What are different types of tread wear patterns?

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There are several types of tread wear patterns, and each can indicate a specific issue or problem with the tire. These include uneven wearing of the tire form the center, shoulder area, along with cupping, feathering and scalloping. Let’s check them all out.

different types of tread wear patterns

It’s best to check your tire’s tread depth at multiple locations, and see if there’s any sign of wearing unevenly, moreover, also check if there is any piece of rubber missing (cupping/scalloping) on any part of the tire. All these different tread wear pattern can occur because of multiple reasons which include, over-inflation, misalignment, overloading, improper rotation and of course driving habits.

Different Types of Wear Patterns

Although most of these different types of wear patterns can be calculated by measuring the tread depth, even with a penny, there are a few complicated ones which require very close inspection.

It’s best that you avoid all these wear types in the first place. To do so, make sure you read: How to increase tread life?

Center wear

Like the name suggests, this type of wear occurs on the central part of the tread. Measuring the tread depth, you’d note that with this wear pattern, the shoulders (sides of the tire) have more tread depth compared to middle.

It’s the most common example of uneven wear, and it occurs either by running your tires with higher pressure all the time, or with excessive use of harsh braking.

Shoulder wear

This type of wear occurs when the edges of the tire tread are worn quicker compared to the middle part of the tread.

And since its the opposite of center wear, it makes sense why it occurs with under-inflation of the tires.

Though you also get to face uneven wear on both sides as well.

Sometimes, the inner edges wear faster, which has to do with poor wheel alignment (mostly) and other times, you get to see more wear on the outer edges, which occurs by frequently cornering at higher speeds.


Scalloping or cupping is an uneven wear pattern which is created by irregular up-and-down jerking of the wheels (with a little bit of bouncing).

In most cases, it occurs when the suspension and steering components are loose or damaged up. And with it the tread dips in and rises up creating an uneven movement and scooping rubber from certain spots.

Initially its not visible but with time, they become more and more prominent. Though you can catch it early on by closely monitoring the drive of your vehicle. If you feel any kind of rumbling noise especially while driving at higher speeds, this is it.

For Your Info: Most folks mistake it for worn up wheel bearing, so keep that in mind, if you ever face that.


Tire feathering or scuffing occurs when the tread on one side of the tire is worn down more than the other. It is characterized by one side of the tread blocks or ribs on the tire being worn smooth while the opposite side is still sharp, giving the tire an angled or slanted appearance, which looks like feathers.

This uneven wear occurs mostly due to misalignment, which is mostly caused by suspension problems and toe-in of the wheels.

Though it’s very hard to catch this type of wear, if caught early on, it can be reversed with fixing/checking misalignment issues again and again. Also see if you are seeing it on both axles or just a single on.

Diagonal Wear

Diagonal tread wear as the name suggests creates balder wear patches across the tire’s tread diagonally.

This happens when the direction the alignment points the vehicle’s tires is not the same as the vehicle’s geometric center line, that’s why it’s also called “toe misalignment”.

In simply words, it happens when the alignment of the wheels is not set correctly. And so wheels get to be pointed in slightly different directions, and it makes the tires operate as if they were on a constant gentle curve, causing the tread to wear down more on one side than the other.

(And this gets aggravated with heavier weight, that’s why all-terrain tires wear faster).

Bead wear

Bead is the circumferential area right around the rims, so this area fit onto the wheels sealing the air pressure underneath.

Any kind of damage here can be caused by dinged rims, or by using the wrong type of lubricant when installing the tires on in the first place.

Moreover, with under-inflated tires, the sidewalls of the tire tend to bulge out, or flex out more, putting extra stress on the bead, and this can also be one of the reasons for bead wear.

The symptoms of this type of wear is frequent loss of air pressure from your tires (as leakage occurs). But a better way is not wait at all and get your tires inspected as soon as possible.

To Sum Up

For folks in a hurry, let me just summarize everything here.

So overall, there are a lot of different types of tread wear patterns and they happen due to variety of factors, including improper alignment, worn suspension components, overloading the vehicle, and driving on under-inflated or over-inflated tires.

The simply types of patterns include, central and shoulder wear, while the complicated ones include scalloping, feathering, and diagonal wearing.

All of these can be avoided in the first place if you rotate your tires frequently, get them aligned after every 4 to 6 months, and make sure your air pressure in all tires is always optimal.

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