Next time you’re on your hands and knees, lovingly scrubbing your hubcaps to a high gloss, take the opportunity to inspect the tread. If you notice uneven tyre wear, get it checked as soon as you can. There are only four hand-print sized patches of rubber connecting you to the road at any given time, so they need to be in prime condition to do their job properly.

And what is their job, exactly? First and foremost, keeping you safe. Tyres allow you to corner, brake, accelerate and swerve sharply if something unexpected appears in front of you – and still maintain control of your vehicle. Worn tread severely impacts a tyre’s ability to maintain grip, and if you’re driving on compromised tyres in wet weather, you’re playing a particularly dangerous game.

Let’s take a look at the different types of uneven tyre wear, what they indicate and what you can do about it.

Common causes of uneven tyre wear

Centre tread wear

If the centre tread looks worn but the shoulders don’t, the tyre is in all likelihood over-inflated. Too much air causes the centre third of the tyre to bulge slightly, or become more pronounced than the shoulders, pressing it harder into the road and causing it to wear quickly.

Check the door jamb, the driver’s manual or inside the petrol cap for the recommended PSI (the correct PSI is actually dependent on the type of vehicle you have – not the tyres themselves). If the tread is still above the indicator bars, then simply deflate the tyre to the recommended PSI. If the indicator bars are flush with the tread, the tyre is too worn you’ll need a replacement.

Centre tread wear can also occur if tyres have been inflated for a loaded vehicle that isn’t carrying any loads. In this case, make sure the tyres are only inflated for heavy loads when the vehicle is actually carrying heavy loads. At other times, deflate to the correct PSI.

Shoulder tread wear

Tread wear on both shoulders but not in the centre is an indication of under-inflation. Once again, you need to take a look at the recommended PSI for your car, found in the door jamb, the owner’s manual or the inside of the petrol flap. If the shoulder tread is still proud of the indicator bars, simply inflate your tyres to the right pressure. If they are too worn, they’ll need to be replaced.

Uneven tread wear on the shoulders but not in the centre can also be a result of a lot of driving on winding and curving roads. If this is a part of your normal driving, you may need to rotate your tyres more often.

One-sided shoulder tread wear

One-sided tread wear is an indication that your tyre is on a slight lean, pressing one shoulder more firmly into the ground than the other. This is almost always caused by an incorrect wheel alignment. Occasionally, it can be a result of a damaged or defective suspension.

Either way, you’ll need to bring your car to a mechanic so they can inspect the suspension and perform a proper wheel alignment. If the tread is too worn, you’ll also need a new set of tyres.

Flat spots

Flat spots refer to patches of horizontal wear across a tyre’s tread, and almost always result from a particular style of driving. Aggressive accelerating and braking are usually the culprits, particularly harsh braking that causes wheel lock-up and skidding.

Unfortunately, even though the wear may be localised to a small patch, the tyre will need to be replaced. If that worn patch happens to be in contact with the road when you need to brake suddenly, you will be in all sorts of trouble. Remember, it only takes a hand-print size of worn tread to seriously reduce a tyre’s ability to grip.

To prevent flat spots in the future, drive defensively: maintain a good distance between you and the car in front, give yourself plenty of time to brake, and accelerate like you aren’t in a hurry.

Diagonal tread wear

This is the least common form of uneven tread wear and it’s caused by a tyre not tracking straight. In other words, the tyres have not been aligned precisely with the vehicle’s geometric centre line; the tyres are essentially trying to go in a slightly different direction. 

Being pulled in a different direction causes a tyre to move through cycles of slip and grip, wearing down diagonal strips of rubber. If you notice this sort of uneven tread wear on your tyres, you’ll need to book your car in for a wheel alignment.

Get your tread checked at Eastern Tyre Centre

Always keep an eye on your tyre’s tread; it doesn’t take long and it’s the best way of making sure your tyres are up to the task. If you notice uneven tread wear matching any of the descriptions above, call the team at Eastern Tyre Centre and we’ll run our eye over your car. You may just need a slight wheel alignment, but if new tyres are called for, we’ll guide you towards the best set for your car and your needs.