The short and simple definition of retreading is taking an old tire with a worn-out tread, peeling off that tread, and putting on a new one. The reality is a little more complicated than that, of course.
Also, some misinformation floating around about retreading can confuse people who are thinking about getting remanufactured (or retreaded) tires. Let's get into the details.
Why Bother with Retreading Tires?
It would be great if tires never wore down, but they do. As we drive, the tread gets shallower and shallower. This damage reduces the tire's grip, which becomes unsafe after a certain point, especially if you're driving in snow or rain.
If left alone for too long, the tread will eventually completely wear out so that the steel belts start poking through. Most of the time, when our tire treads get low enough that traction loss starts becoming a problem, we just replace the tires outright.
Retreading tires, however, comes with some great benefits:
Cheaper Than Buying New Tires
It costs significantly less to have a professional tire repair shop apply a new tread to an existing tire than it does for a manufacturer to make a whole new tire.
When tires get thrown away, a lot of that material ends up polluting the environment. Also, making new tires uses a lot of resources like oil. Retreading can extend the life of older tires, reducing waste and conserving materials.
Are Retreaded Tires Dangerous?
This is one of those myths mentioned earlier. No, retreaded tires aren't inherently unsafe. Can they be dangerous? Sure, just like brand-new tires can be dangerous.
Two crucial factors go into the structural integrity and safety of a retreaded tire:
- The quality of the retreading process
- The condition of the original tire
Since the tread is the part of the tire that receives the most stress and wear, the casing and belts are usually in fine condition and can be retreaded with no problem.
Are Retreaded Tires Ugly?
Not necessarily. Also, it depends on your definition of "ugly." There are three methods for retreading tires:
The pre-cure method uses cement to apply a new tread to a tire. While this method is the most flexible and allows for a greater variety of tire types and sizes, it does leave a seam along the side. This is what people picture in their heads when they think, "retreaded tires look ugly."
This method requires specific molds dedicated to individual tire sizes and shapes. Not all tires can undergo mold-curing, but the ones that can get an entirely new tread from raw rubber.
These look like brand-new tires because even the sidewall gets retreaded. A new brand and stamp are used, too.
Should You Get Retreaded Tires?
It depends. If your primary concerns are cost and environmental impact, you'll go for retreaded tires even if they have a big seam along the side. If you drive a car that has a rare tire size, such as sports cars from the 1980s, like Lamborghinis or Ferraris, then you'll probably have to buy newly manufactured tires anyway.
In any case, if appearance matters, look for tires done with mold-cure or bead-to-bead molding methods and buy from a reputable source with good reviews.
Retreading tires can be a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way to extend the life of tires. There are different methods with varying results, but overall, there's no reason to doubt the safety and performance of retreaded tires.