Checking Tires Old vs. New School

Tires require checking on a monthly basis or with every dramatic temperature change. Simple tire checking tricks were developed years ago to let a car owner know when to take his tires in for repairs and replacements. With the introduction of technology in automotive, the tricks are no longer safe, however it was replaced with a better scientific system.


IMG_2553Old School – Treads are measured in 32nds of an inch. The simplest way for a driver to capture that small of a measurement was by sticking a penny into the tread. If Lincoln’s head disappeared the tire is good. If only his hair disappeared, it was time to get new tires. Unfortunately fewer drivers carry pennies on them.

New School – Tread indicators are now built into the tire tread. When the tire wears down even with the indicator, the tire must be replaced. The indicators look like little rubber blocks stuck in the tread.


Old School – Spraying soapy water onto part of a leaking tire and looking for bubbles was easy for punctures, but all too often cracks in the sidewall or gaps at the rim went unnoticed. And, it was difficult to roll the car forward to spray the part of the tire that was on the ground, pinched off from leaking. This practice was a hit or miss process.

New School – Auto repair shops have water bins for tires. They submerge a portion of the tire and slowly rotate it, looking for bubbles. This process makes sure there is adequate pressure to find the leak. It also gives a clear view of the rim seal, cracks in the sidewalls and full access to the tread.


Old School – Placing spit on the valve stem to detect bubbles on a leaking valve was common practice until the industry realized the salts from the spit was negatively impacting the valve and its shaft.

New School – The stems can be pressure checked at the auto shop using a tire pressure monitor, but due to the low cost of stem valves, many shops automatically replace the stem every time a significant change is made to the tires.


IMG_2555It’s unfortunate when a driver hits a curb, as it can impact the integrity of the tire sidewall. The hot sun can do just as much damage to an unprotected tire. Small cracks are of little concern, but once the cracks spread deep enough to fit a pen tip into it, the tire is compromised and needs to be replaced immediately for the sake of safety. The larger and deeper the crack the more likely the tire will shred on the highway.

IMG_2546Reviewing the wear of the tread also gives insights into related problems like wheel balance or alignment. The more significant the wearing the more likely other problems might exist like bad ball joints.

Copyright © 2016 Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists

About CJ Powers

CJ is an author and speaker.
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