A penny for your tread?

The penny method is an old test — stick a penny in your tire’s tread groove, and if the tread reaches Lincoln’s tie, it’s a good tire; if not, it needs to be replaced, explained Dan Hunt, assistant service manager of Gene Gorman Tire and Auto Repair in Port Charlotte.

An experienced professional like Hunt can eyeball the tire and tell whether it’s good or not. Mechanics also have wear bars to measure a tire’s depth.

As Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles states, “tread groove is designed to push water out from under the tread, allowing the tire to make maximum contact with the road.”

If your tires are below 2/32 inch, they must, by law, be replaced.

According to FLHSMV, preliminary numbers showed 3,673 tire-related crashes occurred in the state in 2018. Of these, 60 were fatalities and 213 resulted in serious bodily injuries. The state did not provide the number of crashes by county.

In Florida, the greatest number of tire defect-related crashes happen from May through August, with increasingly hotter road conditions and more travelers, according to a press release from FLHSMV.

In May, a woman from Fort Myers, Manoucheka Silverain, 32, died while driving along Interstate 75 in Punta Gorda. After the crash, Florida Highway Patrol officers said the tires on her vehicle were in poor condition, with a tread depth of less than 1/32 of an inch. That along with wet roads, contributed to the crash.

Treads provide traction to grip the road in potentially dangerous weather conditions, like rainy wet roads.

“The vehicle may have a control issue,” Hunt said. “(You) may lose control of the vehicle, at the very least have a breakdown.”

When buying new tires, Hunt recommends buyers check the year and condition, including depth and tread.

“The life of a tire in Florida is about five years,” Hunt said. “The weather destroys tires.”

He added that considering our heat and roads, any small alignment problem in a vehicle could chew the tire up.

Hunt said the heat and UV from the sun affects rubber, which can cause rotting and cracking.

Kay Roger, Silverain’s friend of 20 years, said she encourages people to keep up with the maintenance of their vehicles, and get their car checked before taking any long trips.

“This is something that some people overlook at times, and unfortunately it can lead to losing a loved one,” she said. “Her [Silverain’s] death caused me to be more cautious about keeping [up] with my tires and driving on the highway.”

To make sure your tire lasts as long as possible, Hunt recommends proper maintenance, which includes rotating your tires every 5,000-7,000 miles to help even the tread wear. Depending on what kind of tire you purchase, they can typically last anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 miles. Some can even go to 75,000 miles for higher-grade options.

Hunt wouldn’t recommend ever buying a tire older than five years. Buyers can check the year of the tires by checking the DOT number, or “Julian Date.”


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