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A new tire with an 80,000 mile treadwear warranty sounds like your budget’s dream come true. Even though higher mileage tires may cost more initially, you’re ahead of the game if you average out your cost-per-mile.

But make sure you know ALL these details before you max out at 80,000…

Tire mileage warranties have become a popular marketing tool used by most tire manufacturers (and some independent retailers) to help position some of their tires competitively in the marketplace and to help indicate their potential longevity to consumers. Unfortunately, due to the variety of road conditions and geographic influences encountered across the country, not all consumers will receive the warranted tire mileage. And while treadwear warranties seem straight forward enough, it is important to remember that they are a limited warranty, and the consumer has to complete specific maintenance requirements to keep them in force.

So don’t try to cash in on one unless you are the original owner of the original vehicle, have proof of purchase and the original installation date and mileage. Also, make sure you can prove that the tires were properly inflated, rotated, aligned, and worn suspension components replaced as necessary before you visit your tire dealer for warranty replacement. These are the manufacturers’ mileage warranty requirements.

Then there’s the required math:

For a tire with a 40,000 mile treadwear warranty, if a consumer evenly wore the tread depth down to 2/32 of an inch in 30,000 miles, they would be offered a new set of tires (of the same brand) that would be discounted from their current retail price by 25% (prorating the 10,000 of the 40,000 miles of wear they didn't receive). The consumer is then required to pay for the difference between the warranted mileage and the mileage actually received as they purchase their replacement tires.

The biggest problem, though, that consumers may have with any of the mileage warranties is that the tires must be worn down to the treadwear indicators before replacement under the warranty can be considered. That means that the tires must be at (or very near) the 2/32” of remaining tread depth which is the minimum allowable legal tread depth for most states and has been adopted by the tire manufacturers as when tires are officially "worn out." Since a tire's hydroplaning resistance, wet traction and snow traction all diminish as it wears, the consumer may be faced with the dilemma of maintaining traction or holding out for a tire replacement covered under warranty. If the winter or rainy season is approaching, the few dollars saved by running out the treadwear warranty doesn’t mean as much when you realize how much extra traction (tread) you really do need to be safe in adverse weather conditions.

The Tire Rack’s Recommendations

Use manufacturer’s tire mileage warranties as a general indicator of how long a tire may last or a tool for comparing one tire’s expected tread life over another’s. But don’t count on getting the marketed mileage maximums.

Instead, rely on the laws of physics rather than the laws that say tires are good until they’re worn to 2/32”. Know that if rain and wet roads are a concern, you should consider replacing your tires when they reach approximately 4/32" of remaining tread depth. Since water can't be compressed, you need enough tread depth to allow rain to escape through the tire's grooves. If the water can't escape fast enough, your vehicle's tires will be forced to hydroplane (float) on top of the water. Traction will be lost.

If snow-covered roads are a concern, you should consider replacing your tires when they reach approximately 6/32" of remaining tread depth to maintain good mobility. You need more tread depth in snow because your tires need to compress the snow in their grooves and release it as they roll. If there isn't sufficient tread depth, the "bites" of snow your tires can take on each revolution will be reduced to "nibbles," and your vehicle's traction and mobility will be sacrificed. Because tread depth is such an important element for snow traction, winter tires usually start with noticeably deeper tread depths than typical All-Season or summer tires. Some winter tires even have a second series of "wear bars" molded in their tread pattern indicating approximately 6/32" remaining tread depth to warn you when your tires no longer meet the desired tread depth.

Whether you’re at 10,000 miles or closer to that coveted 80,000 miles know your tread depth and use that to determine when it’s time to replace your tires…not your mileage warranty.

Not sure how to measure tread depth? Take a look at how your pocket change can help you.

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