Treadlife / Mileage Warranties(Lea en español)
Tire treadlife/mileage warranties have become a popular marketing tool used by most tire manufacturers (and some independent retailers) to help position some of their tires competitively in the marketplace and to help indicate their potential longevity to consumers. Today they range from 30,000 miles to 100,000 miles. Unfortunately, due to the variety of road conditions and geographic influences encountered across the country, not all consumers will receive the warranted tire mileage. And while treadlife warranties seem straightforward enough, it is important to remember that they are a limited warranty and the consumer has to complete specific maintenance requirements to keep them enforced.
The treadlife/mileage warranty only applies to the original owner and the original vehicle. Proof of purchase and vehicle mileage on the original installation date are required. The consumer is also required to prove that the tires were properly inflated, rotated and aligned, replacing worn suspension components as necessary.
Since according to most states' laws, tires become legally worn out when they reach 2/32" of remaining tread depth (identified when the tread blocks/ribs wear down to the bars molded across their tread pattern), all tire manufacturer treadlife/mileage warranties specify pro-rated replacement will only be consider when all four tires reach that point.
The tire manufacturers also maintain that if the tires have been properly maintained throughout their life, all four will wear out evenly at approximately the same time. However, if the worn appearance indicates the tires weren't properly maintained, the tire manufacturer will not be obligated to honor the treadlife/mileage warranty.
Assuming that the tires have been properly maintained and have worn down evenly to 2/32" of remaining tread depth, let's review how consumers receive their value. Our example will be a set of tires backed by a 5-year/40,000-mile treadlife/mileage warranty.
If a driver evenly wore all four tires down to 2/32" of remaining tread depth in 30,000 miles, they would be offered a new set of equivalent tires from the same brand that would be discounted from their current retail price by 25% (prorating the value of 10,000 of the 40,000 miles of wear they didn't receive). The driver would be required to pay the percentage difference between the warranted mileage and the mileage actually received as well as the cost of mounting, balancing and installing the replacement tires.
Treadlife/mileage warranties are also subject to time limits set by the tire manufacturers with most expiring 4-, 5- or 6-years from the date of purchase. This means that a 5,000 mile-a-year driver purchasing tires warranted for 5-years/40,000-miles would see it expire 5 years from the date of purchase even though they had only driven 25,000 miles. There would be no warranty consideration due if those tires wore out after that.
One of the other problems consumers may have with any of the mileage warranties is that the tires must be worn down to the treadwear indicators before replacement under the warranty can be considered. That means that the tires must be at (or very near) the 2/32" of remaining tread depth which is the minimum allowable legal tread depth for most states and has been adopted by the tire manufacturers as when tires are worn out. The difficulty is that since a tire's hydroplaning resistance, wet traction and snow traction all diminish as it wears, the consumer may be faced with the dilemma of treadwear warranty vs. traction. If the winter or rainy season is approaching, the few dollars saved by running out the treadwear warranty probably won't make up for the extra traction required by adverse weather conditions.