How to Tell When Your Tires are Too Worn — Safety Tech
Have you ever heard of T-CLOCS, the three minute check? Or, have you ever heard any old timer say, "If you take care of it, it will take care of you"?
These old timers are referring to checking your motorcycle before you ride. Sometimes, the simplest and most obvious thing on your bike can let you know that something is wrong (or may go wrong) with it.
What's the most important thing on your motorcycle? Your tires. Worn, bald, and damaged tires can let you down at at any moment—taking you straight to the hospital.
Worn tread is dangerous for many reasons. Of course, there's the possibility of a blowout or a flat tire leaving you stranded, but even more daunting is the danger presented by inclement weather. You're already lacking traction from wear, and throwing slick roads into the mix doesn't help.
The tire pictured above was ridden extensively on the highway, which left the center extremely thin. Many people erroneously believe a tire only worn in the center is still good because it has plenty of tread left on the sides -- the one pictured notwithstanding. Lack of traction, even in a straight line, can be dangerous and cause an accident.
Worn Tire Tips
- Under-inflated tires can result in squishy handling, high tire temperatures, uneven tread wear, fatigue cracking, over-stressing and eventual failure of the tire carcass. Once that happens, you will effectively be riding on two limp balloons.
- Over-inflating tires does not increase load-carrying capacity -- a common error on touring and adventure bikes. However, it does result in a hard ride and accelerated tire wear in the center of the contact patch.
[Note: The graphic below shows the types of wear we are talking about. These are car tires, but the wear patterns will be similar.]
- Valve stems let air in and keep the air from escaping. They are also the wear point from which most slow leaks start. If you have a tire that won't hold air over a few days, this may be the culprit.
- The appearance of stress cracks is one indication of overloaded and/or under-inflated tires. If you find tread-groove cracking, you should remove and replace the tire immediately. Cracking in the tire from either of these conditions, or from dry rot, is not something you can repair. Despite the shoe polish trick from the World's Fastest Indian, we wouldn't recommend it.
- Your tires have wear bars. When there is 1/32 of an inch depth remaining in your tread pattern, it's time to replace them. It's important to note that this can be anywhere on the tire. So if you have one spot at that point, consider them worn.
- You shouldn't mix new and old tires. The mix of tire conditions can cause seriously dangerous handling and issues in slick road conditions.
- Inspect your tires frequently for damage. If you feel any vibration, wiggles, or slipperiness while riding, immediately get your tires looked at or replaced.
Not the sexiest advice on the planet, and maybe — hopefully — you were already aware about all of this, but let this serve as a reminder to check your tires before the next ride, big or small.