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What Are Your Tire Wear Patterns Telling You?

From suspension issues to something as simple as wheel alignment, a quick look at your tires can save you financial headaches down the road.

Read on to learn why your tires prematurely wear out, and what your tire wear patterns are trying to tell you.

Why do tires wear out?

From sitting too long in the sun to driving too aggressively around corners, the rubber compounds of tires can break down over time. While there is no single specific reason why a tire may break down, once a tire loses its tread, handling your car can become more difficult and even dangerous in extreme or wet weather conditions. Ensuring your car tires are doing their job properly requires regular checkups.

How do I check my tires’ tread?

The official method of checking the condition of tire tread is done using a tire gauge, consulting the tire manufacturer’s information. If this is not available, as a general rule, stick a toonie upright directly into the tire’s tread. If the tire tread covers the bear’s paws, the tire is probably new. If the tire tread covers the silver bar, the tire is about half done. But if the tire tread covers just half the silver bar, around the letters, it’s probably time to start thinking about new tires.

What are my tire wear patterns telling me?

Most tire wear issues originate from your driving style and the type of terrain you drive on, but there are specific patterns which can point to more pressing problems with your car. So before you start to question your driving habits, consider these common tire tread patterns:

Wear on the outside

When properly inflated, a tire is designed to grip the road evenly. If you notice your tread is wearing on the outside, it could indicate your tires are under-inflated. While slightly under-inflated tires can be useful for gaining more grip in winter conditions, under regular conditions they make your car work harder and burn more gas.

Wear on the inside

Opposite to under-inflated tires, wear down the centre of the tire tread indicates over-inflated tires. In addition to compromising your ability to steer properly and control your vehicle, over-inflated tires run the risk of a tire blowout. Consult the tire manufacturer’s instructions to see what level your tires should be inflated at.

Feathering

When one side of a tire tread develops jagged flakes or scales, the diagnosis is called ‘feathering.’ Feathering is caused by an incorrect toe in setting of your tire, meaning they were installed crooked. This causes the tire to shave against the asphalt as you drive, like cheese against a grater.

Wear on one side

If you notice wear on just one side of the tire tread, there is a possibility your car’s wheels are not properly aligned. When wheels are set off-kilter, the weight of the car is unevenly distributed over the tires, causing one side to take on more weight and, as a consequence, wear faster. But wear on one side of the tire tread can also be an indication of something more serious, like failing suspension or worn ball joints.

Cupping

Haphazard scalloped or cupped craters embedded in a tire’s tread can indicate problems with the parts of your car attached to the wheels, such as the bushings, ball joints or springs. When a car’s wheels are not working smoothly, problem areas can cause sudden joints or impacts which can literally rip chunks of rubber off your tires. This prevents them from working properly and can impact your car’s performance.

What Are Your Tire Wear Patterns Telling You?

Did you know something as simple as the wear on the tread of your car’s tires can help flag potential problems?