Tire Wear Patterns Can Be a Sign Of Bigger Issues

Your car’s tires can give you essential information about the health and condition of your vehicle. You might know something is wrong if there’s a noticeable issue or sound like squeaky brakes, but your tire wear patterns may be able to tell you more about your car than meets the eye. Uneven tire wear can be a symptom of something bigger that can affect your car’s safety and maintenance. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, as of 2019, a total of 619 people died in tire-related crashes. Read on to learn how different types of wear and tear on your tires can affect your car. 

Tire wear chart 

As you can see in this tire wear chart, the location of the wear and tear and the type can be associated with different problems. Let’s dive a bit deeper into what it means for your car. 

Your Guide to What Tire Wear Patterns Really Mean

Source/credit: ​​mtfca.com

Toe wear or camber wear can be due to alignment issues 

As you can see in the tire wear chart above, if there is toe wear or camber wear, you could have a wheel that’s out of alignment. Toe wear is a term that relates to the wear of the inner or outer edge of the tire. Camber wear is when the wear on those parts is considered excessive. 

So if you see that your tire wear pattern tends to be thinning at the inner or outer edge of that tire, it could mean your wheels are relying on one side more than the other causing misalignment. This could lead to suspension or steering issues and could put your safety at risk. If you see this particular issue, book an appointment ASAP with a local auto body shop or tire specialist that can help. 

Cupped or scalloped tires can mean suspension problems 

If you find dips on your tires, you may have uneven tire wear called cupped or scalloped tires. 

According to PriorityTire.com:

“When the imbalance of the vehicle’s alignment or skipping the tires’ rotation is at fault, the tread features irregular wear from one shoulder to the other. This means that the uneven wear is, in a sense, even, as it gradually shortens the tread depth between the two shoulders since the driving pressure cannot be evenly distributed. On the other hand, tire cupping causes different spots on the tire tread to wear out prematurely.”

This tire wear pattern can lead to steering issues, lack of traction on the road, and cause the tire to bounce, notes PriorityTire. One major culprit of cupped tires is a worn out suspension system. If you’re dealing with squeaky brakes or have felt like your suspension is off, check your tires for signs of a bigger issue. If you have any concerns, bring your car to a mechanic to repair or replace any damaged parts. 

Tire wear on the edge may mean your tires are underinflated 

Based on the tire wear chart above, you can see that any tire wear on the outer edges can mean your tires are underinflated. Checking your tire pressure may seem like an afterthought, but it’s important that your tires have just the right amount of pressure. 

When your tires are not at optimal tire pressure levels and are underinflated the edges end up taking most of the brunt on the road. What this can do is wear the outer edge faster. Make it part of your regular car maintenance practice to check your tire pressure and take action, if needed. Bonus: it could save you money too. According to the NHTSA, you could save up to 11 cents per gallon by having the right tire pressure. 

Tire wear in the center can mean your tires are overinflated 

If you’re looking at your tire wear patterns and see the center of your tire worn out, it could mean your tires are actually overinflated. If your tires are over the recommended tire pressure levels, the center of the tire is doing most of the hard work and wearing down in the process. If you see the center of your tire looking smooth like in the tire chart above, it’s time to check your tire pressure. 

Patch wear can mean your tires are unbalanced 

Another tire wear pattern to be aware of is patch wear. Patch wear is called that because it appears to be “patchy” and the uneven tire wear tends to occur diagonally. If your tires have this kind of wear and tear, it can mean your tires are not in alignment and out of balance. 

To remedy this issue, you can get your tires rotated. It’s a good idea to check your car owner’s manual to see how often you should do this as part of your car maintenance. You can go to your local auto body shop to get help and make sure your tires stay in good shape. 

The bottom line 

Your tires are what helps keep your car running. Because of this, there can be a lot of wear and tear on the tires. While it may seem harmless, these specific tire wear patterns can provide insight into what’s really going on. For your safety and others, check your tires and tire pressure regularly and get your car looked at if you have any questions or concerns. 

As part of your car maintenance, make sure you have a car insurance policy that fits with your lifestyle, budget, and needs as well. If you’re a low-mileage driver, pay-per-mile car insurance can help you lower your costs. If you’re still paying for miles you aren’t driving, it’s time to re-think your auto insurance. Grab a free quote with Metromile today. 

​​Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.