Buying Used Tires: What to Look Out For


Often when people are faced with a flat or another tire emergency, figuring out how to come up with the cash to get back on the road can be a big headache.

Tires are expensive, and if you have to replace one unexpectedly, it can put a serious dent in an already tight budget. That’s why many car owners opt for used tires which are less expensive. They are readily available at many tire stores and seem like a good solution when you’re trying to save some cash. According to about autos, “Somewhere around 30 million used tires are sold each year, constituting about 10 percent of the total US tire market.”

However, buying used rubber can cause you more trouble than you bargained for. The tires often don’t end up being worth the money and only last for a short time. And they can be a serious safety hazard. There aren’t any legal guidelines governing the quality of used rubber, and while lots of sellers are responsible about what they offer, many are not.

Worn, damaged, or improperly repaired tires are sold regularly in the U.S., putting drivers at risk and wasting their hard-earned money. That isn’t to say that you can’t find good used rubber for your car, but you have to shop carefully to ensure that the tires you buy are in excellent condition.

Not only should you go with a trusted seller that has a good reputation, but you should also inspect things yourself before you buy any discount tires in Cincinnati. Here are a few tips so you know what to look for.


Old Rubber

One of the first things to determine is when a tire was made. You can find this information on the sidewall. It’s a series of four numbers; the first two indicate the week the tire was made, and the second two numbers indicate the year.

If the tire turns out to be more than six years old, it’s best to steer clear. Tires degrade over time, and you don’t want rubber that’s been hanging around that long. The oils in the material begin to dry up, leaving the tire dry and brittle. And once small cracks begin to show along the sidewall, it’s all downhill from there; the tire has dry rot.

It usually occurs when tires haven’t been used in quite a while or are stored improperly. If a tire is left to sit in the heat or sun or if it’s left at a low pressure, the negative effects of dry rot are expedited.


Deteriorated Tread

Tread plays a critical role in safety. If the rubber is nearly bald, then it’s not going to do you much good in terms of traction. 

Tires with the proper amount of tread make solid contact with the road, allowing you to stop and turn efficiently. They also allow water to pass through so your vehicle doesn’t slip or hydroplane. 

When the rubber has been worn down too far, the tires can’t grip the road effectively, and that’s when accidents happen. The lowest your tread should ever be is 1/16th of an inch. Not sure how to check it? Bring a Lincoln penny to the store with you.

Place it in the tread groove with Lincoln’s head facing down. If his head is covered, you’re good, but if most of his face is showing, you don’t want that tire.


Outer Damage

While many people only focus on the tread, taking a closer look at the outside of the tire is one of the best ways to ensure that it’s in good shape.

Inspect it carefully to see if there are any areas that are significantly worn down. Avoid a tire that has blisters or cracks. And if you find that any of the braided steel cords from inside are showing, the rubber is no good. That means it has sustained damage from being worn down unevenly, probably due to lack of rotation or misalignment.

You should also examine the sidewall and tread to see if there’s any evidence of separation from the tire’s steel belts. If the rubber looks wavy or there are odd bumps, it’s likely that the integrity of the tire has been compromised. Be on the lookout for evidence of repairs and check the area in question thoroughly. If a tire was punctured and fixed improperly, it shouldn’t be going back on anyone’s vehicle.

 The best repair is a full interior patch though tires will often be okay with a plug as well. However, if you’re buying rubber that’s new to you, picking up something that’s already had a quick fix is not worth the money.


Inner Issues

Most people give the outside of their tires a good look every so often, but it’s hard to know what’s happening inside. When you’re considering purchasing used rubber, you should pay just as much attention to the interior as you do to the exterior.

When someone drives on an underinflated tire, it causes the sidewall to collapse in and rub. If that happens, the liner gets worn down, making the tire unsafe. If you see a ring of wear or you find rubber that’s come off due to friction, you can be pretty sure that the tire wasn’t properly maintained. If that’s the case, you definitely don’t want it on your car.

Another part of the inner tire to check is the bead. It’s the thick rubber ring on either side that goes against the wheel when the tire is mounted. The bead creates a solid seal, allowing the tire to remain inflated and securely attached.

If you find any kind of impairment that could prevent the bead from sealing tightly, move on. You don’t want to pay for rubber that could put you in harm’s way.


Overall Quality

Once you have a sense of the tire’s overall quality, it’s important to step back for a moment and consider pricing. Is the tire worth what the seller is asking? And how much of a difference is there between the new and used prices?

Though purchasing used tires can be a good option if you’re in a financial bind, you do get what you pay for. If the difference between the cost of a used set and a new one is manageable, it’s worth investing the money.

You’ll get longer use out of your rubber, and you won’t have to pay for replacements again in the near future. Just be sure to weigh your options so you can feel good about your purchase in the end.