What can cause excessive or uneven tyre wear?

Author Name – Louise Helsby

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Tyres are a critical safety feature of your car as they are in constant contact with the road. They bear the weight of your vehicle and any passengers travelling in it. As a consequence, the rubber on the tyre wears down over time. How quickly they wear will depend on how often you drive, it is usually recommended that a new set of tyres are fitted around every 20,000 miles providing the tyres remain in good condition.

uneven tyre wear

Sometimes tyres can wear excessively or unevenly, this could indicate that there is an issue with your vehicle, here we explore the reasons for excessive or uneven wear and how to prevent it from happening.

Checking your tyres for wear

A brand new tyre will have an 8mm tread, these are the block groves on a tyre used to grip the road when driving. As the tyres are driven on, they will wear down until they reach 1.6mm tread depth, at which point the tyres are at the end of their legal limit and will need replacing. However, it is widely recommended that tyres are replaced once the tread reaches 3mm – before the legal limit. The reason for this is purely down to safety, once the tread on a tyre wears down to 3mm braking distances are affected and there is an increased risk of aquaplaning.

Aquaplaning is the build-up of water between your tyres and the road surface causing a loss of grip.

To check the tread depth of your tyres, you can either:

  • Look across the tyres circumference at the tread wear indicators – these are rubber bars built into the grooves of the tyre, as the rubber wears down it exposes these bars indicating that the tyres have reached their legal limit of 1.6mm.
  • Tyre gauge – an implement that is placed in between the groves and will show how close your tyres are to their legal limit.
  • 20p check – similarly to the tyre gauge, a 20 pence piece will also show how close your tyres are to the legal limit. Simply place the coin upright between the grooves, if you can see the boarder around the 20p coin, there is not enough tread on your tyre.

It is important to remember that these checks need to be carried out across the width of the tyres to ensure that the treads are not wearing unevenly.

Uneven tyre wear and what to look out for:

If your tyres are wearing unevenly, you will notice one of the following:

  • Wearing on the inside edge – this is known as shoulder wear and is caused by tyres that are underinflated.
  • Wearing in the middle – this is known as centre wear and is caused by overinflated tyres.

The correct tyre pressures for your vehicle can be found by entering your vehicle registration into our tyre pressure check tool.

Remember that the pressures will need to be adjusted if the vehicle is carrying a heavy load.

What causes uneven tyre wear?

Uneven or excessive tyre wear is caused by under/over inflated tyres, issues with the suspension of the vehicle, misaligned wheels or a fault in the braking system.

  • Under / over inflated tyres – tyres must be set at the recommended pressures to prevent uneven wear.
  • Suspension – faulty suspension components can cause a misalignment of the wheels which leads to uneven tyre wear.
  • Wheel alignment – wheels that are set at the correct angle should allow tyres to wear evenly, if the wheels are misaligned additional pressure is put on a particular part of the wheel leading to the rubber on the tyre wearing quicker than the rest of the tyre as this part has more contact with the road. This also leads to poor fuel economy.
  • Faulty brakes – If the braking system on a car is faulty, stopping the vehicle will be harder to do causing flat spots on a tyre where it has worn.

What prevents uneven tyre wear?

You can help to prevent uneven tyre wear by trying to avoid potholes and bumping into kerbs where possible as this can knock out the alignment of your wheels.

Checking your tyres regularly for signs of uneven wear is advisable to prevent you needing to replace a tyre prematurely. Tyre pressures should be checked at least once a month when the tyres are cold.

It is also advisable to get regular alignment checks too.

If you do notice the treads are wearing unevenly book a FREE safety inspection at National Tyres and Autocare who will check the tyres, shocks and brakes amongst other areas of the car.

How do you fix an uneven tyre tread?

The tyre condition is the responsibility of the motorist. Tyres which are inflated to the correct pressures and are aligned properly will last longer than tyres which are neglected.

In some instances, tyres can be rotated to increase usability. Tyres on a car will wear at different rates, to help tyres wear as evenly as possible, they can be rotated. This requires a professional removing a tyre and re-fitting it on the car in a different position. The recommended time frame for this is every six months or 6,000 miles – whichever comes first.

Related: When should I replace my tyres


What are the risks of dangerous tyres?

Every year, dangerous tyres lead to around 5,000 convictions, 900 casualties, and 160 deaths or serious injuries. Not only that, but illegal tyres can actually end up costing you more than the price of a new set: you could face fines of up to £2500 and 3 points on your licence per illegal tyre, not to mention that if you're found to have illegal tyres in an accident, it can invalidate your insurance.

A free tyre check from National can make sure your four wheels are ready for the road. Book in now to stay safe on your journeys.

Book a Free Tyre Check

Want to know more about looking after your tyres? Check out our online tyre safety hub.

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