Identifying the Signs of Worn or Damaged Tyres

July 1, 2024

Intact tyres are essential for safe driving on the road. When tyres are damaged or overly worn, they don’t function correctly, which can lead to safety risks. In addition, driving on worn or damaged tyres can lead to damage to other parts of your vehicle, such as to your wheels and suspension. So to stay safe and avoid costly vehicle repairs, it’s a wise idea to check your tyres to ensure they’re in prime condition.

But how do you know if your tyres are damaged or worn out? And if they are, does it mean you absolutely have to buy new tyres?

In this article, we’ll talk about how you can do your own tyre checks to spot damage and advanced tread wear. We’ll also run through the types of damage you might encounter, how to spot it, how it occurs, and whether or not you have to start looking at new tyre sales straightaway!

Let’s look at some things you need to watch out for when assessing your tyres for wear and damage.

Worn Out Tyre Tread

A tyre’s tread creates grip and traction on the road, and also helps to disperse water from the tyre when driving on wet roads (water enters the channels in the tread, then drains away, rather than staying on the surface of the tyre and causing sliding.)

Tyre tread is particularly important for situations where you’re driving in challenging conditions, such as on wet roads, mud, gravel or snow. Depending on how you drive, and where, you would choose tyre tread suited to the driving conditions. (If you aren’t sure which tread to opt for when you buy new tyres, Jim’s Mobile Tyres can help.)

There’s a minimum allowable tyre tread depth in Australia of 1.6mm. Tread depth less than this is not considered safe. Do you wait till your tread depth hits the 1.6 mm minimum? No. It’s generally suggested you buy new tyres when tread depth reaches 3mm.                                                                                       

How to check tyre tread depth

Firstly, ensure your car is parked in a safe location and that the handbrake is on. You can then check the tread depth in the following ways:

  • Look at the tread wear indicators on your tyres. These are the little blocks that sit within the tyre tread. Once the tread wears down to level with the indicators, your tyres have reached minimum depth and you should buy new tyres.
  • An alternative way to check tyre tread depth is to place a 20 cent coin in the tyre tread groove. Look for the platypus’s bill. If you can’t see it, it means your tread is deeper than 3mm, and you don’t need to worry about buying new tyres for now. If you can see the platypus’ bill, get your tyres assessed. You’ll likely need to buy new tyres.
  • If you don’t have a coin on hand, there are a range of tyre tread depth gauges available online, or check with your local auto parts store. (You could also use a ruler or tape measure to mark 3 mm and 1.6 mm on a piece of paper or cardboard, and use that as a DIY indicator.)

When checking tyre tread depth, it’s important to check the tread on all areas of each tyre, so that you can be sure the tyre wear is evenly distributed. If it’s not, it might be a sign of another problem.

Checking for tyre damage

There are a range of checks you can do on your tyres to identify damage, however it’s worth noting that the only way to do a thorough check is to remove the tyre from the vehicle first. This way, the entire surface of the tyre can be inspected by sight and feel. Checking tyres whilst they’re on your vehicle is still worth doing, but you might miss things. A professional tyre inspection service is your best bet for checking tyres.

Types of tyre damage

Here are some common types of tyre damage, how to identify them, how they occur, and why they’re detrimental:

Cuts

Cuts to a tyre usually occur when you’ve driven over some kind of debris, like glass, sharp metal objects, or stones. Driving over a pothole or over the curb can also result in a cut. 

Cuts, no matter how small, can be a concern, as inner layers of the tyre may become exposed to the road. Over time (or even immediately following the cut), the structure of your tyre is weakened, and you’re more at risk of experiencing a tyre blowout. So, if you notice a cut, get it assessed by a tyre professional ASAP.

How can you tell if your tyre has been cut? It’s not always easy. Certainly, if the cut is on the external-facing sidewall of your tyre, it’ll be easier to spot than on the internal-facing side. Cuts and cracks may also occur on the centre part of the tyre, and this can be difficult to observe without removing the tyre and giving it a thorough inspection. That’s why it’s a good idea to arrange a regular professional inspection of your tyres.

Does a cut mean you need to start hunting around for new tyre sales? Possibly. 

A small, superficial cut to a tread block that doesn’t extend beyond the treadwear indicator may not be too much of a problem, however it’s not always easy to see how deep the cut is. If the cut is on the sidewall of your tyre, this poses more of a risk, and it’s more likely you’ll need to replace the tyre.

Bulges

Bulges or blisters form when the inner layers of a tyre are damaged, allowing air from within the tyre to seep into the outer layers. Bulges can be caused by hitting a pothole, curb, or by encountering other damaging objects on the road. 

A bulge in your tyre is a sign the tyre has failed, and there’s a high risk of a blowout. You should not continue to drive on it, and should start the process of organising a replacement tyre.

How do you identify a bulge in your tyre? Initially, you may not see it, but as you drive on it more, the bulge will become more pronounced. Firstly, if you’ve driven over something and you’re concerned about tyre damage, do a visual inspection of your tyres, and also run your hand across the entire surface of the tyre to see if you can feel any unusual lumps. As we said earlier, a thorough inspection is only really possible if the tyre is removed from your vehicle, so the easiest way to check for bulges is to get a tyre professional to do it.

Cracks

There are a number of culprits when it comes to cracks appearing in your tyres. The main ones are exposure to sunlight (UV), road heat, harsh weather conditions, incorrect tyre pressure and ageing.

Like cuts, cracks can lead to further weakening of your tyre, and moisture can enter the tyre, further damaging the internal structure of the tyre. All of this can result in eventual tyre failure.

Similarly to checking for bulges and cuts, look over the entire surface of your tyre for any cracks. Even if they are very small, they are worth keeping an eye on. Sometimes, a fine crack in a tyre tread block will not be a major cause for concern, however if the crack extends deeper than the tread indicator bars, you need to have it urgently assessed and will likely need to replace the tyre.

Irregular Wear

When there’s irregular wear on your tyres, it can be a sign of underlying concerns with your vehicle’s suspension or wheel alignment. It can also be a sign you’ve been driving with inappropriate tyre pressure. 

Irregular wear can appear on different parts of the tyre, depending on the factors causing the excessive wear.

Centre Wear

If your tyre has centre wear, you’ll see that the tread has worn more in the middle of the tyre than it has on its edges—the surface at the centre will be smoother and have less remaining tread than the tyre’s outer edges. 

This type of wear occurs when the tyre’s centre bears more load than the outer edges, and is usually caused by tyre overinflation, though there may be other causes. 

When the entire surface of the tyre does not meet the road, overall traction is reduced. This increases the chance of hydroplaning when driving on wet or slippery surfaces, and will also reduce the lifespan of your tyre. Add to that, overinflated tyres can increase the risk of a tyre blowout.

Heel and Toe Wear

Heel and toe wear occurs when one end of the tread block wears faster than the other. (You’ll notice one side of each of the tread blocks is lower than the other.) 

This type of wear is often due to wheel misalignment or issues with your vehicle’s suspension. 

When tread blocks wear unevenly, not only can you experience vibrations and noise whilst driving, but your tyres aren’t connecting with the road in an optimal fashion, and this will reduce their lifespan.

One-Sided Wear

If you notice extra wear on one particular side of your tyres, this is known as one-sided wear. It’s often the result of incorrect camber settings. The camber is the angle at which the tyre and wheel assembly tilt inward or outward (when viewed from the front of the vehicle). 

Your vehicle’s manufacturer will recommend a particular camber alignment for your vehicle, and if this is not followed, the tyres may lean too much to one side, and your tyres will suffer wear on one side.

One-sided wear will impact how your vehicle handles, especially during turns. In addition, it will reduce the lifespan of your tyres, so it’s important to get this addressed.

Edge wear

If you notice the tread on the edges of your tyres wearing out faster than the tread in the centre, it’s likely you‘re driving on underinflated tyres. Too little air pressure means the outer edges of your tyres are taking excessive weight. 

In addition to the risk of tyre blowouts and premature wear, tyres with too little air pressure increase your rolling distance, reducing safety when you need to quickly stop. Underinflation can also cause excess heat in your tyres, further eroding their surface, and finally, can reduce fuel efficiency on a drive.

How to prevent tyre damage and premature wear

You can prevent premature wear of your tyres and tyre damage by doing the following:

  • Ensure your wheels are properly aligned. Wheel alignment can be adjusted by an auto-mechanic, however a tyre expert at Jim’s Mobile Tyres can identify signs your wheel alignment needs checking.
  • Rotate your tyres at regular intervals, so they wear evenly. This means tyres are removed from the axle on one side (either left or right), and placed back on the same axle, at the other end of the vehicle. The spare tyre should be considered in this rotation schedule.

    It’s not easy to complete a tyre rotation at home, so most people organise for a tyre technician to handle this. (Jim’s Mobile Tyres handle tyre rotations at your chosen location.)
  • Drive moderately—avoid high-speed driving, sudden braking and sudden acceleration if possible, as all these things wear down your tyres.
  • Avoid driving with under or overinflated tyres. Ensure your tyres are appropriately inflated for the driving conditions. For information on checking tyre pressure, see this article: How to get ideal tyre pressure for your car?
  • Avoid driving over obstacles like potholes and the curb. If you can’t avoid an obstacle, slow down before you drive over it, and try to approach it as close to perpendicular as possible.
  • Avoid driving in areas where you might expect there to be debris, such as in construction zones, or on surfaces where you can’t see what’s on the ground. Be especially wary of your own driveway, especially if you’ve been doing any home renovations, as there will possibly be nails and screws about the place.
  • Regularly check your tyres yourself, and if you don’t have the time, (or you’re not sure you’ll do a thorough job), contact Jim’s Mobile Tyres and we’ll assess your tyres for you.

Do I need to buy new tyres if my tyres are damaged?

You don’t need to start looking at new tyre sales simply because your tyres have worn down a little, or because you have a tyre puncture. In many cases, tyre punctures can be repaired, and a certain level of tread wear is acceptable. It’s when the wear passes a certain threshold, or when a tyre ‘injury’ can’t be repaired, that you need to buy new tyres.

So in essence, it’s important to check your tyres regularly for damage, and take steps to rectify issues you come across. And remember, this doesn’t always mean you need to start looking at new tyre sales! 

Conclusion

Replacing tyres isn’t cheap, so it’s important to keep your tyres in their best condition so they last as long as possible. Regular tyre inspections will ensure that any damage to your tyres can be identified before it worsens, and before your safety on the road is compromised. 

If you keep an eye out for the abovementioned signs of wear and tear (or you get a tyre specialist to inspect your tyres for you), you can get the most life out of your tyres, as well as improve fuel efficiency, and prevent damage to your vehicle’s suspension and to your wheels.

How Jim’s Mobile Tyres can help

Jim’s Mobile Tyres offer tyre inspections, rotations, puncture repairs, pressure checks, and new tyre fittings. We also stock a large range of tyres from quality brands. So if you need to buy new tyres, don’t worry about working out which is the best tyre for your vehicle and spending your time shopping around for new tyre sales. Instead, the experts at Jim’s can do it all for you! We can match you with tyres as similar as possible to your original tyres, and discuss with you any particular driving habits and needs you’d like factored into the decision on which tyres to choose.

And if you need new tyres at affordable prices, it’s worth speaking to the team at Jim’s. We often run new tyre sales, which means great deals for our customers. Our new tyre sales range covers passenger and luxury cars, 4WDs, utility vehicles, and trucks of up to 5 tonne capacity. 

Contact us to find out about our monthly deals on new tyre sales and more!

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