What can cause excessive or uneven tire wear?

Tips & Advice for Car, SUV & Van tires

It is normal for tires in service to show progressive tire wear over time. But sometimes, owing to specific conditions of use, tires can exhibit abnormal or uneven tire wear, which might reduce their service life.  Eventually, some of the causes of uneven tire wear could lead to a weakening of the tire reinforcing structure, but before that, there could be other less obvious consequences, such as an increase in fuel consumption.

This article is about the causes of this excessive or uneven tire wear, how to prevent them and how can you tell when it is time to change your tires?

Causes of tires wearing

Case 1 : Tires wearing on outside (both edges) or Rounded Wear

tyre wearing on outside edges

Tire wearing on outside edges or tread appears rounded

Excessive tire wear on both edges, causing the tire tread to look rounded rather than flat, can indicate underinflation.  When the tire is insufficiently inflated, the load in the contact patch on the road surface is not even. The central part of the contact patch is not correctly supported and the load is transfered more to the outside edges (also called shoulders).  More load in the shoulders leads to more rapid tire wear on outside edges.

An underinflated tire tends to over flex and run warmer than normal. This accelerates rubber wear rate and increases rolling resistance, which in turn increases vehicle fuel consumption.

How to avoid excessive tiyre wear on outside edges?

To prevent this abnormal wear from occurring, your tire should be inflated to the recommended pressure, using a reliable pressure gauge and the pressure should be checked at least once a month when the tires are at ambient temperature.

To find the recommended pressure, check your vehicle owner's manual or the sticker on the driver's door pillar.

Case 2 : Tires wearing in the centre

tyre wearing in the centre

Tire wearing in the center

Excessive tire wear on the central part can indicate over-inflation.

If the tire is over-inflated, it is the central part of the tread that supports most of the load and therefore wears out faster than the edges.

A small amount of centre wear, on rear tires for example, could be a characteristic of the way that the vehicle manufacturer has set your vehicle up, but it is important to check

How to avoid excessive centre wear?

Check the tire pressure when it is at ambient temperature using a reliable pressure gauge. Set the pressure to that recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.

To find the recommended pressure, check your vehicle owner's manual or the sticker on the driver's door pillar.

Case 3 : Tire wearing on outside, tires wearing on inside (only one edge) or tire wear patterns

tyre wear outside

Tire wearing on the outside
Tire wearing on the inside (one edge)

tyre wear patterns

Uneven or patchy tire wear patterns

Excessive wear on one side of the tire or patchy, uneven tire wear patterns may indicate a problem with the vehicle suspension. This kind of wear can occur when the alignment or camber geometry of the wheel is incorrect or when suspension components such as bushes or dampers are in poor condition.

Example of camber and alignment geometry choices





How to correct suspension misalignment?

Have the geometry of your vehicle diagnosed by a professional who will be able to make the appropriate adjustment of the different angles and replace any damaged or worn components.

Learn more about geometry.

How do you know when the tire needs to be changed?

There is a legally defined minimum tread depth for tires. The remaining tire tread depth for cars, vans and 4x4 vehicles must be at least 1.6 mm throughout a continuous band comprising the central ¾ of the breadth of the tread and round the entire circumference of the tire.

As the wear approaches this threshold, the tires need to be changed.

tyre wear

But beware:

  • It is the responsibility of the driver to be sure that tires are in road worthy condition.  Using unroadworthy tires can result in penalties for the driver.
  • However, if you change your tires before reaching the minimum allowable tread depth, you increase your vehicle running costs, waste and CO2 emissions


Fortunately, there is an easy way for you to determine if it is time to change your tires.

tyre wear indicators

Tire wear indicator

A tire wear indicator is a small raised rib 1.6mm high in the base of the main tread grooves at various intervals around the tire tread.

When the height of the tread is flush with the tire wear indicators, you know it's time to change your tire.

In the outer areas (shoulders) there may be no tire wear indicator. In this case, the legal constraint is not to have a slick sculpture.

zoom bibendum

How to locate a tire wear indicator?

Tire wear indicators are present across the tire (usually in the main grooves) at various intervals around the tire circumference.

For MICHELIN tires, a small BIBENDUM logo on the sidewall makes it easier to locate tire wear indicators.

Do your tire wear indicators show that it is time to change your tires?

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