Reader Question: Used Tires?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

D asks: My car’s tires are probably not going to pass state safety inspection and I know that driving on worn-out tires is dangerous regardless. But a set of four new tires is a lot of money for me at the moment. What are your thought about getting used tires to get me through?

My reply: There are a number of  things to think about here.

Most people keep the tires they have until they need to be replaced, so you’re probably looking at tires salvaged from a car that was in a bad wreck – bad enough to total the car (but not the tires).

How old are those tires?

Check the date code on the sidewall. More info about how to do that here.  Avoid tires – even if they have good tread – that are more than ten years old.

Have they been sitting in a field for awhile? In addition to possible physical damage from the wreck they may be deteriorated from age and exposure. Watch out for dry rot and flat spots and sidewall cracks, etc.

If they’ve been dismounted, make sure they don’t leak.

Are all four tires the same type? Have any got abnormal wear patterns from the vehicle they were on?  Look for cupping and such.

Finally: How much will it cost you to buy and mount the four used tires vs. new ones? Only you know how much you can afford to spend, of course. And if you simply can’t afford the cost of  new tires right now, there’s nothing wrong with slapping on a set of of used tires – assuming all four are sound.

But make certain that they are before you roll!

. . .

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  1. When using radial tires not knowing which side a tire was on is dangerous. It’s the reason that rotating tires now a matter of changing from front to rear and not diagonally as used to be the case with bias ply tires.

    It’s dangerous to run a tire the opposite direction it’s always turned. If I had to, I’d sell something to buy some cheap tires till I could afford good tires.

    Recaps are not the quality they used to be on big trucks simply because you may be rolling a different direction. Tire shops will not swap the steering tires from side to side, no buts or maybes. It’s such a known danger they can be sued for doing so. Thanks for reminding me I need to rotate my tires.

    I have an old pickup I just need for slow driving and intend to put some cheap Chinese tires on it. 3 years ago my 265/75/16 load range E BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A K02 tires were $1250. I hope they hold up a few more years.

    • Those All-Terrains should hold up, Eight! $1250- yep….that’s why I went with the Hankooks for $750. It’s been quite a few years, and quite frankly I can not tell the difference (Had BFG KO’s on the truck when I bought it)…and they’re holding up fine- they still look new. I’ve never had so many people ask me about my tires until I got these…I should get a commission from Hankook, ’cause I’ve had at least 2 locals by DynaPros after seeing mine.

  2. I routinely run used tires but I’m an advanced gearhead who routinely checks his tires and is in tune with his machines. I know what bubbles forming/ tread separation feels like and know why if it starts to pull to one side.

    Having said that, as the economy has slowly sunk over the last 20 years, the supply of good used tires has dwindled markedly and prices on the remaining crap has risen.

    One good option is to buy 2 new ones when money is tight, putting them on the front and keeping the better 2 of the old ones on the back for a few months. This is a bad idea on AWD.

  3. I look at it like this:

    Used tires with good tread are better than driving around on nearly bald tires, ’cause it’s hard to stop and corner without loosing traction on nearly bald tires- ‘specially in the rain. I used to buy used tires all the time when I was younger and enduring the poverty of living in a blue state at the time (The blues love the poor ya know…so much, that they ensure that residents of their nanny-states will remain poor or become poor!).

    Think of them as a better option than driving around on baloney-skins.

    Other than that though….tires are THE number-one safety features on any car…..and there’s a lot more to tires than just the tread- so unless used is literally the only possible alternative….but new tires! And considering what ya often have to pay for good used ones, plus the cost of mounting and balancing and all (Which is usually included in the cost of new tires…but not used ones) the savings are often minimal when going used. Even a cheap set of new Chinese or Korean tires are better than going used….and after the total costs are considered, usually not much more expensive. Even Walmart tires trump used ones.

    And while I never had a problem over the many years I drove on used tires, I have to say that having a matched set of nice new tires makes a noticeable difference- and it sure is nice just being able to walk into a place and buying a set of tires and having them installed, vs. having to scour junk yards for good used ones, and then taking them and having them mounted and balanced and all.

    Amazon can be a good place to get new tires too! Of course, ya still have to have them mounted and balanced, but you can find really good deals sometimes that make it more than worth it. There are some good independent tire shops out there too which offer prices as low as the internet, so it pays to call around locally too. Just avoid franschise/chain places like Firestone and Goodyear, as they are almost always dishonest and pull all sorts of shenanigans I’d normally recommend avoiding Walmart for anything car-related…but when it comes to tires on a budget, they can actually be one of the best options.

    But ultimately, avoid driving on bald or nearly bald tires!

    • I agree that used tires are usually not worth the money (there are exceptions though). Mounting and balancing adds around $25 a tire and gets uncofortably close to the price of new rubber.
      I usually pick tires online from Discount Tire, they will often try to get me to switch to another tire when I show up for the appoinment because the ones I chose are not in stock (bait & switch). I just tell them I will wait until they get the chosen tires shipped in. Last time I did this the manager gave me an “upgraded” tire for the same price (I don’t like highway tires on trucks that see use in the mud).
      I don’t think I’ve paid more than $550 (out the door) for a set of four tires in decades, including load range E truck tires. I’ve managed to get small (13″/14″) tires for under $150 a set, mounted & balanced. Only tires I’ve ever had problems with were the one-off cheapos (only available) from Sam’s/Wal Mart.

      • ‘Zactly, Bob. I wouldn’t buy my truck tires at Walmart (car tires I would…iffin I had a car)- Local tire shop matched the best interweb price on a set of Hankook DynaPros for my F250, $750 -great tires- every bit as good as BFG All-Terrains, only 25% cheaper. Included mounting and balancing and valve stems and all…even free lifetime repairs.

        • Nunz, a few years ago I was speaking to a guy who owned a tire store and did a huge bidness. I told him about replacing a set of Toyo Tires from Sam’s “twice” under warranty.
          That’s when I learned that Sam’s and Wally sell “seconds”. They look like first run tires and have the same warranty but you’re liable to get tires that did like those on the wife’s car. They’d have a belt separate or a bulge or the car would get jiggy and they’d replace the set. After the second time I bought some Toyo’s from a local dealer, paid less and never had a problem with them.

          The guy with the tire store said there was no way to identify them as seconds since that’s a quality control issue with the company and if you had a wreck and it was caused by a tire you’d just think it was caused by an injury to the tire. Probably a lawyer could get the “seconds” source found and maybe not. But having 3 sets of the same tires from Sam’s and none being good was enough to make me buy tires elsewhere after I knew what was going on.

          I’ve had Toyo light truck tires I loved that drove well, had great traction and never needed to be rebalanced.

          I was speaking to a guy at Sam’s one day who had a F350 and a really big gooseneck sitting in the parking lot. He was looking for some Michelins they were out of stock on. I asked if that was his rig out there since I had walked by it and the tires had plenty tread. He said it was so I asked why he was buying new tires. He said it was because they were so rough he was sick of them even though they had 35,000 miles left on them in his estimation.

          BTDT with Michelin and Goodyear both. They both make tires that might last longer than the vehicle but they get so hard and harsh you can’t tolerate the ride.

          I stopped to talk to a trucker friend and he pointed out his brand new Firestone steering tires. I asked him if they were good tires. He said ‘Well, they’re better than those Chinese tires on your truck”. I agreed with him but I didn’t own the truck and didn’t buy the tires. Cheap tires on a big rig can turn out to be the most expensive tires you ever bought due to simply coming apart or shedding the tread or blowing out just rolling down the road. I keep my eyes on those steering tires every day, maybe a few times a day. I’m a tire bumping fool and I ruined way less tires than any of the other drivers.

          I”m a big believer in keeping a tire properly inflated but I worked for a guy so cheap he’d just push against a tire with his foot and say it was good to go even though it was nearly flat. I had driven a good while for him and never had a chance to air up all the tires to the proper pressure. We’d been hauling the same run for a while so I knew exactly how fast the truck was pull every step of the way. One day something went down on the loader so while they were working on it I had the chance to put at least 100 lbs in all but one tire that had 80. The next load that truck ran like it had gained 50 hp and pulled hills at more than 10 mph of what it had pulled them before. I’d never seen anyone spend so much money trying to not spend any money on something as trivial as keeping a tire pressured properly. Turns out that was a really good pulling engine. I worked for him for 8 months and in that entire time no truck ever got an oil change and only got a fuel filter change when it just wouldn’t run. Never saw anything like it.

          • Didn’t know that about the seconds, Eight- but it sure doesn’t surprise me- just like the Samsing TV ya buy at Walmart aint the same as the same size and model Samsing ya get at a real store.

            Friend O mine came by one day and had just gotten hisself some nice General Grabbers from Wally- It was just before I bought my Hnakooks, so I was tempted- as the price was unbeatable; Only reason I didn’t get ’em was because they didn’t have siping, and no one around here knows how to do siping anymore- Now I’m glad I dint get ’em!

            Ya don’t have to convince me about proper inflation. Wjich reminds me of my old Chebby car carrier. Darn thing- the dual rear wheels were too close together, and if ya didn’t keep ’em a little over-inflated, they’d rub together as soon as ya had even a Renaul Le Car on the bad…never mind a big car plus something on the bang bar.

            Would dareput spacers either, as I already had a set of back wheels from that POS go rolling past as I was driving down Sunrise Hwy one day…and ditto the guy what boughtedid the truck from me- even though I warned him. After that I bought a Ford….and never lost any wheels, and could stop, and everything!

            Never heard about the radial wrong-way rotation thing…but I believe it. Maybe back when tires were one directional it wasn’t an issue unless the tire was “double sided”….but today I guess it is.

      • Order the tires from discounttiredirect. Then when they are delivered to you take them over to discount tire for mounting and balancing. Gets around their ‘not in stock’ problem. Often cheaper.


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