Learn About Tire Tread Wear Patterns – VAL Blog

Learn About Tire Tread Wear PatternsValley Auto Loans » Articles » Car Care » Learn About Tire Tread Wear Patterns Last Updated On: November 2, 2016

Are Your Car Tires Showing Irregular Tire Tread Wear?

The purpose of your car tire tread is to maintain traction on the road during all driving conditions. Driving conditions can change with the weather, temperature, road surface material and the speed the car is moving just to name a few. Tire tread depth is a key factor in how well your tires preform.

Worn tread can cause unsafe conditions that can allow your tires to slip or hydroplane causing you to lose control of the vehicle. This is why proper car maintenance is critical to the safety of your vehicle. Valley Auto Loans makes a point to keep their customers informed about proper care and maintenance of their new car.

Good Tires

Not all tires are the same when it comes to quality and construction.

Depending on the tire rating, some tires will wear out faster than others. Periodically check your tires to see if they have the proper tire air pressure and tire depth.

Running tires that are under or over inflated can cause the tires to wear out prematurely. The correct tire pressure is found on the side of the car tire with the tire information stamped close to the center rim. It is listed in PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch).

Car manufacturers have also put this information on a label in the door jamb, but the proper PSI should be found on the tire set by the tire manufacturers if possible, in case the tires have been changed to a different brand and rating from the original.

It is normal for the tire tread surface to wear down evenly under regular driving conditions. However, damage or improper maintenance of your vehicle can cause tires to wear down faster and unevenly.

A tire that is wearing unevenly is a sign that your vehicle needs repairs or adjustments.

A car’s suspension is designed to flex and move with the surface of the road and the inertia of the vehicle. This suspension movement is intended to hold the tire on the road with the maximum displacement of the weight of the vehicle allowing each of the four tires to work equally to maintain traction.

If any part of the suspension is damaged or out of alignment it can cause some tires or part of the tire tread surface to lose traction, thus compromising the intricate balance of car. With irregular tire wear, as the road surface or vehicle speed changes the chance of losing control of the vehicle increases.

Checking tire wear patterns prevents accidents and saves you money

Many people don’t pay any attention to tire tread wear patterns on their car. They think that if a tire is showing a little uneven tire wear that means the tire will need to be replaced a little sooner than later. Repairs are expensive and they don’t have time to fix it now so they will just let it go and worry about it later. However, an uneven tire is trying to tell you something about what you just learned in regards’ to the way your suspension works. Remember, tires are expensive too!

Proper tire care can mean the difference between tires lasting 60,000+ miles or just 30,000 to 40,000 miles. Proper maintenance can save you over thousands of dollars and premature tire replacement and could even save your life.

Tires in poor shape can also hurt the trade-in value of your car if you plan to trade it in during the coming months. Tires have become so expensive that needing to replace them will drop the value of your vehicle by $1,000 or more.

Causes of Uneven Tire Tread Wear

Tires that wear unevenly are telling you that your suspension is not doing its job properly. By checking the tread surface of your tires, you can easily determine what adjustments or repairs are necessary.

The three most common causes for tires to have uneven or premature tire tread wear are;

  • Incorrect tire pressure.
  • Improper wheel balance.
  • Wheel misalignment or warn tie rods/ ball joints.

If you don’t see uneven tread wear but the tread doesn’t look as deep as it did when they were new tires, this can still be a safety concern. The depth of the tread is very important to maintain traction during bad weather conditions.

  • Tire tread has to flex and move with the car in order to stick to the road surface.
  • As the tire tread wears down it becomes less flexible, the closer the tread surface gets to the tire construction or the bottom of the tire groove.
  • The force of the car in motion can cause this tread to slip off of the road surface.
  • Another problem is the tire tread depth is getting smaller.

Snow or water on the road has to be channeled through the small tread gaps at a high volume when the tire is rolling over these substances. As the tread depth wears down the gaps decrease and reduces the space for the water to exit from under the tire.

Depending on the worn tire tread depth, at a certain speed, the water will no longer fit through the tread groove because of the speed and reduced space in the groove. The tire will begin to ride up on the water surface.

This is known as hydroplaning. When this happens, the tire will no longer control the movement of the car, and for a brief moment, you could feel the car drift until it regains traction. Hydroplaning due to tire wear problems is a major cause of accidents in adverse weather.

Other factors of the tire tread and the components of the suspension can also affect your tires ability to hold onto the road as well.

State Law Tire Treadwear Rating

Most states laws recognize that a tire is worn out when the tread depth measures 2/32-of an inch or less. The average new tire measures 9/32-inch to 11/32 of an inch.

Since this is difficult to see with a measuring device, many tire dealers suggest coins to check a tire’s tread wear grade.

How to Check Your Tire Tread Depth With A Coin

A penny can be a great measurement device for checking tire tread.

Place the penny into the tire tread groove until it touches the bottom of the tread groove. If any of Lincolns head is covered by tread when you look from the side, your tire still has more than 2/32- inch is still legal in most states. Remember this is a minimum depth. Most tire dealers recommend replacing them when the tread drops below 4/32.

Tire Tread Wear Patterns 1

If you try this with a quarter, and Washington’s head is below the tread, you still have more than 4/32-inch of tread left.


Tire Tread Wear Patterns 2

This tire is above 2/32nd- inch but (still legal) but below 4/32nd-inch and should be replaced in the coming months.

These are good indicators if you don’t see any uneven tread wear, but what do you do if you have a tire that is wearing unevenly?

Tread Wear Warnings/ Why Do My Tires Wear Irregularly?


Excessive Wear In The Center

Over Inflated Tire

Causes- This tread pattern occurs when the tire has been over-inflated for a long time. Excessive tire pressure and high speeds pushes the center of the tire out causing the center to carry most of the vehicle weight.

Driving at highway speeds with over-inflated tires compounds the problem, and seriously over-inflated tires can burst as they heat up from highway use.

Solution- Adjust your tire pressure to the correct PSI rating found on the side of the tire.

Remember that if you do not drive your car fully loaded with passengers or cargo, you can inflate your tires to three or four pounds less air than the maximum PSI rating. The PSI rating on your tire is the maximum PSI. This means that if your car is fully loaded with your vehicles maximum carrying capacity, your tire should be inflated to their maximum PSI. However, most people travel back and forth to work by themselves and rarely fill the car’s seats with passengers or cargo unless going on a trip.

Running your tires just under maximum PSI will help your car handle better and give you improved traction, especially on wet or icy roads. Don’t let your tire pressure drop below 5 pounds less than the recommended PSI rating or your car’s fuel economy and performance will suffer.


Excessive Tread Wear On Outer Edges Of Tread with Bulging Sidewalls.

Under Inflated Tire

Causes- This occurs when the tire has been under inflated for a long time. Low tire pressure causes the weight of the vehicle to be supported by the sidewalls more than the center.

Over time, this will wear away the outer tread and will cause the tires to run hot during highway driving. The car will feel spongy and seriously under-inflated tires can even cause the vehicle to lose control over large dips in the road or around sharp high-speed curves.

If you have ever had one of your car’s tires plugged from having a nail or puncher repaired then, that tire will have to be checked more frequently. Tire plugs can dry out over time and develop a slow leak. Over time, you may have to have the plug replaced with a new one.

Solution – Adjust your tire pressure to the correct PSI rating found on the side of the tire. Again you can still run your tires inflated just below the recommended PSI by three or four pounds to improve traction and handling if vehicle’s vehicle is not loaded to the maximum carrying capacity but stay within that range. Tires that are filled correctly will last longer, run safer and give you the best gas economy.

Tip- You should purchase a good tire gauge from your auto parts store and keep it in your glove box. If you do not know how to use one, the sales clerk can demonstrate it for you. Most tire dealers will recommend checking your tire pressure every time you fill up the gas tank, but most people will not go to this extreme.

We recommend that you check your tire pressure at least once a month to maintain proper tire pressure and good fuel economy. You should also check your tire pressure before going on any trips where you will be carrying more weight with passengers and cargo. This is a time when inflating your tires to the maximum PSI is recommended.


Excessive Wear On The Outer or Inner Edge Of The Tire Tread

Tire with side tread wear Tire with poor alingment

Causes- This usually occurs when the vehicles wheel camber or wheel toe in is out of adjustment. One common wheel adjustment that you should have done when you replace the tires is wheel alignment. During this procedure the technician will check several factors including wheel chamber, castor and toe in. These adjustments allow the front wheels to turn and move up and down while maintaining the maximum traction and allowing the car to steer easily during sharp turns. This adjustment is especially important for front wheel drive cars due to the fact that the front wheels are pulling the car under power while turning and stopping.

Solution – You will need to have a wheel alignment done on your car to determine the adjustment that is in need of correction, but this will save you from replacing your tire prematurely. Proper wheel alignment will eliminate camber wear and toe wear and allow the car to steer more easily.


Feathering or Uneven Tread That Is Raised On One Side Of The lobe

Cupped Tire Tread

Causes- Tire tread cupping can be caused by a bushing failure in the traction or anti-sway bar and or hard driving conditions like high-speed interstate driving.

Solution – Have the suspension components checked for wear and proper alignment. If you suspect that your driving conditions are the cause, then you should consider changing to a performance tire the next time you purchase tires. Proper annual tire rotation of all four tires will also help correct many problems caused by excessive highway driving.


Cupped or Dipped Tread

Bad Tire Camber

This condition can be caused by several things, but you should start by having the front tires tie rods and ball joints checked. This can also be a sign of worn out shocks or a tire that is out of balance.

Tip- Most tire manufacturers state that good quality tires will last between 50 and 80 thousand miles and your vehicles shocks will probably be worn out at around 60 to 70 thousand miles, so it makes sense to replace your vehicle’s shock absorbers when you replace your tires, so they will not go bad in the middle of a set of tires.

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