Is it safe to buy and run on used tires?


Replacing a single tire is not expensive. However, as an RVer, and especially if you are fulltiming and traveling most of the year piling on miles, replacing tires on a dually, a toad, your RV – all those tires! You will likely be tempted to try running on low-mileage used tires to save some of that huge expense. 

But, is it safe to buy and run on used tires?

The folks at Consumer Reports recommend you steer completely away from used tires. Their reasoning is simple: You don’t know a thing about the background of the tire, who owned it, nor how they treated it. Since you can’t tell everything you need to know about a tire from a cursory inspection, the group best known for testing consumer products says, “The tire could have been driven overloaded, underinflated, or to excessively high speed. Any one or a combination of these factors could lead to internal damage not visible from the outside. In short, the used tire could be unsafe.”

But again, money talks. What if you do decide you really do need to buy a used tire or two (or ten)? Here are some things to look for as you carefully examine a potential purchase.

How deep is your tread: If you don’t have a tread depth gauge (and you really SHOULD have one), then the old standard of sticking a penny, head down in the tread, tells the tale. Mr. Lincoln’s head should be at least partially covered. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, the tread is worn out.

Don’t sing on the wrong cord: Roll the tire around and examine the entire length of tread. You shouldn’t see any cord, nor any trace of wire coming through.

Separate yourself from a separation: Check out the sidewall and the tread area. Beware of any bumps, irregularities, or wavy-looking areas. They could mean the tire’s been damaged and can be “separating,” or delaminating. Take it from our personal experience – a tire separation led to some serious damage on a Utah highway that spelled a total loss on one of our tow vehicles. Don’t just look – carefully run your hand along the sidewall and tread surface areas and feel for anything unusual.

Beat up beads: A tire’s bead area is where the tire meets the metal rim of the wheel. That bead needs to be solid, not chunked or damaged, to ensure a complete and safe seal. While you’re looking, check the sidewalls of the tire for small cracks indicating the potential of dry rot. They may appear, too, between the blocks of tread. Dry rot is a sure sign of problems.

Peek inside: Look at the inside or lining of the tire carefully. If a tire has been run overloaded or low on air, the sidewall begins to collapse. If that happens, they can fold over and contact themselves, rubbing, scrubbing and damaging the interior of the sidewall. If you see a wear stripe around the inside of the sidewall, or spot any tiny particles of rubber in the tire, or if you see the inner surface of the tire sidewall, reject the tire.

Rejectable repairs: Not all tire damage is bad. A puncture, properly repaired, can be OK. But a safe repair is a patch on the inside of the tire, not a “plug” of rubber pushed through the puncture. If a puncture is larger than ¼ inch or is within an inch of a sidewall, don’t buy the tire.

Hot dates: A tire may be undamaged and have loads of tread left on it, but if it’s aged, it’s not a safe tire. When we say “aged,” it’s recommended you never buy a used tire that’s any older than five or six years. A tire that’s seven years or older really needs to be replaced. How do you know how old the tire is? Look on the sidewall for the DOT code: the letters DOT, followed by several numbers are the code. The numbers are the key: The first two are the identification code of the tire plant where the tire was made. The next four numbers are the date of manufacture – the first two of those are the week, the next two are the year. So the four digits “1001” tell you the tire was made in the 10th week of 2001.




4 Thoughts to “Is it safe to buy and run on used tires?”

  1. Mark Thiel

    I had a friend that purchased used tires for his travel trailer. He had 10 blow outs on his east coast trip. He still continued to buy used tires and still does today. You think he would learn, but no.

  2. Bernie Turner

    Sometimes used may be ok. My dad got a set of 4 for his pickup for 2/3 of new price. They had 2000 miles on them. Someone bought a new truck and wanted whitewalls and traded them in.

  3. Roger Marble

    I hear about folks replacing their “old” tires and selling them. To me it seems the best thing to do is to keep one of your old tires for your spare. You don’t need to buy a wheel and mount the used tire as roadside service people have the tools to mount your tire.

    One other consideration is on motorhomes that have dual rear tires. It is important that if you need to replace one tire you MUST be sure that the pair match each other within 3/4″ outside circumference when fully inflated or you may end up overloading and damaging one of the pair. If you can’t match the OC then the safest thing to do is move your fronts to be a pair in a dual position and use the mismatched OC tires on the fronts to travel to a tire service shop where proper sized tires can be applied tot he RV.

  4. Jeff

    I know of a person (relative) who just bought a used 45 ft. Motorhome. You know the one with a tag axle! The RV is 9 years old and I asked him about the tires. He didn’t know the first thing about the Tires. And of course they are probably originals and have never been replaced. These are the 22.5 inch tires. NOT Cheap! But, I expect he will learn the hard way! Just hope he doesn’t get hurt in the process or hurt someone else on the road.

    OH Well.

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