Your tires might be telling you something.

Are you listening?

The condition of your tires could warn you of premature wear or be a sign of issues in other areas of your vehicle. You may simply need to add more air pressure to your tires, or you might need to have your suspension system checked and service.

As part of any tire maintenance routine, you should inspect your tires for wear. The treadwear patterns can tell you a lot.

Here are eight common wear patterns and what they mean:

Center Wear

Appearance: Worn tread only down the middle of the tire.

What Your Tires May Be Saying:

“I’m over-inflated!”

If the tread is worn only in the middle, it is an indicator that the tire over-inflated, causing just the center section to bulge. Because the tire then rides mostly on that bulge in the center, the tire wears more quickly in the middle than on the sides. Pay close attention to your tire pressure and make sure tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Shoulder Wear

Appearance: The inside and outside edges of your tires are worn, but the center remains in good shape.

What Your Tires May Be Saying:

“Add more air — I’m under-inflated!”

In direct contrast with an over-inflated condition, under-inflated tires experience added pressure at their edges as more of the tire makes contact with the road. This causes the shoulder to wear prematurely. This is considered one of the more dangerous conditions as eventual heat buildup can cause a blowout. Under-inflated tires won’t absorb bumps as well either, so ride quality will suffer.

Again, be sure to monitor your tire pressure with a good tire pressure gauge and adjust accordingly.


Appearance: Feathered tread blocks are typically shaped like ramps in a sideways direction on the tire. They are rounded on side and have sharp edges on the other.

What Your Tires May Be Saying:

“Check your alignment!”

Incorrect toe setting often causes feathering. Worn or damaged ball joints or suspension bushings may also be the culprit. And sometimes feathering is simply caused by high-speed cornering.

Heel-Toe Wear


Appearance: Heel-toe wear is similar to feathering, except the ramps run from front to back. That is, the leading edge of the tread block will be smooth while the trailing edges will be sharp.

What Your Tires May Be Saying:

“Rotate your tires more often!”

Heel-toe condition is often a symptom of infrequent or improper tire rotations. (See our rotation guide here.) Other potential causes could be worn or damaged suspension bushings, ball joints, or wheel bearings.

Scalloped Edges


Appearance: A series of alternating hills and valleys

What Your Tires May Be Saying:

“Check your shocks and suspension components!”

Bad suspension parts can cause your vehicle to bounce up and down, causing these unique scalloped-shaped wear patterns on your tires. In some cases, an out-of-balance wheel will cause this appearance, but the scallops tend to be fewer and farther between.

Outer-Edge Wear

Appearance: The outside shoulder of the tire is noticeably more worn.

What Your Tires May Be Saying:

“Slow down in the corners!”

Outer edge wear is more rare these days and is often the result of overly aggressive cornering. In this case, your options are A) slow down, or B) invest in a set of performance tires with stiff sidewalls.

Other possible causes of outer-edge wear are too much positive caster/camber and toe.

Inner-Edge Wear

Appearance: Tread wear is confined to just the inner edges of your tires.

What Your Tires May Be Saying:

“Check for excessive negative camber or toe-in!”

The angle of the negative camber and toe-in will cause inside wear on tires. In some cases, excessive negative camber and toe-in are caused by worn suspension components or even misaligned wheels.

Flat Spots

Appearance: The tire will have a predominately normal tread with a noticeable smooth spot(s).

What Your Tires May Be Saying:

“Check your brakes!”

Flat spots typically occur when the brakes lock up. Although flat spots can occur from an isolated incident, if your tires show this condition you may want to have your brakes checked to ensure they’re functioning properly.

Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.