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Q: How long do car tyres last?
A: This is actually not a simple question, because there are several metrics by which tyres can be deemed ready for replacement. Which means there are also many factors that determine how long do tyres last.
How the car is driven, how it's maintained, how far it travels, where it goes and how old the tyres are, are all factors in the answer to this rather evergreen question.
Even the relative quality of the tyres themselves and what they're designed to do will be factors.
There are no hard and fast rules on how long do tyres last km-wise, and how often to change tyres becomes a case of all the factors below.
There are also no binding rules on brands. Whether Bridgestone tyre life expectancy is greater than Pirelli's or Dunlop's, or Goodyear's or any other brand's, is down to the tyre itself and what it's designed to do.
As well as the following list of things that will kill your tyres:
When it comes to how long should car tyres last Australia is a pretty hard marker. Our conditions are much tougher than many places with temperature extremes and road surfaces that drivers in other countries wouldn't believe. So tyre wear is a biggie.
When a tyre has only a little tread depth remaining, it won't be as safe as it should be – particularly in the wet – so it's time to replace it.
Tyres have small ridges inside the grooves of the tread called tread-wear indicators. When the tread is worn down on any part of the tyre to the point where it's almost level with the little ridges, the tyre is done.
If the tread is level with the tread-wear indicators, the tyre is already past its use-by-date and is technically and legally unroadworthy.
So, check these indicators regularly and make sure you check across the whole of the tyre's width, not just one spot.
On average, a tyre should give you between 40,000km up to 80,000km (the latter figure on a lightweight hatchback) before it's worn out.
This distance will largely be down to your driving style. Accelerate hard and brake heavily and you'll be rubbing thousands of kilometres off the tyres. Drive gently and smoothly and you'll definitely extend tyre life.
Coarse road surfaces can also shorten tyre life, and so can towing a trailer or even having a heavily loaded ute. A car with lowered suspension can also suffer premature trye wear because of the odd suspension angles set up by shorter springs.
A flat - or even semi-flat - tyre can wreck the tyre if you continue to drive on it with insufficient air pressure.
As the tyre's carcass gets hotter and hotter thanks to the deformation allowed by the low inflation pressure, the rubber compound gets hotter until it starts to physically break down. At which point the tyre is toast.
Some punctures can be temporarily fixed with a plug, and more permanently with a patch if the damage is on the tread part of the tyre (not the sidewall) and is a smaller, uniform hole rather than a large gash or tear.
Any damage to the sidewall such as a gouge from a kerbing or any damage to the tyre's inner structure also means curtains for that tyre.
Unfortunately, our roads are full of little bits of metal and nails and screws that fall off tradie utes, and flat tyres are pretty common.
Driving in the emergency lane of a freeway (where all the rubbish gathers) is also a great way to damage a tyre. Good tyres, even really good tyres, are just as susceptible to this type of damage as cheap ones.
Nothing lasts forever and tyres are no exception to that rule. Most specialists will tell you that seven or eight years is a pretty good run for a set of tyres, with 10 years being the absolute maximum you should risk, even if the car has travelled only a few hundred kilometres in that time.
Time and exposure to UV light will kill tyres just as effectively as wearing them out. Inspect older tyres for signs of cracking in the rubber compound and, if it's there, don't even think about driving on those tyres. A blowout could be just around the corner. Literally.
If you are going to store tyres for any length of time before using them, a cool, dark place is the best spot for them.
But what about a second-hand car you've only just bought? One of the first things you should ask is how old are my tyres?
If you look closely, every tyre should have a date code. This code will be in the fine print on the sidewall and will be a four-digit number. The first two digits represent the week of the year the tyre was made and the last two digits will be the year. So, a tyre with a date code of 1622, was manufactured in the 16th week of 2022.
Tyres are like anything else on a car; look after them and they'll last longer and work better.
Maintaining the correct tyre pressures is probably the biggest thing most car owners overlook, and it really needs to be checked every month as a tyre will lose some pressure just sitting around.
By allowing the inflation pressure to drop, the tyre will run hotter (through more distortion) and both the tread and the tyre's construction will suffer.
Rotating tyres isn't always possible with some cars, due to them having larger wheels and tyres on the rear axle, compared with the front, or directional tyres that are designed to work best in one direction.
But if it's possible, the tyres can be rotated side to side and even back to front to even out wear and extend tyre life.
Keeping the wheels balanced will also help prevent strange wear patterns occurring, not to mention making the car vastly nicer to drive.
Tyre lifespan is more closely related to maintenance than many people think, and the question of how long should tyres last is directly linked to how well you care for them.
Car tyres are one of the last bastions of the statement that you only get what you pay for. Cheap tyres are just that; cheap. They won't offer as much grip or safety and they'll wear out faster.
But sometimes, the opposite is not necessarily true either, and the better quality a tyre is, the less life it will offer.
That's because really high performance tyres are often made with very soft tread compounds (which is what makes them stick to the road and improve handling and steering) that wear down more quickly.
Enthusiast drivers know this and will put up with the more expensive tyre wearing faster in the name of grip and performance, not to mention safety. A double-edged sword, tyre quality.
Long lasting tyres, then, often don't offer the same grip, but the average tyre life of a harder compound product should be greater, all other things being equal.
Some of the best car tyres Australia once offered were made here. That local manufacturing doesn't happen any longer, so you'll be buying imported tyres.
So make sure they're right for local conditions. A tyre retail specialist outlet is your friend here. Such a retailer is also the place to ask how much are tyres, any tyre wear rating that applies and how long does it take to change a tyre, because often, these shops will change all four tyres on your car while you wait.
Even the most basic questions like what tyres do I need can be answered with expertise you won't get from an online tyre store.
And here's another tip. You need to know you're shopping for tyres that are legal in Australia and suitable for our conditions.
So, check whether the site is offering car tires or tyres, because the former spelling suggests an off-shore site in a country where the American spelling of tire is the common one used.
Some online retailers also offer a tyre life calculator but, again, it it's spelled tire rather than tyre, you're probably on a foreign site that may not be at all relevant to Australian conditions.