Buying Used Tires: Safety Guide

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A lot of people prefer to buy used tires, and primarily for two reasons. The first and the biggest reason to buy a pair of used tires is cost. Obviously used tires cost less than half of new tires and this makes it an economic-friendly choice for many people.

Another reason is the environment. It is very difficult to recycle used tires, and this means, the dump yard is going to get filled with it sooner or later. The consequences of this indiscriminate dumping of tires is also enormous, as it is harmful for the earth’s atmosphere.

Buying Used Tires: Safety Guide

While buying used tires may look like a great deal for your pocket as well as the environment, there are definitely some safety issues that come with it. Not all used tires are great and this could put you at a potential risk for accidents.

So, if you are one such person who wants to buy a used tire over a new one, here are some safety aspects to keep in mind, especially what to check while buying.

What Makes Used Tires Unsafe?

Used tires do not have any legal standards, which means, each tire can be different from others in terms of their condition and safety. Since there are no streamlined processes for collecting, inspecting reselling used tires, there are big differences in quality, even among tires sold by the same reseller.

This discussion brings up an important question – what makes used tires unsafe?

Many studies and experiments were conducted around used tires. probably, one of the most prominent is an informal study conducted by one of the manager of Michelin. This study showed that though the tires looked great outside, the tire fitter and loose cords present inside the tires were worn out. This happens when cars are run with underinflated tires, which sadly, happens often.

This led the Rubber Manufacturers Association and a few other organizations to come together to propose a bill that would ban the sale of used tires in the states of Texas and Florida.

The above studies clearly show that used tires are unsafe in general, and the buyer should use prudence to decide if a used tire is safe or not.

What to Look for in Used Tires?

As a buyer, the onus is on you while buying a used tire. This means, you have to check the tire thoroughly and ensure that it is not damaged in any way and is fit enough for the road again. If you make the wrong buying decision due to lack of time or knowledge, then you alone are to blame for the consequences.

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As a buyer, here are some things that you should look for before buying used tires.

Check the Surface

As a first step, check the outer and inner surfaces for any damage. If you see cuts and bumps, then exercise caution. If these cuts and bumps are too many or appear in frequent places, it goes to show that the tire is not ready for sale at all.

This is the first test you should do while buying a used tire. If the tire doesn’t pass this test, there is no point in wasting time doing the other tests.

Tread Depth

Tread depth is the vertical measurement from the top of the tread rubber to the bottom of the tire’s deepest groove. In the US, a rule of thumb is to check this tread depth in 32nds of an inch. In other words, if you keep a penny on the tire, and if you can see Lincoln’s head, then the tread depth is only 2/32nd of an inch. This is considered to be a worn out tire in the US.

If you don’t have a penny, you can choose to stick your finger between the tread blocks. On usable tires, you should be able to feel a little platform that is sunk well down below the tread surface.  In other words, you should be able to feel some stuff in your finger. Otherwise, the tire is bald and not usable.

The above two are informal tests to check tread depth. If you want to get an accurate reading, use gauges to measure it. These are inexpensive mechanical probes that measure in 32nds of an inch. Insert this gauge in tread blocks and check the reading. The higher it is better, the better for you. if it is below 2 points, this tire is not worth buying.

Exposed Cords

  • Improper air pressure will cause the tires to wear out quickly because some areas will have high pressure while others will have low pressure. This will shift the balance and can cause more strain in certain areas.
  • If the wheels in a car are bent, it causes a vibration that in turn, leads to changes in the contour of the wheel. Since the tires follow the shape and contour of the wheel, any changes to it can impact the shape of the tire as well.
  • Mismatch alignment between the tires causes some tires to take more load than others, and this too causes some tires to worn out quickly.
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All these factors damage the tire’s shape and contour, and this in turn, exposes the cords. In fact, if you see cords, it means the traction on the tires is less. The more the exposed cords, the lower is the traction. When there are more exposed cords, you will not get the grip you need while applying brakes.

Delaminating from Steel Belts

While buying a used car tire, make sure you see closely at the sidewall and thread surface for bumps or any other irregularity. These bumps are caused when the rubber delaminates from steel belts in the car.

Look for Beads Damage

While buying a new or used tire look at the bead area These areas are nothing but two thick rings of rubber especially where the tire contacts the wheel. If you find large chunks of rubber missing from the bead or any other damage in that area, this means that tire will not run smoothly if you go ahead and buy. it is best you stay away from it.

Liner Damage

Liner damages are common and less visible when compared to other types of damages. To identify a liner damage, look for a stripe of wear around the side wall. if this stripe appears soft or if there is a lot of rubber dust on it, it indicates liner damage.


Another aspect that you should look for is punctures. Most people tend to look only for punctures on the outer side. But then to get a good tire, you also need to look inside and outside for puncture repairs. During such an examination, if you notice a lot of repairs, then it is best to stay away from that tire.

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In general, a proper repair is one that has a full patch on the inner side as well. If you see plugs, that means, punctures are not repaired fully and there is always a possibility for the tires to become punctured in the same location often.

Needless to say, avoid these tires as well as those that have large holes or punctures as these are unsafe for you to drive.

Aged Tires

There are many aged tires lying around today, and you should be able to spot them easily.. Here are some signs that show an old tire, and obviously, one you should stay away from.,

  • Tires deteriorate from the inside. So, check the inner side of the tires first. If you see worn out signs, it means that the tire is aged or is in the process of aging.
  • The tire identification number should be visible in the tire you buy. This tire identification number is preceded by the letters DOT. Look for this number on the sidewall because some tire resellers tend to scrub them off, so you cannot know anything about it. If you spot TIN, the first two numbers or letters indicate the plant in which the tire was manufactured. The next four numbers indicate when the tire was manufactured. In general, 0810 means, that this tire was made in the eighth week of 2010. This TIN should give you an idea of the date of manufacturing of the tire, so you can decide accordingly.
  • Do not buy tires that are more than six years old.
  • Aged tires have small cracks on the sidewall.  Look closely at the side walls, and if you see small cracks near the flex points or between tread blocks, this is not a good tire to buy.
  • Unfortunately, some resellers will try to paint the old tires to make them look new.  When they do that, you will not be able to spot the TIN number or the cracks on the side walls. In such a case, ask for TIN specifically, so the reseller is wary about concealing it.

To conclude, these are some things that you should look for while buying a used tire. Some of these aspects are a little tricky, especially if you’ve never done this before. Nevertheless they are essential to ensure the safety of yourself as well as your family, not to mention the longevity of your car.  If you run on worn-out tires, you are not only putting yourself at a higher chance of risk for accidents, but you are also reducing the lifespan of the car. For these reasons, it is best you spend time understanding how and what needs to be checked while buying used tires and how you can stay away from aged and not-so-good ones.

Originally posted 2023-11-20 05:53:38.

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