How do I know when my tyres are worn

Posted by: Jack on 10/09/2012

Category: Tyre Information

We all live very busy lives. We get up in the morning and the rat race begins. A recent statistic was released showing that many people spend more time commuting to and from work than they earn in annual leave. This is amazing! With these things in mind, I would like to consider the condition of the tyres that are on your car. So often trusted, yet so frequently neglected, the lowly tyre is the only point of contact between you and the road. It, more than anything, dictates your safety during cornering, braking, and especially during wet weather travel. Yet many people don’t even know how to tell if their tyres are worn out. Stop in at any tyre shop across Australia and it won’t take them very long to dig up a severely worn out tyre and a horror story to go with it.

Badly worn tyres are dangerous and will perform significantly worse when braking or cornering.

So how can you tell if your tyres are worn out? The first thing that you should do is have a quick overview of the entire tyre. While the average new passenger tyre has between 8-12mm depending on the size, the minimum standard is 1.6mm of tread. Less than this amount and you could actually be fined. Now, when you look for minimum tread, remember that this applies to the lowest level of tread that you can find, not the highest. Some tyres, especially if your wheel alignment or air pressure has not been accurate can have irregular wear. You need to gauge by the worst that you can find, not the best. Remember, it’s your life and the lives of those around you that can be affected by tyre failure.

So, you have looked at your tyres and they look fine. They have relatively even wear, so how do you measure this wear? Tyre manufacturers build a “tread wear indicator” into all passenger and 4x4 tyres. This indicator can be found by looking between the ridges of the tread of a tyre. See the example below:

Tyre wear indicators

Sometimes these little ridges can be hard to find, especially if your car is low to the ground and has low profile tyres. So, how do you find them if you can’t see the face of the tyre? Tyre brands also mark the sidewall of the tyre with an arrow, their logo, or another defining mark to showcase where the indicators can be found. These indicators can easily be seen in this diagram:

The marker points to where you'll find tyre wear indicators on your tyre

These will be spaced regularly throughout the circumference of the tyre. If you look at your tyre and the tread is level at any point with these indicators, the tread is at 1.6mm or less and it’s time to change your tyres.

Remember, if you see that your tyres are getting close to the wear indicators, it does pay to change them early. Study after study confirms that your stopping distance increases dramatically with every mm of tread that wears off of your tyres. So, changing your tyres before they are totally worn out is the best policy.