What Do Your Tire Treads Really Do?

You probably already know that driving on tires with worn-out treads can be dangerous, but why do your treads matter so much? How does driving on worn-out tires affect your car, and are you putting yourself at risk when you ignore the warning signs of a necessary tire replacement? This guide will answer these questions so you can have a deeper understanding of why tire replacements are so crucial.

Why Do Your Tires Need Treads? 

If you've ever watched Formula One racing, you might have noticed that those high-performance vehicles use completely flat tires. These tires are known as racing slicks and lack tread patterns commonly found in street-legal tires. This design may come as a surprise since tire companies typically advertise tread patterns as a critical performance characteristic.

The most grip comes from creating the largest possible contact patch with the road surface. The wide, featureless tires used on racing cars create a huge amount of grip on the road, providing excellent performance on smooth track tarmac in dry conditions. Of course, very few people have a daily commute that involves driving on a perfectly dry race track!

Since real-world conditions differ greatly from a race track, street tires require a different design. The tread blocks on your tires help to direct water and snow away from the rubber, allowing the tire to maintain contact with the road under even inclement weather conditions. As a result, a tire with a good tread design and adequate tread depth is necessary when driving on the street.

What Happens When Your Treads Wear Out?

Your tires must carry the weight of your vehicle along imperfect road surfaces at high speeds. This daily punishment produces a lot of heat and friction, ultimately wearing down the rubber tread blocks your tires need to provide a good grip on the road surface. As your tires wear out and the tread blocks become shorter, your tires will become less capable of dealing with inclement conditions.

Unfortunately, worn tires can often be deceiving. Remember that a smooth tire will provide relatively good traction under ideal conditions, so your old tires may seem perfectly safe. However, this perception will probably change fairly rapidly once the roads become wet. A worn tire that seemed fine minutes earlier may suddenly begin to behave erratically or lose traction entirely.

Since the effects of a worn-out tire can be dramatic and unexpected, you should never wait to notice a problem before you replace your tires. Once you pass the minimum tread depth of 2/32 of an inch, you should plan to replace your tires as soon as possible to ensure your car remains safe to drive under all weather conditions.

Contact an auto shop to learn more about tires