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AAA World | Auto
Tire Wear and Care: Diagnosing Common Wear Problems


Are your tire treads gripping the road effectively? It’s an essential safety question. The tread on your tires not only provides the friction you need to move, steer and stop your vehicle, but it also channels away water, mud and other debris that can cause tires to lose grip and slide over surfaces. Here, we show you how to check your tread depth as well as identify some tire wear patterns that may indicate mechanical issues with your vehicle.
Penny between tire. Photo by JW_PNW/
The simplest way to check your tread depth is using the tire wear bars between the treads. These small, raised bars are located between the grooves of your tire treads in multiple spots around the tire. The height of the bars marks how much useable tire tread is left. If the bars are flush with the treads, it is time to replace the tire.

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You can also measure tread depth using a penny. Place the penny head down in the groove of your treads. If Lincoln’s head is only partially obscured, then you still have some usable tread left, though you should start thinking about replacement. If you can see his head completely, the tire needs immediate replacement.

Car Care
Toe Wear.
Wear that occurs on the outer edge of the tire indicates that your wheels may be out of alignment.

Center Wear. Tire wear in the middle, between the inner and outer edges, indicates over-inflation. Always inflate to the specifications stated on the vehicle’s door jamb.

Edge Wear. Wear on the inner and outer edges of a tire signals under-inflation. Tire pressure should be checked and adjusted frequently, especially as seasons change or if the vehicle is frequently exposed to extreme conditions. Driving offroad or over potholes can cause tire pressure to drop more quickly.

Patch Wear. Patches of worn treads usually indicate a wheel that is out of balance or a tire that has a manufacturing defect. See a mechanic for a diagnosis.

Cup Wear. Cupping along the edge of the tire can result when tires do not contact the road evenly or do not roll straight on a wheel. Also referred to as “scalloping” or “choppy tires,” this type of wear pattern needs immediate attention as it usually is a sign of a problem with suspension or other wheel-assembly components.

Paying regular attention to the tread health and air pressure of your vehicle’s tires will go a long way toward preserving the tire’s maximum lifespan. It will also help to ensure that your vehicle and its passengers ride safely.