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Types of Tyre Wear Patterns and Causes

As they cover miles and miles of tarmac, gravel and dirt, the tyres on our vehicles will become worn and will eventually need to be replaced. However, there is no uniform way for our tyres to wear down – tyre wear takes on many patterns, and certain patterns can be symptoms of further problems, so it is important to be able to spot it in order to avoid exacerbating the issue.

Select a type of tyre wear:

camber (one-sided) tyre wear illustration feathered directional wear illustration cupped (cupping) tyre wear illustration centre tyre wear illustration shoulder tyre wear illustration
camber (one-sided) tyre wear illustration


What does camber wear look like?

If one of the shoulders of your tyres has worn down considerably while the other has changed very little, this is camber wear. It’s characterised by a gradual slope from one side to the other, and is much easier to identify than other types of tyre wear which, in turn, means that you get to the root of the problem quicker and get it sorted!

What are the causes of camber wear?

Considerable wear on the inside and outside edges of the tyre can be caused variously by suspension misalignment, a bent strut, a dislocated strut tower, a broken or weak spring, or collapsed or damaged control arm bushings.

feathered directional wear illustration


What does feathered directional wear look like?

Feathered wear isn’t exactly easy to identify by simply looking at the tyre, since the wear itself is made up of small rivets and dips that follow a particular direction on the tyre’s surface. Because of this, in order to identify this type of wear, you will have to start by running your hand along the tyre: if it feels smooth one way but rough the other way, then feathered directional wear is occurring.

What are the causes of feathered directional wear?

Feathered directional wear could be caused by a variety of different mechanical problems associated with your vehicle. However, these are arguably the most common: toe misalignment, worn tie rod ends, bent steering linkage and arms or worn idler arms.

cupped (cupping) tyre wear illustration


What does cupped wear look like?

Cupped wear is signified by cups and dips appearing around the edge of the tread. Unlike the other types of tyre wear, cupped wear doesn’t follow a specific pattern, which makes the wear itself look much less uniform than, say, camber wear. So, if you notice dips and cups appearing sporadically over the surface of your tyres, you’ll know that this is cupped wear.

What are the causes of cupped wear?

If you think that your tyres are showing signs of cupped wear, then the problem is likely to do with your tyres/wheels, rather than something mechanical. For example, it could mean that one of your tyres is out of balance, or your shock absorbers and struts have weakened.

centre tyre wear illustration


What does centre tyre wear look like?

Like feathered wear, it’s not always easy to spot when your tyres are showing signs of centre wear, given that the centre of your tyres tend to be out of sight underneath the wheel arches. However, if you do peek under and take a look, you will notice a strip around the centre your tyres where the tread has worn down.

What are the causes of centre wear?

If the centre of your tyre is more worn than the shoulders, then it means that the worn tyres could be overinflated, causing a bulge in the middle. With this in mind, it’s always worth being cautious if you inflate your tyres yourself at a petrol station, and over the following few weeks, make sure to check your tyres for centre wear.

shoulder tyre wear illustration


What does shoulder wear look like?

Unlike centre wear, shoulder wear should be pretty easy to spot because, of course, the shoulders will be more worn than the centre. While the shoulders and edges of tyres will always round off (although perhaps to different extents), tyres with significant shoulder wear will look almost tubular by comparison.

What are the causes of shoulder wear?

Given that, visually, shoulder wear is the opposite of centre wear, it makes sense that the cause of shoulder wear is the opposite, too: underinflation. If a tyre becomes underinflated, the shoulders are likely to sag slightly, causing a dip in the centre of the tyre. Ultimately, this means that the shoulders get worn down much quicker than the centre.

General Tyre Wear Causes

Some of the problems that can cause irregular tyre wear include:
  • Suspension issues
  • Incorrect wheel alignment
  • An internal fault with the tyre/tyres
  • Driving on under/overinflated tyres

How to Check for Abnormal Wear

Regular checks are a great way to ensure that you are not driving on unsafe tyres. If you check your tyres and see that they are worn down excessively, then your vehicle may be unsafe to drive. Take the vehicle to a qualified, skilled mechanic to assess the problem thoroughly. At Tyres Northampton, we are experts in providing the fitting of the highest quality tyres from the leading manufacturers and budget models alike. If you would like to know more about what we do, please get in touch with us today.

Noticed tyre wear? Call into Tyres Northampton to have your tyres professionally checked or book new tyres via the form below

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