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Tire Tread Wear Patterns and What They Mean

Tire tread wear patterns

Tire Tread Wear

The very safety of you, your family and anyone else who rides in your car depends on the performance of your tires. When properly maintained, tires provide enough grip in at least most road conditions, cut a car’s stopping distance, aid in sudden emergency maneuvers, and guard against other on-road perils. If you want to know more about the performance of your tires and the rest of your car, you only have to look at the tire tread wear patterns. How your tires wear can show a number of potential problems, from small to large, helping you make corrections before disaster strikes.

Center of the Tire Tread is Worn Faster

When you find that the center of the tire tread is worn faster than the outer edges, the cause is that the tires are over-inflated. Filling the tires with too much air actually causes the center of the tire’s contact patch to bulge, lifting the outer edges off of the road surface, which causes this pattern. To fix the problem, reduce the air pressure to the level recommended by your car’s manufacturer, which you can find on the sticker on the driver’s door jamb.

Edges are Worn Faster

If the “shoulders” or outer edge of the tire tread has worn faster, this is an sign that the tires have been under-inflated. When there isn’t enough air in the tires, the center of the contact patch lifts up off the road surface, creating this pattern. The solution is to add air to the recommended pressure.

When only one shoulder on the car tire is worn and not the other, the pattern is called camber wear. The cause is that the tires is not aligned vertically with the road surface, meaning the majority of the weight of the vehicle is riding on only one edge of the tire. Often, the culprit of this wear pattern is a worn, weakened, or even broken suspension spring.

Worn Spots

Cupped wear, also called scalloping, is when the tire has worn spots periodically on the tread, instead of being consistent across the entire tire tread. The problem comes from a tire that is literally bouncing up and down like a basketball on the road’s surface, which is why only periodic spots are worn. The cause could be worn, loose or damaged suspension components. Unbalanced wheels can also cause cupping, as can worn brake rotors.

Other Indications

Feathering, or when the tire is more worn from the outside to the inside shoulder in a gradual progression, is an sign that the driver has pushed the car hard. If not, the problem can also be triggered by worn anti-sway bar or end links. If the problem persists, purchasing performance tires with a stiffer sidewall can ease the issue.

Sometimes tires develop flat spots on the tread that span from one shoulder to the other. This is often caused by the driver aggressively applying the brakes in an emergency maneuver, or from the brakes malfunctioning and locking up. The flat spots might also be caused by the tires sitting in fuel, oil, or certain other chemicals on the ground for extended periods of time. Although rare, the problem can also be triggered by the steel belts shifting inside the tire itself, which is a serious issue and means the tire must be replaced immediately.

Steven Symes By: Steven Symes

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