Tire wear patterns

Tire Wear Patterns

Want to learn more about the different kinds of tire wear patterns? You’re in the right place. The way your tires wear down (tire tread and sidewall) can say a lot about the state of your vehicle and your driving habits overall.

Common tire wear conditions and their causes

The fact is, while some tires are built for longevity and others are built for performance – the old saying that "the tire that performs twice as well lasts half as long" is often still true.

On top of that, there are dozens of ways your tires can deteriorate over time beyond simply wearing down through normal driving.

But don’t worry! We put together this list so you can identify the ways your current set of tires might be wearing down, aging or otherwise may require attention.

Overall tire wear conditions

Alignment wear

Alignment tire wear

Possible Cause: Vehicle misalignment.

Solution: Depending on severity, any affected tires will need to be replaced.

Alignment wear is typically determined by the tire wearing heavily on the inside edge of the tire or the outside edge of the tire, as pictured here. A slight misalignment can cause havoc on your tires and should be corrected right away to prevent any other damage to your new tires after the affected tires are replaced.

Center of tire wear

Center of tire wear

Possible Cause: Running tires with too much air pressure (over-inflation).

Solution: Depending on severity, we recommend replacement.

The center wear pattern pictured here shows the effect of overinflation. You will notice the center of the tread is wearing faster than the rest of the tread. It is always best to follow the recommended air pressure by the vehicle manufacturer to maintain the correct tire inflation, load carrying ability and performance characteristics of the vehicle.

Flat spots on tires

Flat spots on tires

Possible Cause: Brakes locking up or tires skidding.

Solution: Depending on severity, we recommend replacement.

Flat spots on a tire can be the cause of locking up the brakes in an emergency situation. As pictured here, the tread has a flat spot across the width of the tread where the tire made contact with the road surface and wore down in one specific spot. This condition is not as common as it was in years past with most modern vehilces use of anti-lock brakes.

Another common cause of flat spots can be from vehicle storage or limited driving conditions where the vehicle sits for an extended period of time. This condition is certainly not as severe as pictured here, but can also cause slight flat spots in the tires that touch the ground. After the extended storage, when driving it can be noticed at lower speeds. Tip: When storing your vehicle for an extended period of time, you might consider jacking up the vehicle safely on jack stands as a preventative measure.

Irregular tire wear

Irregular tire wear

Possible Cause: Tire belt separation or worn suspension.

Solution: Depending on severity, we recommend replacement.

A tire belt separation is the result of the belt plies in the inner liner of the tire separating apart from each other and sometimes allowing air to permiate into that open space. A tire belt separation, if unattended, can result in tire failure.

Another cause of the irregular tire wear pictured here can be worn suspension. Worn suspension components can cause the vehicle to potentially bounce or develop unexpected motions that the tires are not designed to handle.

Underinflated tires (edge of tread worn)

Underinflated tires (edge of tread worn)

Possible Cause: Tire pressure is too low, possibly from a puncture.

Solution: Inflate affected tires to proper air pressure level. Depending on severity, we recommend replacement.

Underinflation can cause the edges of the tire to wear faster than the rest of the tread as pictured here. When a tire is underinflated, the weight shifts to the firmest part of the tire which is the sidewall. It is best to check your tire air pressure once a month and inflate to the manufacturers recommended pressure. You can always stop by any of our locations for a free tire air presuure check.

Common tire tread conditions

There are thousands of tire tread designs and patterns, all with different features and purposes. Though they can wear down at different intervals and from different causes, you can find some of the more common tire tread conditions below.

Exposed tire cords

Exposed tire cords

Possible Cause: Underinflation, misalignment with the wheel or vehicle suspension.

Solution: For safety concerns, we recommend immediate replacement.

Exposed tire cords can be the result of a few different things like underinflation, misalignment or worn suspension. As pictured here, the result is premature wear on the edge of the tire that has worn past the primary rubber and has exposed the tire cord layer. Once the cords are exposed, this creates an extremely dangerous driving condition resulting in imminent tire failure and should be replaced immediately.

Tire impact break

Tire impact break

Possible Cause: Impact with an object or debris while driving.

Solution: For safety concerns, we recommend immediate replacement.

A tire impact break can sometimes be difficult to spot. As pictured here, an object in the road like a pothole, bump, foreign object or blunt item is usually run over and the impact is too great for the tire to handle. As tires have evolved, reinforced sidewalls and stronger plies have been put in place to try to defend the tire from this damage, but the tire can only handle so much force before it begins to break down.

Tire chunking

Tire chunking

Possible Cause: Most frequently encountered on tires that are used off the pavement for extended periods of time.

Solution: Depending on severity, we recommend replacement.

Tire chunking is typically the direct result of frequent use of the tire off the smooth pavement and driving on sharper objects off-road, gravel or unpaved surfaces. These rougher surfaces eventually break down the tread blocks and cause pieces of the tire tread to be ripped off or worn away.

Tire chunking can also occur when an off-road or mud terrain tire is used on the highway for an extended period of time. These tires are designed to handle the rugged off-road terrain and have large tread gaps that can break down on the highway.

Tire belt separation

Tire belt separation

Possible Cause: Improper inflation and overloaded vehicle or towing weight.

Solution: This could be a defect in the manufacturing process. We can usually return these tires under the terms of any existing tire warranty.

A tire belt separation is not as common under normal driving conditions with modern tire advancements, however it typically occurs when the tire is overloaded or underinflated. Overloading will cause extreme heat build-up in the tire and will result in eventual tire failure. Under normal conditions, if a tire belt separates, it can be a flaw in the manufacturing process.

Tire tread splice

Tire tread splice

Possible Cause: Underinflation combined with vehicle being overloaded.

Solution: This could be a defect in the manufacturing process. We can usually return these tires under the terms of any existing tire warranty.

A tire tread splice can be the result of low tire pressure and overloading the tire. This makes the tire more vulnerable to damage with excessive heat build-up and even the slightest bump or object in the road can splice the tread area as pictured here. A tire splice can also be the result of a defect in the manufacturing process, although not as common.

Common tire shoulder & sidewall conditions

Tire sidewalls and shoulders effectively do exactly what they sound like they might: provide sturdy support for your vehicle’s weight as they shoulder the force and momentum of your vehicle through turns, acceleration and stopping.

Tire shoulder and sidewall conditions are also among the more serious things that can go wrong with tires, and should be inspected routinely for the following:

Sidewall impact break

Sidewall impact break

Possible Cause: Striking an object or going over a curb, especially at high speeds.

Solution: For safety concerns, we recommend immediate replacement.

A sidewall impact break is the result of hitting an object in the road and causing internal sidewall damage to the tire. Sometimes, this can be difficult to detect from the outside of the tire and can require a tire professional to remove the tire from the rim and inspect the inner liner of the tire as pictured here. Even the smallest damage to the inner sidewall can turn into big problems and a replacement tire would be required.

Ozone cracking/tire dry rot

Ozone cracking/tire dry rot

Possible Cause: Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and high temperatures.

Solution: This could be a defect in the manufacturing process. We can usually return these tires under the terms of any existing tire warranty if the time of use or date code does not exceed the manufacturers requirements.

Ozone cracking and dry rot can be very common in hot and dry climates. The natural oils in the rubber dry out over time and can cause small cracks in the tread and sidewall as pictured here. Ozone cracking and dry rot are cause for replacement. Tires should be replaced every 6 years, regardless of mileage or tread depth and after 10 years should be removed from service.

Heat ring

Heat ring

Possible Cause: Excessive load being carried or driving on a flat tire.

Solution: For safety concerns, we recommend immediate replacement.

A heat ring is most commonly the result of extended use of a tire while it is underinflated. When viewing the sidewall from the outside of the tire, a heat ring can be subtle or more pronounced depending on the damage as pictured here. A tire professional will remove the tire from the rim and inspect the inner linner of the tire to see the damage. In some cases, the inner liner can be shredded into small particles of rubber that wore off while driving on the tire too long while it was underinflated.

Tire sidewall blister

Tire sidewall blister

Possible Cause: Under-inflation or overloading on tire carrying capacity.

Solution: This could be a defect in the manufacturing process. We can usually return these tires under the terms of any existing tire warranty.

A sidewall blister is not very common and usually only noticeable from the inside of the tire as pictured here. A tire professional will be able to inspect the inner liner of the tire upon removing the tire from the rim. A sidewall blister is the result of underinflation or overloading the tire due to excessive heat build-up.

Sidewall bulge

Sidewall bulge

Possible Cause: Impact with an object in the road.

Solution: This could be a defect in the manufacturing process. We can usually return these tires under the terms of any existing tire warranty.

A sidewall bulge is the result of an impact break with an object in the road. Most common cause of a sidewall bulge is a hard impact with a pothole or divet in the road, or also can be the result of brushing up against a curb. This impact separates the sidewall plies and creates a bulge in the tire as pictured here. This will result in tire failure and should be replaced right away.

Sidewall separation

Sidewall separation

Possible Cause: Impact damage combined with underinflation.

Solution: This could be a defect in the manufacturing process. We can usually return these tires under the terms of any existing tire warranty.

A sidewall separation is the result of underinflation and then an impact to the sidewall typically a pothole or curb. The low tire pressure weakens the sidewall and allows permeation of air to enter the affected area causing a bubble effect as pictured here. This will result in tire failure if unattended and should be replaced immediately.

Sidewall splice

Sidewall splice

Possible Cause: Underinflation and overloading.

Solution: This could be a defect in the manufacturing process. We can usually return these tires under the terms of any existing tire warranty.

A sidewall splice is the result of low tire pressure and excessive weight causing the tire to be overloaded. The splice in the sidewall typically starts small and gets bigger as the heat builds up as pictured here. A sidewall splice can eventually result in tire failure and should be replaced right away.

Torque cracks

Torque cracks

Possible Cause: Massive amounts of torque from high-performance or heavy-duty vehicles towing underload.

Solution: If not caused by intentional abuse, this could be a defect in the manufacturing process. We can usually return these tires under the terms of any existing tire warranty.

Torque cracks are the result of extreme torque being placed on the tire sidewall from high horsepower or heavy duty low end power. The torque cracks will typically be noticed in a pattern that circles around the sidewall, more than one as pictured here. Torque cracks will eventually result in tire failure and should be replaced right away.


If any of these tire wear patterns look or sound familiar, simply swing on by one of our locations. We can show you how to check tire tread, diagnose tire damage and take care of the warranty process for you. Regular tire maintenance can help avoid some these tire wear patterns and detect any issues early on with a regular tire inspection and air pressure check.

And don’t forget to check out our tire Certificates for more information about how we can help protect your tire investment.


If you have any questions or require any assistance, stop by any of our Discount Tire locations and we'll get you taken care of!

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