Most every driver knows that bald tires pose a significant danger and could lead to an accident, especially in inclement weather. But, many don't understand how having a keen eye for the wear patterns on tires can give you a better indication of how well your tires are gripping the road. Learning how to spot irregular tire wear will help you spot potential problems before they grow into big issues and help your wallet, as well.
As your tires wear down, the tread patterns begin to flatten out. The rate at which this happens depends on many factors, including the quality of the tires, the condition of the roads most often traveled, and the individual driver's maintenance and driving habits. A few of the most common causes for faster-than-normal wear on tires is improper inflation, improper alignment, and hard-braking when stopping.
If the wear on your tires seems to be concentrated in the middle of the tread, with the outer-tread not in contact with the road, you are over-inflating the tires. The opposite side to this is under-inflation, where the outer-tread is in contact with the road more, wearing down faster than the inside tread. To prevent these two types of irregular wear, make sure you check your tire pressure often and always follow the tires specs. After adjusting the pressure, look at your tires to make sure that all rows of tread are in even contact with the pavement.
Proper alignment is imperative to keeping your tires wearing down smoothly and uniformly. Improper alignment can cause several different types of irregular wear patterns. One such pattern is what is known as "feathering"; when the tread is worn flatter on one side and higher on the other. Another type is outer-shoulder wear, denoted by the excessive wear of one of the inner or outer ribs of the tread, unaffecting the ribs.
Finally, another common irregular wear pattern is flat-spotting, when the tire develops a flat spot affecting only one area. This indicates the vehicle has been parked for extended periods of time, allowing for the weight of the vehicle to flatten that one spot. Depending on the condition of the tires, these usually level themselves out after being driven on for a few miles.