Tires: Fastest & Easiest Way to Tell a Quality Used Car from a Lousy One

Many people think mileage is the biggest tell-tale sign of a poorly maintained car but that’s not always the case because tires play a big role. Here’s a guide on tires and what you can spot to ensure you get a quality used car. 

Tires are essential in any car as they are the only part of your car that comes in contact with the road every time you drive. Four fundamental functions of tires are:

  •       Supporting the weight of the car;
  •       accelerating and braking;
  •       direction; and
  •       absorbing uneven road surfaces

Why is it Important?

Many people are mistaken by the fact that it’s the brakes that stop the car, but the brakes only stop the wheels – it is actually the tires that stops the car. 

Michelin Malaysia states that the contact area is the size of the palm of your hand, which is such a small area because this is where the acceleration, braking, steering, handling, and comfort of the car occurs. In such a small area, a failure at a high speed could have detrimental consequences.

The Fastest & Easiest Way to Check Tires When Buying a Used Car

When buying a used car, checking the tires is one of the fastest and easiest ways to determine a quality used car from a lousy one. This is because every time you drive the car, the tires are being used, which will wear out. 

In fact, the lifespan of a tire depends on various factors namely, the tires’ design, the driver’s habits, the climate, the conditions of the road, and the previous owner’s maintenance habits. Here are four ways to check.

  1. Check for uneven wear – Is the center of the tire more worn than the sides or vice versa
  2. Check tire tread – By holding a 10 sen coin to the tire’s gap if the words “Bank Negara Malaysia” shows then the tire(s) are due for a replacement.
  3. Check for damage – Are there any cuts, punctures, bumps, or bulges?
  4. Check the Date of Tire (DOT) – Look for the DOT number, it provides the week of manufacture and year of manufacture. Michelin Malaysia advises to keep five years in mind, after that the tires should be inspected at least once a year by a mechanic.

Tires are the Most Expensive Replacement Part of a Car

According to the Ministry of Transport, there are over 31.2 million units of motor vehicles registered in Malaysia as of 2019 and in the same year, there are over 87 percent of Malaysians who reside in Klang Valley that drive alone to work, which is the highest rate in the world for single commuters.

Given the nature of tires being used on a daily basis, it is one of the most expensive replacement parts of a car. However, everyone’s usage may vary because of the tire size, the tire brand, and the type of tire. For example, the cost of replacing the tires on a Proton X50 is as expensive as replacing the tires on a BMW X1 despite costing double the price.

Here are a few reasons why tires are one of the most expensive replacement parts of a car: 

  • Different formulas for different brands – not all tires are created equally as different manufacturers have different goals and different market(s). Tire manufacturers will need to hire scientists and researchers to experiment various types of chemicals and materials, which incurs more costs.
  • Improved Handling Capability – Manufacturers spend a lot of time and money on tire prototypes to improve the handling.
  • Improved Braking Capability – Manufacturers also spend time and money to improve the braking capability and overall safety of their tires.
  • Reliability and Durability – It must also be reliable and durable because if tires are at fault for an accident, they are not going to sell.

Spending on Tires Reflects on the Previous Owner’s Maintenance Habits

Generally, spending on tires does in fact reflect on the previous owner’s maintenance habits. For example, you should never mix tires on the same axle (either front or rear).

 If the car has different brands on each tire or one of the tires, it might suggest that the previous owner was on a budget and did not care enough about the car. If the tires have a DOT stamp older than the car, it indicates used tires were installed to the car, which is again cause for concern.

Also read: A Guide to Run-flat Tires 

It would then be normal for you to ask yourself, if the previous owner is willing to cut costs by buying different brand tires or used tires, and have there been any other costs cutting in their maintenance?

Uneven Wear Suggests More Serious Mechanical Problems

More common than not, uneven tire wear is caused by misaligned wheels or insufficient tire air pressure. Nonetheless, uneven tire wear can also be a symptom of worn-out suspension (in simpler terms, the legs of the car). This might cause the car to lean on either side, which puts extra load on one side of the tire. A worn-out suspension is a serious mechanical problem, which has its detrimental consequences. Here are a few consequences but not limited to:

  •       Your car can lose control over bumps and downhills.
  •       Your car can lose control around curve roads.
  •       Your car will require a longer distance to stop during an emergency sudden brake.
  •       Your worn-out suspension might damage other parts of the car and over time, it will incur more cost to repair.

Mix and Match Tire Brands is a Red Flag

As mentioned above, not all tires are created equally and it is important to have all four tires to be of the same brand for safety reasons. Let’s say one of your tires was punctured due to a pothole and you want to get a different brand that’s cheaper to save a few bucks. It may make sense at first in the short-term but in the long-term, it will have detrimental consequences.

Mixing tire brands will affect the car’s steering, acceleration, and braking characteristics. There might be lesser grip on the cheaper tire, which means the handling characteristics will substantially change as well. Moreover, during a rainy day or a wet condition the stability of the car will be decreased because of the lesser grip of the cheaper tire. When the tires do not match at all four corners, it can be very unsettling for the car.

As a rule of thumb, it is recommended to replace all four tires at the same time. Nevertheless, if the time calls for it like the pothole incident where only one tire is required to be replaced it’s a good idea to place the new one at the rear as the rear has more control.

Tires are as Important as Engine Oil

Tires are the most vital part of the car as it affects the safety of the driver, it provides comfort over uneven road surfaces, and it affects the car’s overall drivability. 

Therefore, it is important to inspect the tires when searching for a used car. Alternatively, with Carsome’s Certified pre-owned cars, a 175-point inspection is conducted so you can drive away with peace of mind. In addition to that, all tires are checked to ensure they surpass global standards during our Carsome Certified Refurbishment Process at our Carsome Certified Labs. 

Read more: Here’s How Carsome Refurbishes Pre-owned Cars