The internet has made life easier in some ways. The only problem when using a search term is that it can produce millions of results so we find ways to narrow the search down.
For example, when considering tyre safety we might add a regional aspect as with this example, ‘how long do tyres last UK’.
This will produce less content but, in the particular case of that question, there are so many variables.
- How many miles should tyres last?
- Which tyres last the longest?
- When should I replace my tyres?
- What are the signs of worn tyres?
- Tread depth
- Cracks in the rubber
- Wobbly Wheels
- How to make your tyres last longer
[Asking the question, ‘how long do tyres last’ is like asking how long is a piece of string; it is indeterminate as there are no precise answers. It all depends upon how they are used, because there are so many variables that can have an effect on tyre life.]
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a reliable tyre life calculator; there are just too many inconsistencies. Where and how a set of tyres are used will always have a bearing on their longevity.
Treat them badly and they will wear more quickly; drive poorly and they will wear out faster. Road and weather conditions don’t help and potholes remain a dangerous menace. The key factor is care; looking after them.
Tyres are a consumable and thus will always need replacing at some point and good products are not cheap. Thus, to get the best value for money, the following information on tyre life might help:
How many miles should tyres last?
As mentioned, there are no hard and fast rules as there are simply too many factors involved. The original quality can make a difference; consumers should expect an expensive, quality tyre to last longer than a budget version.
Vehicle maintenance also adds another element. Maintain a car properly and the tyres will
. Neglecting the overall condition of the vehicle will have an adverse effect on tyre wear, not to mention increasing the chances of a breakdown.
It’s worth noting that most modern cars have front wheel drive. By note having a propshaft tunnel (taking drive from the engine to the rear wheels), car makers have been able to maximise the amount of space in the cabin.
This means that the front wheels do all the work; they handle the steering while bearing the weight of the engine, increasing tyre wear. The rear tyres last much longer; that is why wheel rotation is recommended; a topic covered in the relevant section below.
With average mileage under normal UK conditions, owners should have a set of tyres inspected after five years and preferably earlier.
A ballpark figure would be at around 20,000 miles. It is entirely possible for tyres to remain safe and viable for a greater distance but it is better to be safe than sorry.
How many years do tyres last on average?
As previously, this depends on the same wide range of factors but broadly speaking the period can be anything from three to ten years, but the chances are that the mileage will be the aspect that dictates when a tyre is replaced.
There is only a certain amount of tread available and when car tyre tread is worn, it is less effective. As is required by law, tread depth must be a minimum of 1.6mm to be legal. In general use this minimum will arrive long before the ten year upper limit.
Prevailing conditions also have an adverse effect. Tyres that remain stationary for long periods or have been left in direct sunlight will be prone to cracking as natural rubber can dry out and lose its elasticity.
This weakens the tyre and shortens life. It is recommended that, when not in use, a car should be kept in a garage or, if that’s not possible, at least in the shade.
Further, modern tyres have waxy anti-oxidising chemicals in the rubber to help keep them supple, but this is only released when the tyre is driven and the tread wears. That’s why tyres crack if left unused.
How long do tyres last in storage?
These days, many motorists like to switch from Summer to Winter tyres as the seasons change. It is therefore necessary to store the set not in use and how they are stored is very important.
Loose tyres, off the rims, should be stored upright and be rotated regularly. Tyres on rims and inflated can be stacked. Incorrect storage could lead to the tyre drying out and cracking.
That’s why it is recommended that tyres are stored in airtight bags when not in use to ensure they are not affected by UV light, damp or other contaminants.
Which tyres last the longest?
The factors determining which tyre lasts the longest are the same as detailed above but there are some other considerations. Tyre manufacturers go to great lengths with research and development to try and establish their brand.
Buyers have a right to expect that the most expensive tyres will last the longest but some budget brands can also do well. That’s why there are some popular new names on the market these days.
A good tip is to make sure the tyres fitted are the correct size for the car. It may be an idea to use the same brand and type that came with the car when new. This may not always be practical or financially viable, but it’s a thought.
Otherwise, it is worth noting that regulations now require new tyres to be labelled for noise, wet grip and fuel efficiency. Learning about what these labels mean and how they relate to any given vehicle or use will help inform tyre choice.
Tyre maintenance is also key. Maintaining air pressure in tyres to recommended levels will make them last longer. Soft tyres will wear more quickly. The owner’s driving style will also be a factor.
Driving as if competing in the Monte Carlo Rally will be the fast way to a new set of rubber hoops. By moderating driving style and being conscious of the tyres will mean that the tyres you buy could be the ones that last the longest.
When should I replace my tyres?
The time to replace tyres is when tread depth is worn down to 1.6mm. Bear in mind though that this is a minimum and by that stage the tyre’s ability to maintain grip will already be compromised. Better to change them sooner.
Indeed, in the past some tyre brands recommended changing tyres when the tread reached 3mm, although modern methods of manufacture mean that that is no longer a hard and fast rule.
Otherwise, the time for replacement can be noted by inspection; if necessary at the local professional tyre fitting service who will always be on hand for advice.
What are the signs of worn tyres?
There is no need to be a tyre expert to establish the signs of wear on a set of tyres: The usual rules apply:
As described above, the legal minimum for tyre tread depth is 1.6mm in the UK. Any less and the tyre is illegal and will fail the now rigorous MOT test. Many tyres have tread indicators (like raised bars) when the minimum is reached.
Otherwise using a gauge to measure depth is the answer. The edge of a 20p coin is also a good guide. Inserting the coin upright into a groove, if you can see the band around the outside edge then the tyre is past its best.
Cracks in the rubber
This means the tyre is drying out, possibly through age and is a signal to renew. Cracks will especially weaken the side walls making the tyre less strong and able to withstand the demands placed on it.
Also, over time, all tyres lose a small amount of air pressure but if the speed of loss seems to be increasing and the tyres need pumping up more often, that too is a sign of wear and possibly the end of useful life.
This is a sign that the car’s tyres have become unbalanced. All new tyres should be balanced when fitted but kerb strikes, say, or a pothole can affect that balance.
The result is ‘wobbly wheel’ syndrome when the wobble can be felt through the steering, especially at high speeds, resulting in uneven wear across the tyre tread surface. Time to fit new.
How to make your tyres last longer
Making sensible choices about how a vehicle is used can be a definite aid to getting more miles from the tyres. It may involve a bit of work on the part of the owner but over time this will pay dividends.
Tyres will last longer, be safer and give real value for money. Here are a few ideas:
Rotate the wheels
On a front wheel drive car the life of the tyres at the front will be half that of the rear wheels which could manage up to 40,000 miles of useful life simply because they are not subject to the same forces as the fronts.
Rotating the wheels around the car is something that has gone out of fashion in our modern world. Many drivers probably don’t even know about it, but it is a worthwhile exercise. Rotating the wheels helps the tyres to wear evenly and to get the most miles out of them.
Using a front wheel drive car as an example, the way to proceed is this. Every 6000 miles, the front tyres move to the back but stay on the same side.
The rear tyres move to the front but cross over to the other side. Conversely, on rear wheel drive cars the rear tyres move forward but stay on the same side; the fronts move backward but cross over. Over several rotations each tyre will get an even share of the forces put upon them when driving.
- Drive Better
How a person drives will have an effect on tyre wear and tear. Drive and corner aggressively and the tyres will suffer and this means more expense sooner. Driving carefully does not mean driving slowly but it does mean taking care, braking steadily well in advance of the hazard and steering and accelerating smoothly. There’s no harm in taking pride in our driving standards; something that has become worse in recent years.
- Check the tyre pressure every week
All car tyres and vehicle models have manufacturer-recommended tyre pressures. The information is in the car’s handbook and can also be found on the driver’s door jamb or on the fuel filler flap.
It takes just ten minutes to check the tyres and test the air pressure.
Tyres that are not properly inflated will wear more quickly and increase fuel use. This applies equally to both under- and over-inflation.
The wear patterns of both errors will be different but the result will be the same. New tyres required sooner than you think!
- Remember The Wobble?
If a driver feels or senses a wobble from the wheels it means that one or more have become unbalanced as mentioned above.
An immediate trip to the local tyre centre for a wheel balance check will resolve the issue and save on tyre wear.
How to check how old my tyres are
This is simply checked by examining the production code stamped into the side wall of every tyre during the manufacturing process. This gives the tyre size, the speed rating and the date of manufacture. Tyre made after Year 2000 have a four-figure code.
For example, a tyre produced in the 25th week of the year 2020 will display the number 2520. That’s how to check the age of a tyre. If the tyre is more than five years old the best advice is to change it and, if the tyre date code only has three digits, then it is ancient and should be immediately discarded: it’s more than twenty years old!
Summary – How long do tyres last
Here in the UK, the cost of living is rather high. Most of things we consume wear out over time and indeed some, like white goods, are suspected of having built-in obsolescence.
Certainly rubber tyres can be expensive, especially the famous brands; but there are new names appearing that can offer competitive prices with the sort of quality and longevity we expect as consumers.
That said, all drivers have a responsibility to ensure their vehicles are in good condition and that includes the wheels.
Tyres take a beating from rough road surfaces and sometimes grim weather conditions but with care they can be made to last several years, providing good service throughout. Help your tyres to help you and with luck they will last a long time.