Driving On Bad Tires: Signs And Hazards

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Nothing can be more dangerous and unsafe than driving on bad tires. And I’m sure every car owner knows that even bad roads are not as susceptible to accidents as bad tires. It doesn’t matter how smooth or well-maintained the road is, however. A set of worn-out tires on a vehicle is literally an accident waiting to unfold. The consequences might be catastrophic, both for your safety and health.

Remember, a tire-road interface must be safe to ensure an accident-free trip. Knowing the signs and risks of bad tires will save you and your loved ones from fatal trip experiences. It all starts with plugging and patching punctures to prevent dry rot.

Let’s examine a few signs that your tires aren’t fit for a road trip and so might replacement.

8 Signs Of A Bad Tire

Unhealthy Humming Noise

One of the visible signs of bad tires is a humming noise you hear while driving. This sound changes depending on the speed at which you’re driving. If this noise persists, it may indicate that your wheel components are failing. A chopped tread or a faulty suspension component may cause the tire not to rotate correctly.

But hey! Don’t make the mistake of confusing bad tire symptoms with a failing engine. If the sound clunks or clicks and gets louder as you speed or brake, your tires might be in a problem. Besides, a thumping noise indicates a flat spot on the tire. However, a grating, high-pitch, or grinding sound could be an engine problem. Ensure you pay close attention and listen to the sounds and signs.

Bald Tires

Baldness means that the tread of your tire is worn out. Tire baldness is a common sign of a failing tire. The condition can cause poor braking, low friction, and a lack of grip. You can tell that a tire is suffering baldness by the poor grip it provides when you’re driving.

Usually, a good tire offers excellent traction when driving on any surface. But when the tires’ tread has worn out, they won’t provide the needed grip when in contact with the road. In addition, braking will be an issue with bald tires. Your car won’t stop but go an extra distance when you press the brake pedal. You’ll need to check the tread using the coin testing to tell if you’ll need to retread or replace the tire.

Increased Fuel Consumption

Worn-out tires also cause a significant increase in the amount of fuel your vehicle will consume. As its tread weakens, the tire will not perform poorly, causing the engine to need more power to move the car. As the engine requires more energy to work, more fuel will be needed to satisfy its thirst. You may notice that the average fuel consumption of 9 liters per 62 miles will increase significantly. If you seek enhanced fuel economy, install new tires on your vehicle.

Irregular Wear Pattern

With bad tires, you may also notice that the tire wear pattern will change, and irregularly so. Each time the tire comes in contact with the surface, its degradation rate will increase. When you check the wear pattern, you can gain an insight into the condition of the tires. A tire worn in the center indicates that it has exceeded its inflation limit. Side wear patterns suggest that your tire is poorly inflated and has low air pressure. Too much air pressure will cause a tire to wear in the middle. There is also a feather edge wear pattern. In this case, one edge of the tire is smooth and the other spikey. It is a sign of poor alignment settings.


A lack of balance in the tire clearly indicates that it may not be fit for your car again. A lousy tire will have a defective tread that will trigger your vehicle to vibrate. So, when you press the brake pedal, the car cannot balance out and will start to steer one-sidedly. Detachment of the polyester bands from the steel can cause this imbalance and vibration. If you try to balance it out, you won’t succeed because the tire tread is badly defective. The only thing to do is to change the tire.


Another symptom of bad tires is wobbling. Wobbling is similar to vibration, resulting from the separation of the internal belts in the tire. Worn-out tire tread is also a significant cause. The condition occurs in which the air pressure presses on the tire’s tread, causing a giant bubble to form on the tread. When you’re at low speeds, you may experience wobbling. Wobbling is a condition in which the car feels like bouncing up and down. Wobbling triggers the steering wheel to control itself.

Loss Of Tire’s Aesthetics

Your tire will lose its beauty once it gets bad. If you look at the physical appearance, the tires won’t have the same beauty they should possess. Poor tires’ material defects include irregular wear patterns, baldness, and weak spots. You may see bulges and blisters around the tire. You may also detect cracks and splits as you inspect the tires before driving. If you allow these physical defects to linger on the tire, you may eventually experience tire bursts, blowouts, or dry rot.

Suspension Issues

The suspension is a supporting component that connects the vehicle to its wheels. It consists of shock absorbers, tire air, linkages, and springs. The strain from the imbalanced tire will negatively affect the suspension, vibrations, noise, and wheel bearing problems. A faulty tire will also cause the suspension system not to function correctly.

What Are The Risks Of Driving On Worn-Out Tires?

Statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that more than 11,000 auto crashes are responsible for blowouts and tire failure. Of this figure, 200 deaths are recorded yearly.

Increased Aquaplaning

One of the drawbacks of a bad or worn-out tire is aquaplaning, also called hydroplaning. It refers to a situation in which a tire retains water that gets between its tread. Ideally, a good tire should come with deep grooves and a tread pattern that can quickly and promptly channel water away. This ensures that the tire can maintain a firm grip on the wet terrain.

However, if a tire-road contact causes water retention, the tire grooves are shallow and poor tread pattern. When the tire tread has worn out, the capacity for firm grip and excellent traction significantly reduces.

Poor Handling In Snowy Driving Conditions

If you don’t have quality tires with an incredible tread pattern, you will find handling your vehicle when driving on snowy or icy terrain challenging. Typically, there are tires specifically designed for snow. They have deeper grooves and broader tread than regular tires. These tiny grooves and thin channels are designed into the perimeter of the tire’s treads. These features make snow driving a lot easier. Sipes are integrated into winter tires to reinforce traction and offer more grip on the terrain.

You will notice very slippery steering on snow or ice. The handling becomes problematic if the sipes aren’t adequate anymore due to tire tread wear. The consequence can be catastrophic.

Constant Loss Of Pressurized Air

Another danger of driving on bald tires is loss of air pressure. It doesn’t matter how much air you put into the tire. Once the tread has worn down, and the grooves have become shallow, the pressurized air will escape faster than you expect. As a result, you’ll be experiencing constant under-inflation, meaning you’ll need to pump air into it too frequently. Low-tread tires can’t have a firm grip on the road, making steering much harder. Control will be difficult if you drive in dry or wet conditions due to excessive wear.

Sudden Bursts And Blowouts

Blowout is a nightmare for any car owner. It happens when the tread has worn out, and the tires find it hard to provide needed traction. With quality treads, punctures can be prevented, and the chances of tires blowing out will reduce, regardless of your driving speed. However, a blowout is inevitable when a lousy tire steps on a nail or any sharp article.

Excessive Heat Buildup

Even with good tires, the friction between the tire and the road generates heat. Bad tires cause heat to build up around the wheel. The more the treads wear out, the more heat it will create and build up. One of the things extreme heat does to a tire is a blowout.

Although quality tires can hold out against harsh conditions, too much heat can lead to a loss of control of the car. There is a limit to the heat tires can withstand.

Run Against Law

Installing low-tread tires on your car can pit you against the traffic cop. Legal violation is one of the consequences you cannot avoid if you keep driving on worn-out tires. Although each state has its laws regarding tire tread, most states frown against tire tread that falls below 2/23 inches. You should get familiar with your state law.

Increase In Cost Of Car Maintenance

The harmful effects of bad tires are enormous. One of these is a potential increase in car repair and maintenance costs. Repairing a tire can be costly, but replacing it can be more expensive. To avoid this, replace or repair the tire as soon as you notice. As long you continue to replace or repair tires, you’ll have to budget extra costs to meet the demands due to tire bursts, plugs, blowouts, or dry rot.

How To Tell Your Worn-Out Tires Need Replacement

Here are things to look out for before you conclude that your tires are worn out and may need to be replaced:

Cracks In The Sidewall

When you notice cracks in your tires’ sidewalls, it’ll not be out of place to conclude that they’re worn out. The sidewalls wear and dry as the tire ages and endure long mileage. The more miles you cover, the more susceptible the tire’s sidewalls are to cracks and cuts. These defects can compromise the durability and structural integrity of the tires. While you may not worry so much about minor scratches and splits, larger ones can pose a severe threat. Visibly blistered and bulged tires are considered worn-out.

Visible Indicator Bars

Modern tires are designed and integrated with tread indicator bars. The bars are made of flat rubber, although they are not visible in tires with many treads. However, the bars become visible and exposed as the plenty of tire treads wear down. Once the indicator bars reach this stage, it’s time to discard the tire and get a replacement.

Low Tread Depth

A tire depth should be profound, but when it becomes shallow, you should drive to a tire shop and order a new one. A tire tread gauge is the best way to know how much depth is left in the tread. The gauge tells you the depth. The good news is that the device is affordable and easy to use. You don’t have to worry about storing the gauge because your car’s glove compartment will come in handy. Using the coin test is another way to assess the tread depth. Place a coin into the tread heads up. If you can see the coin’s Lincoln head, the tread has worn. It may be the perfect time to buy a new tire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let me examine some of the questions car owners have always asked.

How Much Does A Set Of Four Tires Cost?

Tire replacement isn’t cheap, but you can always get tires that match your budget. However, your vehicle model, tire preference, and tire specs are some factors determining the cost of a pair of tires. If you’re driving a sports utility vehicle (SUV) or sports car, you can’t spend less than $1000 for a set of four tires. A standard sedan costs less. Between $300 and $400, you can buy a complete set of tires.

How Long Can I Drive On Bald Tires?

If you ask me, driving an inch on bald tires isn’t a good idea. Nonetheless, the extent of the wear of the tires will determine whether you’ll need to replace them right away or drive for a few distances or days. If the tires have completely gone bald, it’s time to get a replacement. Drive to a store and order a new one. Make sure you buy the tires that are the same size as the bald ones. If you keep driving on bald tires, you may be risking your safety and those of your loved ones.

Even if one tire is bald, don’t delay replacement.

However, when changing the bald tires, check if the wheel alignment is in order. In some cases, baldness only affects the edges of the tires. If you fix a new tire without proper wheel alignment, the tread of the replacement tire may also wear out very quickly.

How Can I Prevent My Tires From Wearing Out Fast?

It’s straightforward to prevent your tires from quickly becoming worn-out and bald. First off, do not take a bend or curve too fast. When cornering, slow down to reduce the pressure you put on your tires. There are unsafe and unwholesome driving behaviors that can compromise the integrity of your tire. You must avoid them.

When inflating your tire, do not exceed the pressure limit. Don’t under-fill your tire too. This way, the tire will not work under pressure. Each time you replace an old tire with a new one, ensure you get a wheel alignment. Wheel alignment doesn’t take time. As a general rule of thumb, ensure the spare or donut tire is of standard specs. In addition, when installing a replacement tire, check if the lug nuts have perfect tread depth. They could compromise your safety if they are in excellent condition.

Final Considerations

It’s worth reiterating that you shouldn’t drive on bad tires. Spending some bucks on a new tire is worth more than repairing terribly punctured ones. You need the car to stop almost the same as you press the brake pedal.

Overall, your safety is crucial, and the tires play a vital role in ensuring that your car doesn’t head for the rocks. Once you place the coin, it tails up. You have to get new tires if you can see the head from the edges.

Another sign of baldness is poor braking. Braking relies on friction to stop the car. Without treads, braking will be pretty challenging, especially on slippery surfaces.