it after being stopped, this is one of the worst things you can do for wear and tear on your tires. Sometimes you will create excessive wheelspin, and the tires will skid on the ground, spinning more quickly than the traction that they can produce. Sometimes you might even create a dark black streak on the road. That black streak is the rubber from your tire.

If you take turns while going too fast, this can be almost as detrimental to the lifespan of your tires. When a car is turning, especially if it is turning too fast, it is creating less traction. When the car has less traction, the likelihood that there will be wheelspin increases. You can create the same situation as a fast takeoff where you leave rubber on the road.

If you are driving very fast and then you suddenly stop, this can also cause your tires to wear down more quickly. This is the same principle being applied. If you slam on the breaks, the car is probably going to skid. Almost any time the car skids it is wearing down the tires significantly.

Finally, if you take your car to the upper limit of its potential speed, over 100 miles per hour for example, and you maintain that speed, you are dramatically shortening the lifespan of your tires. When a car is going very fast, there is a lot of friction being generated between the tire and the road. This means that there will also be a lot of heat. If you do this often, you are going to make the tires soft and weak.

What Causes Tires To Wear On The Inside Edge?

There are three primary problems that may be the reason the inside edges of your tires are wearing out more than the rest of the tire.

The Camber Problem

The Camber of your tires means how straight the tires stand up and down when the full weight of the car is on it. Even a slight issue with the camber is going to lead to the uneven wear of your tires. Think about it, what it means is that most of the vehicle’s weight is falling either on the inside of the tire of the outside of the tire. What you want is a perfectly balanced camber to produce completely even wear on your tires.

Bad Wheel Alignment

Having a bad wheel alignment can lead to plenty of problems, one of which is uneven wear on your tires. You can tell that the alignment is off when the steering wheel tends to veer in one direction or another on its own. It can be the result of an accident or hitting a pothole too hard.

One the alignment is off, there is a good chance that the camber of the wheels will not be at an ideal angle any longer.

Worn Ball Joints

Ball joints are usually pretty reliable, but like any part of a car, they can suffer from wear and tear after too long. If you have checked the camber and alignment of your car and the inside wear of your tires persist, it would be a good idea to take a look at the car’s ball joints.

What Happens If You Drive On Worn Tires?

There are plenty of potential outcomes from driving on worn tires, and none of them are good.

The grooves of the tire tread are going to create less traction between the rubber and the road. On the surface, that might sound like a bad thing, but it’s actually the opposite. There is such a thing as too much traction. When there is too much traction, too much heat is produced as a result of excessive friction. If you drive on tires with no tread, they will become way too hot way too frequently. This could end up causing a tire to burst.

One of the functions of tire treads is to flick water backward, out of the way of the tire so that traction is not completely lost. When a car hydroplanes, that means that the car is temporarily only sliding on water and no longer touching the ground. The more worn out your tires are, the more likely you are to hydroplane. It is a scary experience as you lose almost total control of your vehicle.

The same principle that applies to hydroplaning also applies to snow. Snow tires have even deeper treads, this way the tires can actually pick up snow and hold it on the tire. Believe it or not, the snow-on-snow result is better traction. Bald tires or worn-out tires won’t be able to do that.

Do Bald Tires Pop?

All tires pop under the wrong circumstances, but bald tires pop a lot more easily.

The logic behind it is pretty simple. A tire is just rubber filled with air. If the rubber is punctured or wears down too low, it is going to cause the tire to pop. A tire with deep treads is going to be a lot more resilient to punctures than a bald tire.

Further, bald tires, as mentioned above, produce a lot more friction and heat. If the tire gets hot enough, it can burst.

Can You Get Pulled Over For Bald Tires?

It is very unlikely that an officer is going to pull you over as a result of your bald tires. I mean, it would be pretty hard for an officer to determine whether or not someone’s tires are bald from just seeing them while that person drives. Especially if that person is driving at a high speed.

However, if an officer has you pulled over and notices that you have very bald tires, it is up to their discretion to determine whether or not you receive a citation. It is something that has happened before.

How Long Can You Drive With A Bald Tire?

You should probably drive as long as it takes to get to the nearest place where you can have your tires replaced.

Driving on bald tires is a risk to your safety. The possible outcomes of driving on bald tires have all been highlighted above. So, really you can drive on them as long as you are willing to risk everything associated with driving on bald tires.

Should Bald Tires Be In The Front Or The Back?

Because of the extra force absorbed by front tires, putting bald tires in the front is going to make them wear out even faster than they already have. So, as for durability and lifespan, you will want to put new tires in the front.

However, it is more dangerous to have bald tires in the back, so if safety is a top priority then have the new tires in back.

Do AWD Cars Wear Tires Faster?

Yes. For the same reason that FWD cars wear out front tires faster, AWD cars wear out all of their tires faster.

Do You Need To Rotate Tires On AWD Cars?

Yes. It is important for AWD drivers to regularly have their tires rotated. Even if the car is AWD, many AWD systems still generate most of their acceleration using either the front wheels or the back wheels. Regardless, they create uneven wear the same as most other cars.

Is it Okay To Replace Two Tires At A Time?

Yes, it is okay to purchase two tires at a time.

However, most car manufacturers and tire manufacturers recommend that you purchase four tires at a time when you are replacing them. There may be outside factors that mean that getting two tires at a time makes more sense, however.

Do I Need An Alignment After Replacing Tires?

You do not need to get a wheel alignment when you replace your tires, but it is a good idea to do so. The reason for this is that having an alignment that is off, even slightly, will make some tires wear more than others.

If you just invested in new tires, which can be pretty expensive, you might as well make sure that the alignment is perfect.

In conclusion, don't drive on bald tires. It's dangerous and can cause multiple issues that all lead to bad outcomes. Get those tires replaced!

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