Key Takeaways

  • Tire wear patterns are an indication of your vehicle’s overall health.
  • Tire wear patterns can mean a number of different things.
  • You have to decipher what tire patterns mean.
  • Overinflation and underinflation of tires can lead to bad tread wear patterns.
  • Feathering is indicative of bad vehicle alignment.

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Tire wear patterns indicate something about your vehicle. It can be good news or bad. But what do tire wear patterns mean?

Tire wear patterns mean a number of things and can indicate information about the overall health of your vehicle. Tire wear patterns offer insight into your vehicle’s alignment and tire health as well as the car’s overall health. Look to your tire wear patterns for information about your car.

I’m a mechanic with five years experience diagnosing and repairing cars. I received my degree in automotive repair and I am ASE certified. I receive training on the latest and most recently released automotive technology. And I diagnose and repair automotives with the latest tools and software.

Table of Contents

Tire Wear Patterns

Looking at tire wear patterns is like looking deeply into the eyes of a person. You can tell a lot just by looking! That's because tire wear patterns give away a lot of information about the status of the car.

Tires are where the rubber meets the road. And how that rubber meets the road is pretty obvious when it comes to looking at tire wear patterns. But what are tire wear patterns? Tire wear patterns are patterns of wear that the tire is experiencing in a pattern like way.

For example, the same pattern of tire wear will be prevalent on all four tires in some cases, indicating something’s wrong with the car. Or tire’s will all wear perfectly even showing that there’s nothing wrong with the vehicle’s alignment and you have nothing to worry about.

Tire wear patterns are indications that something is, or isn’t ,wrong with the car. They are markings in the tire that you can read, and get information from. There are different types of tire wear, which is what we’ll go over next.

Types Of Tire Wear

There are many different types of tire wear. That’s because there are many different types of things that can go wrong with your car. But let's go into tire wear patterns and their different kinds.

Center Tire Wear

Center tire wear is happening when the tread from the center of the tire is wearing quicker than the outer tread. This pattern looks like the tire is going bald in the middle. This type of tire wear causes the tread in the center of the tire to be destroyed before the tread on the outer regions of the tire.

Whenever I see this type of tread wear I know exactly what's going on. I know for sure that the customer has over inflated their tires for any number of reasons.

Tire over inflation is very common, especially in cars that don't display tire pressures on the dashboard. To mitigate the problem of over inflation, check your tire pressures regularly and make sure the tire pressures are within spec.

Edge Tread Wear

Edge tread wear wear occurs when the edges of the tire wear faster than the rest of the tire. The contact patch in the center has more tread, in this case, than the outer edge of the tire.

This type of edge wear usually occurs when there’s not enough air in the tire. Basically, the tire is underinflated, causing the weight of the vehicle to press down on the edges of the tire, instead of evenly across the tread of the tire.

Whenever I see this type of treadwear I know exactly what to do before any more diagnoses. I check the tire pressure right away.

And more times than not, in the cases of edge wear, I confirm my suspicions that the tires are underinflated. Under inflation will lead to tire tread wear on the edges since more weight is riding on the edges when a tire is under inflated.

To mitigate this problem, check tire pressure and make sure your tire pressures are within spec. Tire pressure should usually be around 32 psi.

Cupping Tire Wear

Uneven tire wear can sometimes occur in the form of cupping. Cupping is a phenomenon that happens in tires where small dips appear in the tread of grooves. You can feel the dips if you run your hand over the tread face of the tire.

Sometimes, cupping is visible to the naked eye and looks like small peaks and valleys in the tire. Cupping tire wear is usually an indication that there is an issue with the suspension. Cupping falls under the category of common tire wear patterns.

Whenever a cupping tire comes into the shop, the first thing a mechanic does is shake down the suspension for loose parts. This is because loose parts cause wheel hopping. Imagine a car hopping down the road at highway speeds. Of course it's going to cause some type of tread wear. And that tread wear pattern is called cupping.


Feathering looks like diagonal wear patterns on the tire’s surface. Feathering occurs when a vehicle’s alignment is out of spec.

Feathering happens because the vehicle’s tires are not rolling down the road straight. The tires are rolling down the road at an angle when feathering occurs. It causes the tread to become crisscrossed.

This is what causes feathering. To mitigate feathering, you’ll want to have your vehicle aligned. Uneven tire wear patterns usually involve feathering. Some tires might not be feathered while others are. This is an indication you want to get an alignment right away.

Toe wear, tire wear caused by incorrect toe angle, can cause tire feathering as well. A wear pattern that shows feathering can be corrected easily with an alignment.

Make sure to have your car regularly checked for alignments as a bad suspension system can cause many issues to your vehicle.

Flat Spot Wear

Flat spot wear is when there is a flat spot in the tire’s tread. Tire tread wear that includes a flat spot looks like a huge flat spot in the round of the tire. This type of flat spot wear is usually caused by a car sitting in one position for too long.

Whenever I see flat spot wear, I know the vehicle has been sitting in a garage or on a flat surface for a long time. This is because flat spot wear is so noticeable, it looks like a big dent in the tire. When I usually ask the customer if the car has been sitting for long periods of time when this type of tread wear is noticeable, they always answer yes.

If a tire gets a flat and sits for a week before getting fixed, flat spot wear can occur if the weight of the vehicle sits on the tire for the whole week. The weight of the vehicle being concentrated on one spot of the tire is very bad for tire composition and will cause flat spot wear.

If you do get a flat tire, take the tire off the car as soon as possible. You don’t want the whole weight of the vehicle resting on the flat tire as this will cause flat spot wear. Make sure to jack up the vehicle, take off the tire, and take it to the shop as soon as you can.

Flat spot wear can also happen if you park the vehicle for extended amounts of time. If you park your vehicle for about 3 months without moving it, you run the risk of flat spot wear. To mitigate this, take your vehicle out for a drive every once in a while.

It will stop flat spot wear.

What Do Tire Wear Patterns Mean?

About The Author

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks has been servicing vehicles since 2012. After completing the automotive studies program at Camden County College, he was awarded an Associates's Degree in Applied Science. His first job was a lube-tech at Jiffy Lube, and is currently an independent B-Technician servicing vehicles for the United States Postal Service. Christopher is ASE certified and loves rebuilding engines.

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