Inexpensive Used Car Owners: 5 Tips For Buying Used Tires From An Auto Salvage Shop

A set of standard all-season car tires carry an average cost of $80 - $150. If your car itself is not of much value, this price can seem unreasonable. Fortunately, you can score good, reliable tires for a fraction of the cost at the salvage yard, as long as you know what to look for. Read on for 5 tips for buying used tires from an auto salvage shop.

1.  Check For Sun Damage

When buying tires from a salvage yard, you have little way of knowing how long they have sat in the harsh sun. Since sun exposure can dry and damage tires, it's important to examine any potential purchase for signs of sun damage.

Examine the side walls and treads for cracks in the rubber. Also, inspect the beads of the tire (the thick rubber rings located where the tires would meet the rims on a car) for any missing bits of rubber. Finding cracks or missing bead chunks is a sure sign that the tires have sustained too much weather damage to be considered a wise purchase.

2.  Buy Off-Rim Tires And Look Inside

You'll also want to examine each tire for patches indicating that the tire have sustained previous damage. These patches can be easily seen by looking inside the tire. If you find a set of tires that you're interested in at the salvage yard, but those tires are still sitting on their rims, ask an employee to remove them so you can have a glimpse inside before purchasing them. 

3.  Look For The Date Stamp

Every single tire is stamped with a DOT number during its manufacturing. This DOT number tells you exactly how old each tire is. Look for a code on the sidewall of your tire that starts with the letters DOT. The last 4 digits of this code refer to the week and the year that the tire was made.

For example, if the last 4 numbers of the DOT code are 1013, the tire was made on the tenth week of the year 2013. If the last 4 digits are 2310, then the tire was manufactured on the twenty-third week of the year 2010.

Since even the best tires will weaken over time, it is recommended to avoid those that are 4 years old or older.

4.  Do The Penny Test

A tire with less than 2/32 of its tread remaining is dangerous and should not be installed on your vehicle. How do you know whether or not a tire has that much tread left? You use a penny.

Stick a penny (Lincoln's face-down) into the tread of the tire in various spots. If, no matter where you stick the penny, Lincoln's head is always partially covered by the tread, then the tire has at least 2/32 of tread remaining and is not completely worn out. The deeper into the tire Lincoln's head goes, the more life the tire's tread has remaining.

5.  Don't Mix And Match

For optimal safety and vehicle performance, you should always buy a matching set of tires. Mismatched tires -- tires of different brands, different sizes, and/or different ages -- will wear unevenly when driven. Unevenly worn tires can cause blowouts and alignment problems and can prematurely cut short the life of otherwise perfectly fine tires.

If you can't find 4 matching tires at the salvage yard, it's best to keep looking until you can. Ask the clerk at the salvage yard for help. Oftentimes, they can search for your tires on an online parts inventory database and have them sent from another salvage parts facility.

If you're thrifty enough to be driving an inexpensive used car, you probably aren't interested in the costly investment of installing brand new tires on it. With the above 5 tips for salvage shop tire-buying, you can click here and look for perfectly good tires for your little beater at a fraction of the cost of new ones.