How to keep track of tire wear

We check your tires every time you let us inspect your vehicle. Reading the tread of your tires can foretell the future. We check your tires for things like uneven wear and defects. Uneven tread wear can indicate suspension problems, poor tire maintenance or other impending hazards before they cause an accident or leave you stranded.

Here’s what we are looking for:

Tread depth. Every tire has a manufactures wear indicator cast into the tire. We call them the “Nader Bars”. These high spots are cast into the tread groves and when the tread wears to meet them a thin bald stripe appears across the tread surface at several uniformly spaced locations. Sometimes even tires that are not on the “Nader Bars” need to be replaced.

Wear in the center. Excessive wear in the center of the tread is most often due to over-inflation. We check your tire pressure every time your vehicle visits us. Check the sticker inside the driver’s doorsill of your vehicle for the recommended tire pressure. Never inflate your tires higher than the maximum rated pressure indicated on the sidewall. With over-inflation, the edges aren’t contacting the road as much as they should, putting too much force on the middle section.

Wear at the edges. Under-inflation is usually the cause of this type of wear, although wear at the outer edges can also be caused by aggressive driving. Under-inflation causes too much force to be placed on the edges and not enough on the center.

Wear on one side. With this type of wear, the inside of the tread shows more wear than the outside, or vice versa. Poor alignment, worn ball joints, or other worn or bent suspension parts might be the cause. Your car may need an inspection of steering and suspension components and/or an alignment.

Feathering. Feathering means that each tread rib looks worn in one direction, such that one side is rounded while the other side is pointed, looking almost smeared outward. Sustained high-speed driving can sometimes cause feathering, although consistent feathering most often reveals an improper toe-in alignment setting. Again, we can inspect and recommend the right action to take.

Cupping. Rounded, scalloped dips near one edge of the tread indicate severely worn suspension components.

Flat-spotting. Flat-spotting, severe wear of the whole tread contact patch in one place on the tire, results from panic-braking (skidding) with the wheels locked up, usually on older cars without ABS. The flat spot will often introduce an imbalance that can be felt in the steering wheel. The imbalance from the flat spot makes the tires unsafe-replacement is the only safe solution.

Bald spots. Smooth spots on the tread, or areas between the edge and the center of the tread that are more worn than others, might indicate a wheel that’s way out of balance. Front wheels out of balance are usually easy to feel, but sometimes rear wheels are overlooked.

Swelling/bubbling. If any spots on the sidewall or tread are visibly swelling outward or bubbling, we can replace the tire. The tire might have been damaged by an especially deep pothole or piece of road debris.

Change immediately to the spare if there are any doubts about the tire’s safety.

Tires should be rotated and balanced every 6,000 miles, roughly every other oil change interval unless you are using synthetic oil or don’t change you oil often enough. Between visits it is a good idea to look at your tires periodically. If you ever have a concern swing by or call us.

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