16 October 2004

Time For Re-Tire-Ment?

The condition of your tires is an important issue because your treasured collector car is riding on them! One study has shown that people are more likely to wash their cars than to check the pressure in their tires, and that’s a big mistake. Improperly cared-for tires can result in blowouts, potentially damaging or totaling your vehicle. A few simple checks here and there are usually all that’s required for good tire health.

There are several things to remember in PREVENTING tire blowouts:

Pressure: Most tire blowouts are caused by under-inflated tires, although over-inflation can also cause its share of problems. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the correct amount of air pressure. Don’t simply go by a “standard” number (e.g., 100 psi (pounds per square inch)), or inflate by sight without the use of a gauge. The load and size of your car determines the right amount of pressure in the tires. Be sure to check your pressure when the tires are cool.

Alignment: Periodically check your vehicle’s alignment to avoid uneven wear on your tires.

Rotation: Rotate your tires regularly to help even out the wear.

Tread: The correct amount of tread on a tire should be no less than 1/6th of an inch.This can be tested with the “Penny Test.”Take a penny and stick Abe’s head in the groove between the treads. If part of his head is still visible, it’s time to get new tires.

Cracking: Check the sidewalls for cracking. This indicates too much wear and possible environmental breakdown of the tire. Cracked tires are old tires and should be replaced.In the meantime, use a tire cleaner that protects your tires against UV and OZONE damage.

**Combine tire rotation and inspection with other routine maintenance tasks such as the oil change. That way, you won’t forget.**

Storage: Tires aren’t made for sitting. A vehicle that sits for a long period of time can ruin a set of radial tires. To avoid “flat-spots” and save your tires, store the vehicle up on jack stands. Some people may also want to remove the vehicle's wheels and tires altogether.

Good Driving Habits: Tires do not like it when the driver takes fast turns, accelerates too quickly, or stops too hard.They especially are not fond of pot holes or bad roads.Avoid these situations if possible and be a sensible driver to protect your vehicle as well as your tires.

In case of a blowout:

Don’t slam on the brakes! This is a natural reaction for most people, but braking hard will only pull the car further in the direction of the blowout, possibly into incoming traffic. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator and coast to a stop.

Don’t attempt rapid steering maneuvers! Instead, steer only enough to keep heading straight.

We recently heard from a customer who was enjoying a delightful cruise in his ’65 Thunderbird when one of his tires threw a belt. The belt shredded the entire inner fender and ripped the gas line behind the fender. Thankfully, he kept his cool and was able to keep the car on the road, avoiding injury. Tire blowouts are dangerous, scary, and surprising. Knowing how to help avoid a blowout, and how to react in the event one is unavoidable, may save your classic and, more importantly, your life.

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Brian Schulze Michigan April 8, 2017 at 09:38
    I just bought a 1970 convertible vette. The tires are in excellent shape and I was told the tires are 8 years old. the car has been in side and a couple of car shows a year. So when is it time to buy new tires?
  • 2
    Errol South Africa April 20, 2017 at 01:24
    I know it's hard to trash tires with almost new tread depth, but a tire older than 4 or 5 years becomes a liability, Porsche wizards recommend 2 years!
  • 3
    John C Lancaster, NY April 27, 2017 at 13:12
    Tire mfgrs. used to say 10 years, now recommend 8 from what I've read lately. All have a date code molded into the sidewall, do a search on how to decipher it. That is the date you need to be using, not when they were bought or mounted! Some guys I know rationalise running an older set, saying they're not hard on them. I guess that's about where I fall, but I try to think of the worst case scenario (high speed expressway, spirited driving). You could do a few "mild" burn-outs on your way to the tire shop, Brian, just so all that tread doesn't go to waste ;)
  • 4
    Milt Torin Culver city Ca May 3, 2017 at 20:29
    I'm sure the article meant to say 1/16th inch, not 1/6th inch. If you put a penny in to the tread as described and you can see ALL of poor Abe's head it's time for tires. Lastly, virtually all the tires I've seen in at least the last dozen years have tread wear indicator bars built into the tire, it shows conditions all around & across the tire.
  • 5
    Willy West Cost May 22, 2017 at 14:55
    Most stories like this about retiring tires show how to read manufacture date codes on the tire, and tend to say 10 years at max lifetime for radial tires (even for ones stored in garage out of sunlight). Bias ply (not radial) tires are a different matter. If properly cared for bias ply can last much longer.

Join the Discussion