When do I need new tires?

I drive a 2003 Subaru outback wagon. I live in Northern Michigan, the roads are terrible during the six months of winter we have. The tires on my car are Michelin hydroedge from 2007 with a treadwear warranty of 90,000 miles, since the tires were purchased the car has gone almost 110,000 miles. In June the tread was measured at 6/32 for three of the tires and 4/32 for the fourth tire. I’ve started noticing some small cracks in the sidewall. This car has a brutal winter ahead of it and a long drive from the Upper peninsula to Connecticut in May, if I need new tires I would rather find out sooner than later. My question is do I need new tires or not? If so, any recommendations?

You need new tires.

And they need to be winter tires.

I use to live in the UP. And I know how deep the snow can get very quickly. (lake effect)

Live near the Houghton/Hancock area?


You need tires. The age, shallow tread depth, and the weather checking cracks in the sidewalls really dictates that it’s time for a new set. You’ve certainly got your money’s worth out of those.

4/32 of an inch is definatly time for new tires. That’s only 1/8 inch, pay now or pay later …and a wrecker bill to get the car out of the ditch.


You need tires. Definitely.

You have four patches of rubber the size of your palms that keep your car from sliding into a bridge abutment, stop your car, and get it moving and keep it going straight in a blizzard. That’s it. Four patches the size of your palms keeping a few thousand pounds of flying steel under control. Nothing else. If the tires don’t have good rubber, nothing else matters.

Your tread depth on the three better tires isn’t bad for the summer, but by January it’ll be unsafe in the weather you’ll ne getting. The forth tire is only 1/32 above minimum legal, and that ain’t good in the rainy season. You’re risking hydroplaning, where the tires will be unable to clear the water on the road and ride right up on the sheet of water. It’s as bad as being on ice. The cracks in your sidewalls suggest that they’re getting weak too.

Please, I urge you, get 4 new tires, preferably winter tread. It’s very cheap insurance against dying.

Re: the recommendations, visit www.tirerack.com and www.1010tires.com. Both sites have consumer feedback sections that can be invaluable in selecting tires. I use them.

I agree with the others. At 110,000 miles, you more than got your moneys worth out of a set. Also, with Subaru’s AWD system, that fourth tire being 2/32 more worn than the other 3 may cause damage to the center diff. This would also be an expensive way to save money on tires.

The OP has gotten very good advice, and I hope that he follows it.

As a follow-up to what BustedKnuckles said, I want to add that the OP needs to have the wheel alignment checked/corrected, as the difference in tread wear on that one tire indicates the likelihood of an alignment problem or possibly damage to the suspension.

Buying new tires, but not correcting an alignment problem will quickly lead to the same type of wear difference with the new tires, and that will lead to expensive problems with the car’s AWD system.

So, whether the OP wants to hear it or not, he needs to buy 4 new tires, needs to have a 4-wheel alignment done, and also needs to remember to have the tires rotated every 5k or every 7.5k miles if he is to avoid trashing the AWD system’s center viscous coupler.

The tires on my car are Michelin hydroedge from 2007 with a treadwear warranty of 90,000
miles, since the tires were purchased the car has gone almost 110,000 miles.

110,000 miles from a set of tires? That is impressive - though it is time to get a new set.

You need new tires…not tomorrow, not in an hour but right now.

I’d start tire shopping and get some new ones on before winter. Seems like michelin you have is winner for your car and driving if still sold.

If the 4/32 tire is on front it won’t bother the diff that much. The rear it may bug the likely LSD(limited slip diff.). >2/32 difference is what bothers a Subaru differential. My experienced Subie mechanic(30 years+ wrenching) said it is >1/2" where it breaks the AWD.

Go to Tirerack.com and read the owners reviews and survey results for the tires that fit your wagon. There is a ton of info and you will be able to make an informed choice instead of relying on the opinions of one or two people, or the advice of a tire dealer who will try to sell you what he has in stock.

In my opinion, the legal limit of 2/32 is actually too low for true safety on wet or snowy roads. I want my tires to be at 6/32 or more in the winter and 4/32 or more in the summer.

I agree with the others that you need tires and an alignment now, due to the tread depth mismatch (on a Subaru) and the sidewall cracks. Make sure the new tires are rotated properly in the future.

I guess you need to change your tires. Worn rear tires increase the risk in handling problems during acceleration and turning. It decreases the brake power and increases the risk of blown out. Thus, it would be better to replace your tires ASAP. I believe that this blog can help you in this regard: http://www.serviceplus416.com/driving-tips/how-often-should-you-change-your-tires.

Another factor is that with age the tire rubber hardens. Even if the tires have 75% of their tread left they can still suffer a substantial loss of traction due to the aged rubber.

Some years back I had a set of Kelly tires on another Lincoln I owned and those tires were absolutely horrible after a couple of years. Orbs of death I called them.

Turn into a drive with a mildly steep grade and the tires would start squealing. The slightest hint of moisture on the roadway and it was 55 MPH maximum with white knuckles and a death grip on the wheel. I’ve spun the tires just by taking my foot off the brake pedal when the light went green and on a damp roadway even fishtailed a few times by releasing the brake pedal.

Subaru has the best AWD system known the world over. Yes you need good tires to go w/this.1/8 inch and cracks in the sidewall mean it’s time.Michellin is a good brand.Unless you want to put some Blizzaks on some steel rims for winter use.A set of 4 on recommended rims for the car and you can change to winter mode every year.Blizzaks are the best winter tire, I think they’re made in Germany.Apparently Brdgestone makes tires called Blizzak. Not sure what’s goin on but know there’s a tire known for winter grip.

Blizzaks are good, but the top-rated winter tires are the various X-ice models made by Michelin.

In addition to having better traction and handling characteristics than Bridgestone’s Blizzak models, Michelin’s winter tires feature a FAR longer tread life.

Tire Rack has a nice comparison between the X-ice and the Blizzak:

Their previous year’s review is at:

Though technically tires have a 2/32 legal limit, they really start to degrade in snow traction as high as 6/32 for all seasons. That’s why you are better off rotating your all seasons with winter tires. You spread not only the wear out, but the exposure to summer sun and the ravages of snow and snow removal with the chemicals they use. You can then run your all season tires down to a lower level in safety. You should also coat your rubber tires with a preservative to help with the cracking every so often.

I bought a set of used nitto snow tires that had <1k miles. Decided to not use them. Sold them to a guy with a newer outback, maybe a 2012? It was last Xmas. The guy shows up and his back tires were bald. Slicks actually. Never seen a newish car with bald tires. Some folks are cheap.

^He may be cheap, but at least he’s honest.

I’ve known of cheap, dishonest people whose “tire replacement strategy” is to rent a car with the same tire size…

As to the OP, I agree he needs new tires prior to snowfall…I don’t agree that he needs 'em immediately. He’s still got triple the legal limit on 3, and double the limit on 1. I think he’s probably got ME beat, TBH. (I’m also guessing that whoever did the readings gave the worst possible reading on each tire…it’s possible those “4/32” tires are really 6/32 excepting on bad area.)