We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Tread Wear?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
WikiMotors is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WikiMotors, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

If the tires on your vehicle have logged some miles, you might want to take a closer look. Over time, tread wear patterns will indicate whether your tires are properly balanced, aligned and inflated.

When a car is in good mechanical condition and tires are properly inflated, tread wear appears even. Looking down the face of the tire from inside to outside, there should be no noticeable difference in wear. Running a palm down the face of the tire should reveal a smooth, uniform surface without undulations. If the mechanical condition of the front-end is not so tiptop, it will show in the tread wear.

For example, when tires are not balanced, the vehicle will vibrate at certain speeds and the steering wheel might shake. Tread wear in this case becomes "cupped" down the face of the tire. Tread depth undulates unevenly, felt easily by running a palm down the tire.

Cupped tread wear comes from the tires "bouncing" at certain speeds due to the unbalanced weight of the tire. A rough parallel might be to consider how a washing machine in the spin cycle can begin to "bang off balance" when the weight of the clothes is unevenly distributed. To balance the tires, weights are placed on the rim to keep the tires rotating smoothly at any speed.

Alignment is another front-end adjustment. When tires are not aligned, the driver feels a right or left pull on the steering wheel and the car will tend to veer in the direction of the pull. Due to the constant corrective pull, mileage is slightly reduced and the front tires wear unevenly. The inside tread might wear faster that the outside, or vise-versa, depending on how the alignment is off.

Once tread wear becomes uneven, correcting the alignment will not make the steering feel completely normal, as uneven tread creates its own friction against pavement. In most cases, a mechanic will rotate these tires to the back. As long as there is plenty of tread left, they will eventually wear even again. However, if tread wear is excessive at the edges, tire replacement is necessary. This can be a costly lesson, as the tires may only have a fraction of the miles they are designed to reach under normal circumstances, and plenty of tread elsewhere on the face.

Tread wear can also occur when tires are routinely driven over-inflated or under-inflated. Driving with under-inflated tires can ruin sidewalls prematurely, creating cracks and weaknesses in tire walls. Conversely, driving with over-inflated tires will eventually cause accelerated tread wear down the center line of the tire face, as compared to the inner and outer edges.

If purchasing a used car, check tread wear carefully. If the vehicle has new tires, they could be hiding front-end problems. You might ask for receipts to be sure the newly installed tires have been balanced and aligned, or be prepared to have the work done yourself.

With our current dependence on vehicles, people log many miles but don't always find time for routine maintenance. Checking tread wear is one way to quickly see if the tires are balanced, aligned and properly inflated. Regularly rotating tires from front to back also helps keep tires wearing evenly, as front tires normally wear faster than rear tires.

Aside from car maintenance, tread wear patterns are also used in forensic science. Casts of tread impressions left at crime scenes can not only reveal the type of tire, but unique characteristics in tread wear patterns which can provide strong circumstantial evidence to link a specific vehicle to a crime.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.