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Common Tire Tread Wear Patterns and What They Mean


Tread wear is an inevitable part of owning a vehicle. Tires make contact with the road every day, so it’s normal for the tread to wear down over time, but there are certain tread wear patterns that can indicate a deeper issue with your vehicle. If you notice uneven or rapid wear on one or more tires, Firestone Direct can help by performing preventative maintenance such as checking tire pressure and inspecting for damage. Learn more about the most common tire tread wear patterns and what they could be telling you about your vehicle.

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What is Tire Tread?

Tire tread is the pattern of rubber on the circumference of a tire that makes contact with the road or the ground. Some tread patterns are designed with specific purposes in mind, such as improving handling, providing extra grip in icy conditions, or reducing stopping distances. Tire tread is the reason drivers in colder climates switch between winter and summer tires as the weather changes.

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Common Tire Tread Wear Patterns

Even and gradual is the tread wear pattern you want, but there are a few other common patterns to be on the lookout for:  


Edge wear

Edge wear is when the shoulders of the tire closest to the rims wear down at the same rate while the tread in the center stays the same. This means the tire shoulders are making firm contact with the road and withstanding more friction than the center of the tire. This could indicate the tires are under-inflated and the tire pressure needs to be adjusted.


Center wear

Excessive wear in the center of your tires means the center is making more contact with the road than the edges causing the tread to wear out faster. This indicates that the tires are over-inflated. Besides the tread wear, other symptoms of over-inflation can include a loss of traction or a bumpier ride. 

Check your tire pressure and make sure the psi is within the recommended range for your tires and vehicle. Look for the ideal PSI in your owner’s manual or ask an expert from Firestone Direct. 


Inner or outer shoulder wear

If you notice one shoulder is wearing down more quickly than the rest of the tire, it’s most likely an alignment issue. It could indicate the toe (the inward or outward angle of the tires when viewed from above) or the camber (the inward or outward angle of your tires when viewed from the front) hasn’t been set properly.    


Cupping or scalloping wear

Cupping or scalloping wear looks like random pockets of wear across the whole tire. The worn sections are usually 3-4 inches in diameter. This can indicate there is an issue with the suspension. The suspension should prevent the tires from bouncing up and down, but if the shocks, struts, or bushings are worn out, they won’t be able to do their job. If the tread is worn in a cupping pattern, it means the tires can’t roll smoothly. A Firestone Direct mobile specialist can identify a cupping tread wear pattern and recommend suspension inspection and service to prevent further uneven wear.


Patchy, diagonal wear

Patchy tread wear without other obvious patterns is the result of going too long between tire rotations. A routine tire rotation and tire balancing service is recommended every 5,000 miles. Switching the position of the tires regularly helps ensure tread wears evening across all four tires.

How to Check Tire Tread

Checking tire tread yourself can be as simple as a quick visual inspection to check for any obvious problems. The penny test is also an easy way to check tread depth at different spots. Simply place a penny into a tread groove with Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can see the top of his head, the tread is considered shallow. Check multiple places across the tire to see if there’s uneven wear or if it might be time for new tires. 


Having a tire expert give them a once-over during a tire rotation appointment can’t hurt either. We can keep an eye out for uneven wear patterns and make any recommendations for further service. 

Our mobile mechanics can come to you to complete a range of tire maintenance services, including tread inspections, repairs, rotations, and new tire installations.

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Firestone Direct mobile mechanics have everything they need to complete your fleet service on-site wherever you are, and get you back on the road. Click Get Started to contact our dedicated Fleet Support team today!