How long should your car tyres last?

By Julia Freeman

A question our tyre professionals are often asked is “how long should car tyres last?”. This is definitely a “how long is a piece of string” question because no matter how experienced our qualified fitters may be, they don't know how often you drive, whether you tow, how fast you go, the road surfaces you drive on, or in what weather conditions. They do not know how many passengers you carry, how often you hit the kerb when parking, or whether you often park in sunshine. Above all, they don’t know how often you check your tyre pressures. All of these factors affect the mileage that you get from tyres.

changing car tyre

It also depends on when you consider a tyre should be replaced. Although the legal minimum tread is 1.6mm, it is sensible to replace regular summer tyres when they reach 3mm, and winter tyres at 4mm.

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As a very loose guide, the RAC suggests the tyres on your drive wheels (usually the front ones) ought to last 20,000 miles. The same tyres on a passive rear axle can reach almost double that. If you swap your front and back wheels every year or two you can equalise the wear and get about 30,000 from the set. The advantage is that you can then replace four together, which is better for the car’s handling and safety.
To get 20-40 thousand miles, you have to look after your tyres and moderate your driving style.
It also depends on the type of tyres. High performance tyres, optimised for handling at speed, usually wear more quickly – so it isn’t necessarily true that more expensive tyres last longer. Winter tyres are optimised for safe grip on ice and snow and they too can wear more quickly on ordinary open roads. Most manufacturers claim that run-flat tyres have similar durability to conventional tyres, but in our experience, many owners change them a little more often.

In years, how long do tyres last?

If they are looked after, a car tyre has a “shelf life” of up to 10 years. Again, this is just an estimate because every brand is constructed from slightly different compounds. More important are the conditions the tyre is exposed to. If you literally keep a tyre on a shelf, protected from air, dampness, light and temperature fluctuations, it will be good to drive for at least 10 years. If left on an unused vehicle, they will be damaged in a matter of months if you don’t jack up or rotate the wheels. On the road, tyres need scrutinising after 5 years of age.
You can’t keep your tyres wrapped in cotton wool, but you can still maximise their lifespan by parking in the shade, keeping them clean and using a garage.
Unless you drive very little, your tyres will be worn out by road use before perishing becomes an issue. If you keep a spare set of winter tyres in the garage most of the year, age could eventually become an issue. However, winter tyres are built to be more resistant to extreme conditions so it will be a good few years before you need to worry.
All tyres bear a 4-digit code that tells you when they were made. The first two digits are the week and the second the year. For example, “1914” means they were made in late spring 2014, not at the outset of WWI.

Choosing tyres for durability

For some people, mileage is not the first concern. High speed handling or safety on icy roads could weigh far more heavily, and that is sensible. Be aware that tyres made from a harder compound will last longer but sacrifice performance in braking and cornering. It is better to choose a tyre with a good balance of characteristics.
If your motive is to save money it could work out cheaper to buy less expensive tyres and change them more often. For example, although Michelins have a good reputation for mileage, they are unlikely to last twice as long as Falken, Avon or Sumitomo tyres that are half the price. Tyre changes are inexpensive at Protyre, and tyre checks are free.

Book with Protyre

Protyre will have you in and out very quickly indeed, but it is always wise to purchase your new tyres in advance using our quick and easy online tyre finder. You can search using either your vehicle’s registration or by tyre size, using the details embossed on the side wall of your existing tyre to help.
We stock a wide range of tyres, from premium to budget brands, in a range of prices to suit every pocket. We have same or next day fitting available in-branch (depending on availability) or you can contact your local Protyre before purchasing to arrange for a mobile fitting team to come to you.

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About the author

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By Julia Freeman
Julia is Head of Retail Marketing for Protyre and loves engaging with customers and the business as a whole to make sure Protyre is more than just a local garage.
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