Colored tires make wear, tear easier to spot

Several versions on the market, or being tested


ORLANDO, Fla. – Driving around in thunderstorms can cause some serious damage to your tires. In fact, the Rubber Manufacturer's Association found that 13 percent of all cars are riding around with at least one bald tire.

But now, there's a new safety feature that makes it easy to see when your tires are worn out -- colored rubber.

When the tread gets low on these special tires, it glows bright orange, which is perfect for someone like Donna Holweck.

"There's not a lot of tread left at all there," said Holweck.

Holweck said she didn't want to believe that her tires needed to go.

"I didn't notice that it was so bad until the mechanic said that was bad," she said.

Holweck's mechanic, Dennis Raghunandan at World Automotive Services in Orlando says all tires have what's called "tread-wear indicators."

"The wear indicator is very close to where the tread depth is right now," said Raghunandan.

The indicators is a little rubber bar between the tread. When the tread has worn down to the bar, it's time to change the tire.

But, you have to know what to look for -- and, you have to look closely.

"I think most people kinda take a look at the tire from the side, see the grooves, and think yeah we must be OK," said Raghunandan.

There's another product that could also help called the Discolor Tire, which is currently in the design phase.

The embedded orange warning strip would start to show through once the good tread wears down.

Another version that's a little more subtle is sold by the upstart company, Icon Tires. That product has colored studs that would poke through as the tread wears away.

"It'd be so much easier to say, sorry, the reason your car is shaking so much is because you have red tires," said Raghunandan. "And red tires means time to change them."

He also believes that colored tires would help keep mechanics honest.

All of the drivers we talked to say the embarrassment from that loud, bright orange color would drive them directly to the tire store.

"Then people look at you like wait a second, she needs new tires!" said Holweck.

As of right now, the colored tires are not sold in the U.S. It's going to come down to whether the tire makers can build a safe, solid tire with the color added.

Icon Tires just finished a 12-month marketing test of its colored-studded tires in Canada. Those tires cost about $5 more per tire.