Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Do I replace my tires, and if so with what?


I am a proud owner of a 2005 Honda Civic (manual transmition)that has 35,000+ miles. I do a lot of driving (4+ hours every monday into New Hampsire - 2/3rds of which is not highway; 2+ hours of highway driving on tues, wedns, thurs). I’m pretty sure it is time to start thinking about replacing my tires (not something I can do on my own). I have all seasons on the car now. My questions: how do i know if it is time to replace? if i were to replace, what should i go with? what about snow tires (I was told i could just get snow tires for the front wheels)? please keep in mind the extent of the milage, and what is garunteed to be snowy conditions. Thanks for the advice in advance

You’re not quite to the point that you need to be replacing the tires just on age alone, but if they are the original tires they probably are pretty well worn out.

With as much driving as you do, I would definitely get a set of four snow tires. Snow tires really are the best thing you can do to make your life easier while driving in snow and with as much winter driving as you do I wouldn’t go without them. Contrary to what you’ve heard it’s pretty dangerous to only put two snow tires on a front-wheel drive car because having less traction on the back of the car will make your car want to spin and only putting them on the back doesn’t really help you much. If you’re planning on keeping the car for a long time, I’d also get a set of extra rims as this makes the change-over every season a lot cheaper and faster.

Agree with GreasyJack on the snow tires. Get four. Check out Consumer Reports for winter tire and all season tire ratings before you buy. You can also check out for reviews and snow tire packages that may work out for you. If you haven’t had trouble with this car in the winter, all seasons may work out well.

To decide if they should be replaced, you need to measure the depth of the tread remaining. New tires usually start around 10/32 of an inch. The legal limit is 2/32 of an inch, but you really don’t want to go that low, especially in winter. Opinions will vary, but I’d personally be uncomfortable below 5/32 in the conditions you describe.

If you have a set of winter tires you can bias your choice of summer rubber towards other issues. All season tires are best for no season. Some are good on wet roads and poorer than others for snow. Others may be relatively good for snow, but are noisy. With good winter tires, you free yourself from one of the compromises that are inherent in designing a tire.

If your all-seasons have 4/32" to 6/32" tread depth or less they are pretty ineffective in winter conditions and should be replaced.

Here is the deal with snow in NH/MA (it sounds like southern NH). We get about one week to two weeks of winter driving days typically where winter tires are beneficial due to wintery conditions on roads. However the balance (majority) of the time our roads are wet or dry and clear.

Your options with winter tires are buying four mounted on steel wheels already mounted/balanced from (excellent prices since mount/balance free). Another option is buying four from a place like Town Fair Tire which does the switchovers free for you each season. The benefits are you get to run your all-seasons the full term down to near legal tread depth of 2/32" since you only run in the non winter months. The cost may seem a lot but remember, your all-seasons do not wear while your winters are installed.

If you do go for all-seasons research ( and consumer reports, ask here) about all-seasons that are biased for the winter conditions. My wife’s car uses a one size fits all solution called Nokian WR that are the only all-seasons that are also severe winter rated. They last 40k-50k but made her old 96 Civic unstoppable in the snow and her current Subaru Legacy has no issues. They are pricey but if interested I can post back where to get them as price widely vary due to limited sellers.

All-seasons give up one thing in order to gain somewhere else. Just find one that does better in the winter and I think you will be all set for the majority of drive time.

I would probably go ahead and replace the tires. You can use a penny to measure the tread depth. With Lincoln facing you upside down, insert the penny into one of the gooves on top of the tire. If you can see Lincoln’s whole head, it is time for new tires. If part of his head is obscured, you are probably okay.

I agree that you should buy a set of four good snow tires cheap steel rims. The investment is worth it.

The penny test is for 2/32".

For 4/32" use this test:
Place a quarter(head down) into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Washington’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 4/32" of tread depth remaining.

Just to set the record straight, snow tyres are not the same as winter tyres. I am not sure you can even get snow tyres any more. Winter tyres are far better and don’t even look the same, the tread looks more like regular tyres.

Other than that nit picking I agree with what you have suggested and you covered the side issues well.

Keep in mind that 90% of your driving will be on dry roads, even in New Hampshire in January… After all you survived for 3 winters on the original tires, right? A set of “Winter Tires” means you get to own 8 tires instead of 4. With a FWD car, few people need winter tires. There is a lot of Mumbo-Jumbo associated with tire marketing and it’s all designed to get as much money out of you as possible.

You are assuming your tires need replacement but many of todays quality radial tires deliver 60-70K miles no problem. Take a close look at your tires and decide for yourself if tires are needed. If you go to a tire store and ask them, I GUARANTEE they will tell you you need new tires…

So the majority vote seems to be for me to get snow tires and that way i can keep the ones i have for the other seasons and get a few more years out of them. A bunch of people commented that I don’t have that much actual snow driving. That was not the reality last winter. Last winter (which to be fair was my first year of this silly commute) once we had our first snow storm, most of the roads stayed snowy/icy until the spring. But, that is still only one day a week (and some weekends). I looked at and got confused immedately. There seem to be a few different types of snow tires and I am unsure which type would be best. I also know nothing about the brands, so I have no clue what would be good. I was told by someone about $400, but there are tires there for a whole lot less, so should I not be thinking about those? and what about getting a second set of rims? what is that going to cost me?

“Last winter (which to be fair was my first year of this silly commute) once we had our first snow storm, most of the roads stayed snowy/icy until the spring.”

With these conditions, good snow tires will be worth it, especially for the ice. Check out Tire Rack, you can get a set of mounted/balanced tire+wheels delivered for a decent price. Use that price to compare to what the local dealers can do.

That’s why I recommended reading about tires at Consumer Reports. They rate both all season and winter tires for the qualities you want. Search for the most recent tests. Then proceed to for a tire and wheel package price. Choose the option that includes shipping costs, for a total package price.

My experience is that I can find a local tire shop that beats price, when all costs are considered, so I have never ordered from them. However, I have been told that their winter tire and wheel packages generally beat local pricing, as a package.

Mumbo-Jumbo? Is that a technical term?

shansta, here is a link to several videos that definitively demonstrate the need for winter tires. It is either real or it is “Mumbo-Jumbo” just like the moon landing back in the 1960s. You decide for yourself.

If you drive in winter conditions the last leg of your 60k-70k is not always possible. If you are you luck you still have 4/32" or better before winter and can run the tires until the next season just before winter and trash them. Running all-seasons with 4/32" or less is tricky.

Interestingly enough I noticed my wife’s winter biased all-seasons have snow flakes that wear off around 5/32". Basically beyond that point they do not advocate or suggest using in wintery conditions. They have a seperate set of wear bars for the legal amount of 2/32".

It looks like with the preferred package from you can get winter tires mounted to steel rims for around $500-$525 shipped to your door. The last requirement is paying a shop around $20 swap your wheels and possibly less during an oil change.

If you are confused call tirerack. They have very knowledgeable salespeople, much better than any tire shop I have been to. Most have tried most of their tires on a test track or observed the results of one vs another. I found even they admit to not being experienced with one model.