What are the kinds, causes and consequences of tire wear


Car tires are the only element of a vehicle that connects it to the road. Car owners often forget that tires are the most important element of a car, directly affecting our safety. But when they wear out, every driver realizes with grief that it is time to spend money on new tires. But not always the purchase of new rubber saves the situation. In fact, sometimes the wear and tear of the rubber may indicate possible malfunctions of the car. In this case, replacing the rubber with a new one may not help. For example, with some types of breakdowns, your new tires can wear out prematurely in a short period of time. Let’s look at the ten most common types of tire wear, by which, it is quite possible to determine the cause of this wear, eventually finding out the technical condition of the vehicle.

Wear in the center of the tire tread

What it looks like: With this type of tire wear, the tread in the middle of the tire is usually the most worn (example pictured).

The reason: If the tire wears most in the center of the wheel, this indicates that the central part of the tread has had the most contact with the road surface in comparison to the tread closer to the edges of the tyre. Consequently, the car on which this tire was installed had insufficient traction with the road surface. Consequently, the car had insufficient traction.

Most often such wear and tear indicates that the tire was not properly inflated. That is, the pressure in the tire did not correspond to the pressure recommended by the car manufacturer. This type of wear indicates that the car owner did not check the pressure in the tires in cold weather and sudden changes in temperature on the street, in which the pressure in the tires can change significantly.

The fact is that while the tires are cold (for example, after a frosty night) the tire pressure may be lower than the manufacturer recommends. But after starting to drive, the pressure in the tires begins to increase from the heating of the air in it. As a result, after a certain distance traveled, the tire pressure may exceed the maximum allowable tire pressure recommended by the car manufacturer. As a result, the overinflated tire will not evenly adhere to the road surface, resulting in uneven tire wear in the center of the tread.

Some motorists often advise that in order to improve handling and reduce fuel consumption, on the contrary, overinflate the wheels. But it is not justified. Yes, you may reduce fuel consumption this way and even improve controllability a little, but finally, you will pay for it by fast wear of tread.

That is, by saving a little money on fuel, you will pay a lot more.

2. Tire herniation (bulging) and sidewall cracks

What it looks like: Cracks and bulges on the side wall of the tires.

Cause: This usually occurs when you hit a pothole in the road, a curb, etc. Usually the tire is well protected against such an impact. However, if the tire is underinflated or overinflated, there is a great risk that the tire will be damaged as a result of the impact. Large cracks in the side wall of the tire that run along the wheel rim indicate that the tire has been operated with insufficient pressure for a long time. Small cracks on the side surface of the tire indicate external damage or the age of the rubber (due to age, the composition of the rubber begins to chemically decompose, causing the tire to crack).

A tire hernia looks like a bulge on the surface of the rubber. Most often, the bulge (hernia) appears on the side wall of the tire. A tire hernia is caused by internal damage (a layer of rubber). It usually occurs when the side of the wheel hits a curb, pole, etc. Most often, after an impact, a herniated (protruding) wheel is not immediately apparent. That is, after the impact, you can see the hernia only after a week or even after a month.

If you notice cracks or herniation on the tire, you should buy new tires as soon as possible.

Remember that it is very dangerous to use rubber with a hernia.

3. Dents in the rubber

What it looks like: According to long-term observations, rubber with dents looks like the one in the picture. That is, the tire is shaped like bumps and dents.

Cause: This type of tire is usually due to a malfunction of the car’s suspension (wear or damage to the chassis components of the car). Due to suspension malfunction, the mitigation of impacts on bumps is insufficient. As a result, the tire experiences an overload from the bumps taking on the maximum load. But the load is not evenly distributed over the entire tread surface. As a result, some areas of the tread take on more load than others, which contributes to the formation of dents and bumps on the tire.

More often than not, this kind of appearance of used tires is due to poor shock absorbers. Although it is worth noting that any suspension parts that have failed can cause this kind of wear and tear.

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We advise you to make a full diagnosis of the suspension and struts of the car in a technical center in case you find such a deformation of the tires. We do not advise to go to a tire fitting shop with such a problem, i.e. in order to determine the cause of changes in the shape of the wheels. It is not uncommon for tire changers to be unaware of what may be causing the bumps (dents, bumps) on the tread surface.

More often than not, tire shop workers claim and believe that this is the cause of improper camber. But it is not a fact. As we have already said, this cause may be related to the failure of the shock absorber (s).

4. Diagonal dent with signs of tread wear

What it looks like: A diagonal dent in the tread surface with an uneven degree of wear on the tire surface.

Cause: This problem is most commonly found on the rear wheels of front-wheel drive vehicles where the camber is set incorrectly. Also such a wheel deformation may be associated with insufficient rotation interval, as well as sometimes such a change in the appearance of the tire can be associated with frequent transportation of heavy loads in the trunk or in the car.

A heavy load can change the suspension geometry, resulting in diagonal deformation of the rubber tread surface.

5. Excessive tread wear around the edges

What it looks like: The inner and outer tread has increased wear, while the middle of the tread is significantly less worn.

Cause: This is a sure sign of insufficient tire pressure. That is, the pressure is not what the car manufacturer recommends. Remember that insufficient tire pressure is the most dangerous tire condition. The fact is that with less pressure in the tire, it is subject to more flexing. According to the laws of physics, this means that as the wheel rotates, the tire will accumulate more heat. As a result, the rubber will not evenly adhere to the road surface and, accordingly, we will get an uneven wear of the rubber.

Also, insufficient pressure in the tires will lead to the fact that the rubber will not soften the impact on the road, which of course will directly affect the suspension. Over time, this harsh effect on the suspension can lead to its premature failure, as well as affect the camber.

How to avoid the problem of under-inflated tires: Once again, every driver should check the tire pressure regularly, that is, every month or every time after a sudden change in temperature outside. Also remember that cooled wheels (when parked overnight) may show lower pressure than recommended by the car manufacturer. But on a long trip, due to the air heating, the pressure can exceed the norm.

Also, we advise you not to rely on the electronic tire pressure warning system that many modern cars have.

The fact is that this system usually alerts you to a change in tire pressure either when there is a sharp pressure fluctuation (such as a sudden drop in tire pressure of more than 25 percent), or when there is a significant drop in pressure over a long period of time.

In other words, the tire pressure warning system can only go off when the tire pressure is significantly lower than necessary. This means that you run the risk of driving on tires with insufficient air pressure for a long time.

6. Convex side tread wear

What it looks like: The side tread blocks, usually similar to the plumage of birds, have special wear. The lower edges of the tread blocks are rounded, while the higher edges of the blocks are sharp. Note that you can’t notice this type of wear visually. You can only understand it by inspecting the tread from the edge and by touch, i.e., by hand.

Reason: With this type of tread wear, the first thing to check is the ball joints and wheel bearing.

It is also necessary to check the stabilizer bushing, which, if it fails, may cause the suspension stabilizer to malfunction, eventually leading to this type of rubber tread wear.

7. Flat wear patches.

What it looks like: One spot on the wheel has more wear than the other.

Cause: Single patches of increased wear on the tire surface are often seen when you are forced to brake or skid sharply, or when steering out of a situation to get away from an impact (for example, if a moose or other animal ran onto the road unanticipated). Such wear will be particularly noticeable after sudden braking and skidding if the vehicle does not have an anti-lock braking system.

The fact is that when braking and swerving sharply to get away from an impact, a car without ABS is more prone to skidding with the wheels blocked, which will lead to about this type of worn spot on the tire tread.

Similarly, similar spots can appear in cars that have been parked for an extended period of time.

Keep in mind that when you park your car for long periods of time, you run the risk of tires where wear patches will appear on your car tires due to the uneven distribution of the car’s weight on those tires. The fact is that during parking, the tread of the rubber is not in full contact with the surface and, as a result, a certain section of the rubber is deformed from prolonged parking.

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8. Wear on the leading edge of the tread

What it looks like: The front edge of the tread block is worn and the back of the tread has sharper angles. Please note that this type of wear may not be visible upon visual inspection. Therefore, check the edge of the tread with your hand. If you notice that some tread corners are sharper (like the teeth on a hacksaw) compared to other tread edges that are smoother, this is real wear and not the norm, as many drivers usually assume.

The reason: This is the most common wear on tires. Since this type of tire wear is very common and many car owners think it is the norm, it is not. In fact, this wear indicates that the wheel has insufficient rotation. Therefore, it is necessary to check the technical condition of your car at the technical center.

More often than not, the cause is due to worn suspension components (salientblocks), worn ball joints, and due to a worn hub bearing.

9. Unilateral tire wear

What it looks like: One side of the tire is more worn than the other.

Cause: This type of wear can usually be caused by improper camber. This type of uneven tread wear is caused by the wheel not being level on the road surface due to improper camber.

In order to set the wheel evenly in relation to the road surface, it is necessary to adjust the camber.

Such wear can also occur with damaged springs, ball joints, suspension bushings. Including the one-sided uneven wear of the tread may appear when transporting heavy loads on the car.

In addition, some models of powerful sports cars have a special camber, which leads to such uneven tire wear. But this is rare.

10. Tire wear to the indicator

What it looks like: Many tires have wear indicators between the tread. These are usually special inserts that help you determine when you need to replace your tires with new ones. Usually the height of these inserts is lower than the height of the tread. Once the tire tread height equals the wear indicators, you need to buy new tires.

Reason: Usually the tires should be replaced after the tread height has become lower than the tire manufacturer recommends. It is not always easy to tell by eye. For this reason, many tire companies install wear indicators on the tires (between the tread). Once the tread height wears down to the height that the indicators have, then it’s time to change wheels for new ones.

A rubber tread with a certain depth is necessary in order to draw water away from the tire and prevent the car from aquaplaning in the wet.

If your tires do not have a wear indicator, you can measure the tread depth yourself to see if it is time to buy new tires. To do this, use a coin that you insert into the tread with a rib and use it to measure the depth. You can read more about traditional tire wear here or see this infographic.

Warning. For summer tires the minimum tread depth should be at least 1.6, 2 or 3mm (depending on tyre manufacturer).

For winter tyres the minimum safety tread depth should be at least 4-6mm

Tire wear

Tire wear is a phenomenon that occurs due to the surface contact with the asphalt. It may be both natural, in the course of long exploitation, and accelerated – at a wrong angle of wheel convergence/ camber, wrong choice of tire pressure, defective shock absorbers, too high speed.

Tire Wear

Absolutely all tires – tubeless and tubeless, winter and summer, low-profile and high-profile – wear out. You can check the degree of their wear with a special device, an ordinary coin, or on the indicators of tire wear available on the tire (not all tires).

The minimum height of the indicator is 1.6 mm. When it touches the asphalt, it means it is time to replace the tire.

After the first winter, the traction properties of the tire are reduced by about 10%. Further performance deteriorates exponentially (faster and faster). In addition, the elasticity of rubber tread decreases. The wear of car tires is gradual, so it is quite difficult to determine the wear by the car’s behavior on the road.

It is necessary to check it visually. Otherwise, if a critical situation arises, the rubber may not cope with its assigned functions, which may lead to an accident. The permissible wear of tires is most often determined by the depth of the remaining tread in the place specified by the rubber manufacturer. For example, the minimum relevant depth for winter tires is 4 mm, while the minimum depth for summer tires is 1.6 mm. But it is worth noting that the wear is not always uniform and, for certain reasons, it may be greater on the inside, outside or sawtooth.

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Types of worn rubber with uneven wear and recommendations for correction
Type Illustrative example Factors Causes Tips
Eating away at the center of the rubber High pressure in the center of the tread Discrepancy in wheel size, pressure or load. Wrong tire size or overinflated Fit more suitable tires. Balance pressures according to load. Check that rims and tires are the same size.
Rubber rubbing on edges (shoulder areas). Concentration of increased pressure on the edges of the shoulder areas Discrepancy in wheel size, pressure or load. Wrong tire size or low tire pressure. Balance pressures according to load. Check that rims and tires are the same size. choose more suitable tires.
Wear on one side (outer side of the wheel or inner side). Occurrence of side pressure Unbalanced axles, and/or wheels on them. Perform a check, and a camber adjustment.
Transverse comb wear.
Stepped wear on both sides of the shoulder areas
Longitudinal combing wear Sagging Certain driving habits. Unbalanced positioning of axles. Discrepancy in loads and pressures. Check and balance the axles of the vehicle. Balance the pressure according to the loads.
Wavy wear on one side of the arm Occurrence of lateral pressure or slippage Unbalanced position of axles, and/or wheels on them. Malfunctions in suspension assemblies. Disproportionate weight of tire. Check and balance the vehicle’s axles. Check and, if necessary, repair suspension components. Correct the imbalance.
Wear and tear in an eccentric manner. Sagging Distortion of the correct wheel size. Weight disproportionality in the wheel and/or force differential. Identify causes of incorrect wheel geometry, and correct them.
Spotted wear. Sagging Discrepancy in tires when paired. Individual suspension assemblies not working properly. Check paired tires for alignment with each other. For preventive purposes, periodically swap them. Check and, if necessary, repair suspension components.
Wear on the diagonal Occurrence of lateral pressure or slippage Discrepancy in tires when paired. Unbalanced position of axles, and/or wheels on them. Individual suspension components may not be working properly. Check the tires installed in pairs to see if they match each other. Periodically swap them out for preventive maintenance. Check and balance the vehicle’s axles. Check and, if necessary, repair suspension components.

Causes of Tire Wear

There are a total of seven main reasons that affect the wear of car tires. At the end of the article, there will be recommendations to help drivers extend the life of their tires.

Asphalt temperature

The first factor that affects the wear of passenger car tires is the temperature of the road surface, most often the asphalt. It is worth pointing out that the higher it is, the higher is the wear of car tires. There is a quite logical explanation.

The thing is that when the wheel is moving, its surface heats up due to the natural friction against the pavement. And the higher the speed – the higher the temperature. Under normal conditions, heat should be transferred from rubber to asphalt. However, in hot weather the opposite situation occurs, as a result of which the wheels get even hotter. Tire surface temperature can reach +60°C … +70°C and even higher. Under such conditions, the upper layer of rubber significantly softens and wears out (simply “stays” on the asphalt).

Always keep an eye on tire pressure in hot weather. It is acceptable to increase it by 0.2. 0,3 bar, but no more than that!

Asphalt grit

Driving on coarse-grained asphalt results in excessive tire wear. Often there are sharp edges of crushed stone sticking out on the road surface, which is bad for the rubber itself. And if to add here summer heat, the colors are thickened at all. Besides, according to the statistics, driving on such asphalt is connected with increased fuel consumption by about 0,3. 0,5 liters per one hundred kilometers.

There is only one way out in this case – try to move at a low speed, and control the pressure in tires. When using block tires on the drive axle, wheel deformation may occur when driving on bad asphalt. The consequence will be what is known as sawtooth tread wear. It is caused by the dragging of the mentioned blocks. It is fraught with their complete abrasion.

Speed mode

Driving at high speeds is accompanied by excessive tire wear. This is due to the high mechanical load and high temperature at which they have to work. Statistically, a tire wears out about twice as fast at 120 km/h as it does at 60 km/h. However, this depends on the speed index. The higher the speed the tire is designed for, the softer its surface will be.

However, this applies more to racing rubber, and for the average motorist the main thing to remember is that driving at high speeds greatly reduces the life of the tire.

Tire pressure

Air pressure in the wheels affects not only the comfortable ride, but also the wear and tear of the rubber. Its excessive value leads to the wear of the central part of the tire, and insufficient – to the sides. It is especially relevant to check the pressure and if necessary to pump up the wheel before a long trip with a load (for example, on vacation). In this case, the pressure value should be slightly higher than the standard.

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How much pressure should be in the tires

What pressure to inflate the tires of the car depends on its stability on the road and the degree of wear of the tire. To know how much air pressure a car tire should have, consult the tire pressure table.

Defective shock absorbers

Shock absorbers not only provide a comfortable ride for the driver and passengers, but also smoothly distribute forces on the wheels. Especially when driving on potholes, when the suspension is actually triggered. Accordingly, with defective shock absorbers (the more they are worn out – the stronger) the load on tires increases, and therefore there is an excessive wear of rubber. There is only one way out – keep an eye on the condition of suspension elements and make timely repairs if needed.

Angles of wheel installation

This is the so-called camber/discrepancy. In the normal position, all wheels should stand strictly vertically . Otherwise, driving will be performed not on the entire area of the tire, but on the inside or outside of it. Accordingly, and its wear will be the same. There is one more nuance. The thing is that when riding on the full area, the contact patch with the road will be maximal. And this means that, other things being equal, the wear will be evenly distributed over the rubber surface. Unbalanced camber is the main cause of tire wear on the inside of the tire.

If the wheel is tilted to one side, the contact patch will be much smaller, and a similar load will be placed on a smaller area. And the smaller the spot (the narrower the track), the more wear will occur.

In fact, a pothole, caught on the way, which led to unbalancing of camber / misalignment can literally “kill” a tire even for 1000 kilometers of run. Therefore, be sure to keep an eye on this important characteristic of the chassis of your car. If the camber is not observed on the rear axle, there is a risk of damaging the silent blocks with the ensuing consequences.

Tread wear on the outside can also be caused by going into high speed corners. Wear on the inside, on the other hand, can only be caused by improper camber/alignment. If the wheel is set strictly vertically, and the wear pattern indicates that the outer and inner side of the tire are worn at the same time, then there is low tire pressure.

For more even wear of drive and slave wheels, it is recommended to periodically swap front and rear tires.

Improper camber/alignment will cause the car to yaw from side to side on the road. It will also often cause the rubber to squeak when cornering, even at normal (not excessive) speeds.

Unbalanced Wheel

If the wheel is unbalanced and any part of it weighs a little more (mass shift), it can lead to the appearance of so-called bald spots. Moreover, they may have a point (spotty) nature. Naturally, the thickness of rubber in the spot area will decrease faster up to the complete failure of the tire.

In fact, this phenomenon is very dangerous, because a slick spot on the wheel is more difficult to find than a slick in the form of a stripe or even wear. At the same time, driving on such a tire at high speeds is very dangerous. Especially on low-quality and/or hot pavement (asphalt). Therefore, always monitor the balance of all wheels of your car.

How to Determine Tire Wear

There are several simple ways to check for tire wear. Among them:

Wear indicator on Michelin and Nokian tires

  • Wear Indicator . This is a jumper on the center groove. As long as this jumper doesn’t touch the asphalt – you can safely use the tire. But as soon as tread wear has reached the stage where the indicator jumper also begins to touch the road, much less wear out, it means that the tire must be replaced . Unfortunately, not all tires have a tread wear indicator, but only the more or less expensive ones made by well-known brands. As a rule, tire manufacturers visually indicate the place where the indicated indicator takes place on the tire. Usually it is one of three options: a triangle symbol, the inscription TWI or the indicator is located close to the brand name on the tire.
  • Numerical indices . Numbers from 8 to 2 on summer tires or up to 4 on winter tires are squeezed into the body of the tread. The number 8 has the smallest depth, respectively 2 and 4 have the greatest depth. As the tires wear, the numbers wear out, allowing you to assess the condition of the tread. The critical level of rubber wear comes when the last digit disappears from view.
  • Color Indicators . Recently, tires have appeared on the market with a surface that changes color as it wears. Typically, the tire turns red when it is most worn. However, such tires are quite expensive, so they are not yet widespread.
  • The Section Depth Gauge . This is a special small, usually plastic, instrument with a thin tip that is inserted into the tread to measure its depth.
  • Other Methods . Tread wear can also be measured with a caliper, ruler, or coin. The first two tools can be used by simply inserting them into the groove and measuring the depth accordingly. As for a coin, a two-ruble coin will do. Thus, the head of the engraved eagle is placed in the tread. Accordingly, after that the head should not be visible, this means that the rubber is fine. If the whole eagle remains in view – it’s time to go to the auto store for new tires.
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Don’t forget to regularly check the condition of the tires, and do it not only in the off-season, when you change from summer to winter tires or vice versa, but also while driving, especially after long trips or driving on bad asphalt.

When to change tires for winter

You should change to winter tires when the average daily temperature is below +5-7°C. Winter studded tires are suitable for snowy and icy roads, while studless tires are preferable for snowy and icy roads. Read more

Wear indicators of famous brands – Bridgestone, Dunlop, Yokohama, Kama

Most of the world’s well-known tire manufacturers have slightly different wear indicators.

Thus, the well known brand Bridgestone has tire wear indicators located on the side of the tread. These marks are made in the form of an arrow, and only on the tire they are 6 pieces. The appearance of these marks on the use of tires means that the wear has come to a critical point, and it is better to replace them.

Yokohama has similar wear indicators. In addition, the winter tire has a special mark in the form of a protrusion in the middle of the tread. The signal for replacement is if this protrusion compares with the rest of the tire surface.

On Kama tires, the wear indicator is implemented in the form of a scale. On the side of the tire there is a scale, ranging from 2 to 7 mm. Nearby, parallel to the scale, a small groove is made, which has a gradual deepening from one edge, to the other. So, as the tire wears, this groove decreases and the scale visually shows that the rubber is worn out, how many mm it is.

On Dunlop tires, the wear marks on the tires have special bridges in the tread grooves. When they compare in their height with the rest of the surface, it means it is time to replace the tires.

Recommendations for prolonging tire life

Regardless of what the cause of tire wear was in your case, there are a few simple recommendations, the implementation of which will allow you to extend the life of the rubber (no matter, winter or summer). These include:

Measuring Tread Wear

Measuring the depth of tread wear with a coin

  • Correct tire pressure. Its value should be checked approximately once every two or three weeks, and if necessary, it should be adjusted (inflated). Remember that low pressure not only wears out the tyres unnecessarily but also increases fuel consumption and therefore your money.
  • A Serviceable Suspension . Serviceable shock absorbers are not only synonymous with a comfortable ride, but also with low tire wear. Keep an eye on their condition, and if necessary, repair or replace them.
  • Choice of a correct speed mode . This is one of the most important factors affecting tire wear. First, the higher the speed the car is going (wheel spinning) – the faster the tire baldens. Secondly, when the car rolls into a corner at high speed, the outer and even the side surface of the tire wears out. Always keep to speed limits and try not to take off and brake sharply (and especially with slipping or skidding).
  • Buy good tyres. I am not talking about expensive world-famous brands. But also to get frankly low-quality rubber too it is not necessary. There is a high probability that such a tire won’t serve you for a long time. And this means that you will again have to go to the store. Everyone is familiar with the saying “a miser pays twice”.
  • In time to change the tire in the fall and spring. Not only is it dangerous to drive on summer tires in winter, but it also leads to their wear and tear if you slip on the ice or snow. Similarly, it is not recommended to drive winter tires in summer, especially if they have spikes. This brings the tire’s ultimate wear and tear closer.


You can only check the wear of tires visually with a special device, a coin or an indicator of their wear, if there is one on the tread. If the tires of your car suddenly began to quickly become bald – look for the cause among those given above. And accordingly, eliminate it. And the sooner you do it – the longer you tire later will serve you. Well, and heed the recommendations to keep the rubber in working order. As for new tires, try to buy tires from the middle or more expensive price range. Cheap rubber will not last long even if you follow the recommendations listed above.

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