Reading Automobile Tire Wear(Different kinds of tire wear and how to check it)

how to check tire wear and different tire wear conditions

The three most important components on your automobile are; brakes, steering controls, and tires. In this page I will deal with tire wear and safety.

I cannot express how important the tires are for your safety and that of others. Inspecting tires should be made into a monthly routine and it only takes 5 or 10 minutes.

Also read:

How to check tire wear?

Begin by checking each tire and I don’t mean just giving them a quick eyeball because you will only see the outside edge.  Get down on all fours (you don’t have to bark) and look at the total tire for abnormal tread wear and also look for cuts or gouges in the sidewall.

I have shown many people their tires when their auto was on the lift and you could see the steel belts starting to showing through on the inside treads. Their comment was “I just walked around the car and the tires looked good”. 

The problem was they only saw the outside treads and this makes for a dangerous situation.

Now that you think you are done crawling around and all the tires seem to be in good shape it is time to set the tire pressures to the manufacturer’s specifications. Use a good quality tire pressure gauge. Once all this is accomplished you may get up and reward yourself with a doggie treat or whatever else you prefer.

Keeping the tires constantly inflated properly, having the wheels aligned and doing tire rotations every 6 to 10 thousand miles will give you maximum tire life.  Remember that the front tires always wear faster due to the stress of steering. This is normal.

The penny test

how to check tire wear
Checking a tire with a penny

Tire tread depth is measured in 32nds of an inch in the States. Brand-new tires normally have 10/32″ or 11/32″ tread depths, and some truck, SUV and winter season tires might have deeper tread depths compared to various other models.

The U.S. Department of Transport advises changing tires when they get to 2/32″.

The whole idea of this inspection is to check if you have reached the 2/32”.

Bare with me as I explain you how it actually works:

  • Place the dime in between the tread ribs of your cars tire.
  • Turn the cent to ensure that Lincoln’s head faces down into the tread.
  • Examine if the top of the head is still visible in between the ribs. If it does, your tread is OKAY, if not then you might consider a tire replacement.

Tread depth gauge

A really simple way to check tire tread deepness is to use tread depth gauge. There are many inexpensive models available on the market and really easy to use.

All you need to do is stick the probe into a groove in the tread and push the shoulders of the probe flat versus the tread obstruct and check out the outcome.

Most of the gauges must measure in both 32nds of an inch as well as millimeters.

Tire Tread Wear Bar Indicator

These bars show up at 2/32″. You basically don’t have to do anything, just to examine your vehicles tires and check if it’s time to act!

Almost every high-performance, light truck, or medium commercial tire have these tire wear bars.

Below there are drawings of different kinds of tire wear

overinflated tire wear
sign of tire wear from over inflation

This is a sign of over inflation.  Note how the middle of the tire is worn and the outside treads are still in good shape.  This means that the tire’s middle    treads wore out because the tire only contacted the road in the middle due to the over inflation.  The tire was too round at the road surface instead of the treads touching across in a straight line.

under inflated tire wear
sign of underinflated tire wear

Here is a tire which was under inflated.  You can see the inside treads are still good but both outside treads are worn.  The tire was so badly under inflated that only the outside treads touched the road.  The middle treads were not touching in a straight line due to the fact that they were away from the road surface folding upwards in a concave type of way.

toe align wear sign
sign of toe align wear

This tire has the treads worn in a feather type of wear pattern.  You can feel this by rubbing your hand across the treads. One direction it feels smooth and the other way sharp.  A sure sign of toe align wear.  A wheel alignment will be needed.

These tires are both worn on the inside. This is an indication of caster and camber wear.  A wheel alignment is needed in the very near future.


If the tires look choppy it may be due to tire balance, bad shock absorbers, or loose components in the front end. Keep in mind that with any unusual tire wear a thorough inspection of the front suspension is necessary to insure there are no loose components.

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