Anyone that owns a car, even the ones that don’t, know that there are parts that need to be replaced at a certain interval. Considering this is a tire site, you probably guessed I’d be talking about the tires. And, of course, there’s the title above.
The performance of a tire relies on the tread, and a common aspect we talk about is tread wear. This is when the depth reduces to a point where the tire is unsafe to be driven. If you’re driving your second or tenth set of tires on your car, you probably have an idea of how long each one lasted.
A tire’s longevity is determined by tons of factors, but for the most part, two sets of the same model should last more or less the same. With that said, there is a mystery that has plagued the tire industry, and it involves tires on new cars.
If you’re one of the lucky people that have gotten a new car from the dealer, you may have noticed that the tires fitted didn’t last too long. They won’t be unusable in a few months, but there is a noticeable difference. Why is that?
Why Do New Car Tires Wear Out So Fast?
One of the many reasons is the rubber compound. Unlike the tires you usually get at a tire shop, tires that come fitted to a car from the factory typically have a softer rubber compound. While this gives them a slight advantage in terms of performance, the longevity is slightly shortened, which is why the wear down more quickly. With that said, there are a few other reasons, so keep reading to learn more about them.
Why Do Tires Wear Down?
Before I dive into the main question, let’s answer a fundamental one – why do tires wear down?
The main component of a tire is the rubber and is what gives it its properties. Yes, I know that the internal construction includes other materials, but for this guide, we’ll be looking at the compound. Manufacturers rely on producing rubber which, thanks to it and the tread pattern, delivers the performance.
A tire offers performance by griping to the road, something which is achieved by friction. On a microscopic level, the tire isn’t smooth as glass, and those small imperfections, along with the design, help it deliver grip and traction.
As the tire rotates, particles of the surface are torn away, leading to tread wear. Look at any Formula 1 race – the cars go through at least 2 sets of tires per race. This is because they wear down the tires much faster than your average Maxima, and I don’t mean the one from the famous drag race.
The rate at which a tire wears down depends on the type. On the one hand, you have touring tires with a treadwear warranty of 70,000 or 80,000 miles, while most performance ones have no treadwear warranty. This is because a touring tire will be driven to the grocery store or on the weekend to the lake house. On the other hand, performance tires are driven more aggressively, some even on a track, so the wear rate will be increased.
In simpler terms, performance tires are softer than touring ones, so it wears down more quickly.
Why Do New Car Tires Wear Out So Fast?
Now that I’ve explained how things work as simply as possible, now it’s time to answer the burning question, and the answer is a bit complicated.
The main reason is technically an open secret, so it’s not confirmed by tire or car manufacturers, but something that is true. Tires on new cars wear down faster due to the rubber compound. These are “special” tires manufacturers make for car companies similar to those you can get at a tire shop, but with a few minor differences.
Regardless of which type of car you look at or the tires it comes with, they are designed with a bit softer compound, which helps dealerships sell the cars. Go to any dealer and ask for a test drive, regardless of what car you get, you will notice that it grips just a tad better than the same car with the same tire models, but not from the factory.
These are minor differences, subtle ones, but enough to be used to get you to buy the car. More grip, more traction, safer in the corners, shorter braking distances, and tons of other sales speech comes from the fact that the tires are stickier.
You will notice this even if you get a family sedan with a set of grand touring tires. The narrative changes depending on the car in question, so a sporty coupe will be more agile for the corners, while the sedan will be safer.
At the end of the day, as I explained in the previous section, a tire with a softer compound will wear down more quickly, making this one of the reasons why tires on new cars wear out faster.
Are There Any Other Reasons?
Sure, the softer compound is one of the reasons, but it may not be the only one. To be fair, the difference isn’t massive, but if you notice rapid tire wear, then that can indicate other problems, even if the car is a few months old.
It may sound weird but hear me out. If you’ve been driving a car for ages, you already know how it handles and how much you can push it and have grown accustomed to it. When you get a new car, you tend to change your driving habits a bit, something I experienced for the past month or so.
Recently I retired my trusty Toyota and got a Lexus. Even though it’s a secondhand car, I still drive it more aggressively than my previous one. I’m testing the limits, having fun, trying to get it to slide (in a safe environment), and generally doing things that I normally wouldn’t do with the Corolla.
Even if I’ve gotten a new car from the dealership with 0 miles on the clock, I’m 100% positive that I’d drive it the same way, at least for a while. With this in mind, a tire that gets driven more aggressively will result in quicker tire wear.
A common reason for tire wear is wheel alignment. This isn’t the most common occurrence on a new tire, but it has been known to happen. If the tires aren’t parallel, one or more will be dragging at a slight angle which will speed up the wear process.
Lining up the wheels is relatively inexpensive and will save you some money in the long run. Take your car to the dealer you purchased it from and have them check the alignment and set it up properly.
New cars don’t tend to have this issue too commonly, but it’s been known to happen. Sure, a new car should be running like a well-oiled machine, but things aren’t always so perfect. Even if you have an alignment issue, it doesn’t mean that you were sold a bad car, it just means that you’ll need to align your wheels to avoid premature wear.
Car companies are testing their cars, but they don’t undergo overly extensive tests, like driving the car for 20,000 miles. Plus, a wheel can get misaligned by exerting large forces, like hitting a pothole, so it may not always be a problem with the manufacturer.
This rule applies to all tires, regardless if it’s the first or tenth set on your car. Rotating the tires means you even out the wear throughout the tires’ lifespan.
A common misconception is that tires wear out evenly on any car, which is not true. Take any front-wheel-drive car, for example. You have the front tires that do the accelerating and steering, while the rear ones just drag along. This means that the front ones endure a lot more stress which will wear them out more quickly.
The best way to minimize the damage is to rotate the tires. There are a couple of ways you can rotate the tires, depending on multiple factors, including which wheels are driven, if you have a squared or staggered setup, type of tires, and so on.
My recommendation for this is to leave it to the professionals and let them get the job done right. They will tell you if they went with a front or rear cross, front to back, or side to side switch. You should only pay attention to how often you should take your car to have the tires rotated. This information should be in the user manual, and as an unwritten rule, it should be done every 5-6,000 miles, but your mileage may vary.
The biggest problem with tires is driving them at improper pressure. Manufacturers make them to operate at a broader range so that they can be fitted to multiple car models.
In the user manual or on a sticker on the inside of the door, you will have the information necessary about the exact pressure the tire needs to be inflated at. Different scenarios may require you to inflate or deflate the tire, so double-check before you start messing with the pressure.
Even though most new cars are fitted with TPM, that may not be a precise enough tool to rely on. Car manufacturers set them up differently, but for the most part, a TPM light will come on if the pressure is over 20% more or less than the recommended one. So, if the pressure should be 30, the light will come on if it goes below 24 or above 36, at least.
Short drives may be fine, but driving the tires for months with incorrect pressure will wear them down prematurely. Multiple conditions will require different pressures, mainly revolving around the speeds you’ll be driving at and the weight that the car will carry.
To monitor the pressure, you can get one of those small ones you can put in your car and check them whenever you want. Alternatively, you can do regular checks at your local gas station. One important thing to note is always to check the pressure and adjust it when the tires are cold. As you drive, the tires heat up, and the pressure increases. This is a normal process and won’t be overly damaging to your tires.
The Main Takeaway
If you got a new car, you can expect to see quicker wear on the first set of tires that came from the factory, and there’s no way around that. With that said, if you notice very quick tire wear, you may have another issue you should address.