At some point, the tires on our vehicles will become so worn that they need to be replaced. Replacing tires is one of the most expensive vehicle maintenance tasks, so is there a way to save money by simply repairing the tires?
Some companies have found a way to cut costs of tires by retreading them. For the most part these are semi-trucking companies where new tires cost an average of $500 per tire. Retreading a suitable tire can cost around $165. On paper this is a huge saving, but can it save you money?
How Are Tires Retreaded?
First, we have to determine whether a tire is retread able,
where it can be done, and how long the tire will last. To understand the
answers to these important questions, let’s look at how tires are retreaded.
- Inspection – Step one to retreading a tire is to analyze its condition and ensure the tire is suitable for the process to come. This is done with both a visual and instrumental inspection. The instrumental inspection uses a tool that scans the tire in a vacuum, revealing damage or defects not visible to the human eye.
- Buffing – If the tire passes the inspection process, it is placed into a buffing machine which removes the tread from the rest of the tire, or casing. The amount of tread buffed away depends on the type and size of the casing.
- Crater Processing – The newly buffed tire is once again inspected for surface imperfections. Any imperfections are removed with a dermal which leaves little craters, hence the name of the process.
- Gumming – Once the tire has been cleaned up it is ready for the retreading process to really begin. The first stage is to cover the casing in a sticky layer of none vulcanized rubber known as gum.
- Treading – There are a couple of ways tread can be reapplied to a casing with the most popular being the pre-vulcanized ring tread liner process. This consists of a splice-less, circular tread being stretched over the casing with the assistance of a laser to ensure that the tread is centered.
Clamps hold the tread onto the casing while the machine stretching the tread withdraws, at which point more clamps push the tread down onto the casing.
- Curing – there are three main elements to curing the tread to the casing, time, pressure, and temperature. Simply put, the goal is to create a pressure deferential between the casing and the tread while also applying heat.
This is done by placing the outer part of the tire into an envelope while leaving the inside of the casing exposed. The whole tire is then placed into a sealed chamber which is pressurized while simultaneously depressurizing the inside of the envelope.
- Final Checking – Finally the tire is inspected for any missed damage, separations, quality of repairs, liner blisters, any splices, DOT information, and the overall appearance.
Many larger tire companies perform these kinds of repairs alongside other companies that specialize in tire retreading, which gives you a couple options for having your tire retreaded. As seen above, the process is complicated and requires a lot of specialized tools, so retreading your own tires is pretty much out of the question.
Can You Get Your Tires Retreaded?
The short answer is yes, the long answer, however, is probably not worth it. Though it is technically possible to retread your tires, there are a couple of hurdles to overcome first. The primary issues faced with retreading your tires will be finding a place to do it at.
Retreading facilities are not common, and they most often work on a large contract basis, either with companies that are providing them with old tires, or with trucking companies. Secondly, if you find a place that will retread your tires, the tires themselves will need to pass inspection, where there is no guarantee.
Furthermore, the tire might fail the inspection at a point when the tread has already been removed, and you would get back a useless chunk of rubber. Lastly, you may not be able to get that same tread pattern or even the same tread composite.
Is It Worth Getting Your Tires Retreaded?
The answer to this all comes down to the vehicle you are driving. Retreaded tires simply do not have the same longevity or reliability that new tires have. They are more sensitive, so tire maintenance is more important, and they do not handle heat compared to new tires.
The best use for a retreaded tire is going to be for semi-trucks and their trailers specifically the trailers. Retreaded tires last the longest of multiaxial vehicles and the most cost saving can be done when retreading tires for a fleet of trucks and trailers.
For a normal car tire, however, retreading a tire or set of tires is most likely not going to be worth it. As previously mentioned, there are a few logistical issues to overcome when retreading your tires, but after that, the cost saving will probably still not be worth it due to the lack of durability of retreaded tires.
Simply put, they will not last long enough to get your money’s worth back. Though a new set of tires is more expensive in the short run, you will not have to buy new tires for a very long time.
Can you buy retreaded tire?
If you do not have the money in pocket for a new set of tires, and you simply need to replace your old tires in the moment, you can buy retreaded tires from a retreaded tires retailer. Over the last few years retreaded tire have gotten a lot safer and more reliable, making retreaded tires a real option for those looking to save a little money in the short term.
Environmental impact of using retreaded tires
Companies and individuals can do a lot to help the environment by purchasing retreaded tires. On average a retreaded tire requires around 68 percent less energy to fabricate than a brand-new tire. To put this into perspective, a single retreaded tire saves enough energy to power an average American home for one month.
Retreaded tires also save a lot of oil as they are primarily a petroleum product. Each retreaded tire saves around 15 gallons of oil. When you take the current number of retreaded tires made per year into account, the retreaded tire industry saves as much as 210 million gallons of oil.
Additionally, old tread which is buffed away is used for many different purposes. Around 89,000 tons of buffed rubber are used in recycling projects in the US alone per year. This rubber has many uses including playground and gym surfaces, rubber mats, turf fields, and mulch.
Recent years have made rubber saving all that more important. Due to the covid pandemic, rubber production slowed down in addition to many of the world’s rubber trees dying from a tree-killing fungus. Furthermore, the petroleum market has been hit hard as of late which makes retreading even more valuable.
To sum it all up, most retreaded tires are used on fleet vehicles, making it difficult to get your tires retreaded. On average you can save anywhere from 50 to 70 percent when retreading a tire, compared to buying a new tire.
Though there are still a lot of people who do not trust retreaded tires, around 50 percent of America’s trucking, and trailer tires are retreaded tires. The technology has come a long way and the safety standard is similar to new tires.
Alternatively, you can buy a whole set of retreaded tires from a retailer, as opposed to retreading your old tires. Keep in mind that if you do get one or two of your tires retreaded, you stand a chance of an increased lack of control due to different levels of grip.
As always when buying a new set of tires, do your research. Some retreading companies are far better than others. Your tire manufacturer might even supply the retreading service. Either way, look up current reviews and be on the lookout for any recalls.