Checking the Tires is one of the most important steps when buying a used vehicle.

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Now it's time to check the tires. This will provide you with much needed information about the previous owner's driving habits as well as their attention to maintaining the vehicle. The first thing to inspect is the air pressure. Use your tire pressure gauge on each of the tires and compare it to both the maximum pressure as written on the side wall of the tire itself as well as the recommended air pressure as stated in the owners manual. You can also open the driver's side door and look for the tire information tag (Figure 2-1). It can also somtimes be located on the door itself or in the gas cap. This will tell you the manufacturer's original tire size as well as the cold tire pressure. Be sure to log this information on your check list. Typically, all 4 tires will carry near the same amount of pressure so if one is considerably lower than the others, this will show you if a tire possibly has a slow leak which is not usually visible. A difference of 5 psi or more would be considered low.

Figure 2-1
Figure 2-2

It is a good idea to make sure the tires on the vehicle are the correct size as suggested by the manufacturer. Figure 2-2 shows you where to look on the tire itself to see what size it is. If the tires are a different size, it could possibly make the speedometer read incorrectly.

Figure 2-3

Here is where you will log the tire information.

When a vehicle is properly maintained, the tires should wear evenly without any 'bald' rings. An example of good tire wear is Figure 2-4. The tread is even and defined all the way around the tire. Figures 2-6 and 2-7 demonstrate examples of a bad tire. This particular vehicle seems to have an alignment problem which causes the tread to wear out faster on the inside. This means that not only will the vehicle need new tires, but it will need front end work as well. Under inflated tires will wear out faster on the outsides of the tire, while Over inflated tires tend to wear out the center of a tire, so pay close attention to the tread wear.

Figure 2-4
This is an ideal tire. Good tread with no dry rotting or wear rings.
Figure 2-5
The maximum pressure is written on the tire as PSI (Pounds per Square Inch)

Figure 2-6
Figure 2-7
Here are two different angles of uneven tire wear. This is a very dangerous situation and if you purchase such a vehicle, be aware that not only will the car need new tires, it may need front end work as well.

The final thing you will want to notice is the amount of tread left on each tire. There are 2 ways to check the tread depth. The first is to use a tread depth gauge, which is available at most auto parts stores, or by clicking on the link next to this paragraph. The second and most common method, is to use a coin, usually a penny. Place the penny into the tread of the tire with the head facing you in at least 4 different locations. As long as part of Lincoln's head is touching tread at the lowest point, then you have at least 2/32" of tread left. Once the tire's tread wears further, the vehicle will have a higher likelihood of hydroplaning on wet surfaces as well as minimal traction, specially in muddy or snowy conditions.

Figure 2-8
This tire has pleanty of tread life left and is an example of an excellent tire.

Below are two inspection results of the exact same tire. Figure 2-9 shows that the tire's tread has no bald spots, nor is it wearing unevenly. Figure 2-10 however, shows us that even though at a glance the tire looks great, when we do the penny test, we find that the tread has worn down to a point where they will need to be replaced soon. This would not be a good tire to drive in snowy or icy conditions.

Figure 2-9

Figure 2-10
This tire is worn and will need to be replaced in the very near future.

We are not affiliated with any other automotive website, company, or lending institution. We give our customers the tools they need to make an educated purchasing decision for themselves. We offer no opinions in regards to which manufacturer, make, or model a customer should purchase. This system has been designed around actual car buyers who experienced problems, some severe, and is beneficial to use whether you are going by yourself, or bringing someone to help you look at the vehicle. The program is 'dealership friendly' and has been developed with cooperation from Auto Mechanics, Sales Consultants, and Sales Managers. The Auto Evaluator is a guide, not a guarantee and always consult a qualified mechanic. The Auto Evaluator and all it contains is a TradeMark of Mistar Enterprises, LLC.

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