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How to interpret tire wear indicator?

Auto Tips & Advice

Having the correct tires on your car is essential for staying safe on the roads when driving.

Furthermore, making sure these tires are in good condition is an essential part of regular car maintenance for safe driving. While multiple factors need to be taken into account when assessing the condition of your tires, from the signs of wear and tear to the state of the sidewall, one of the most important is the car tire tread depth.


  • A tread that’s below the legal minimum tire tread depth (2/32 of an inch or 1.6mm for cars)
  • Visible tears, cracks or cuts in the sidewall of the tire
  • Stains or discolouration on the tire
  • Unusual bulges, or deformed parts of the sidewall, tire wearing on outside
  • Exposed or damaged bead wire
  • Separated tread, or split tire elements

What is a tire wear indicator?

Tire tread wear indicators are marks spaced evenly along the tire tread, so you’re able to identify how much of the tire tread depth has worn down. On MICHELIN’s tires for passenger cars, a Michelin Man figure is embossed onto the tires to make it easy to see where the tire tread depth indicators are. This way, you can quickly identify if the tread is too worn down when checking your tires.

tire wear indicator

On Michelin’s latest tires, you may also find other types of innovative tread wear indicators, such as Wear2Check.

Once the tire has worn down to the level of the tire wear indicator, the tread is at the legal tread wear limit of 2/32 of an inch (1.6mm), and must be changed. 

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How can I check my tire tread depth using a tire wear indicator?

Give yourself easy access to your tires by parking on a flat surface in a wide, open space with limited traffic, such as at home or in a car park. Switch off the engine, and make sure the handbrake is on.

Locate the tire tread wear indicators to know if you have reached the legal limit tread depth. If necessary, use a tread depth gauge to accurately check the current tread depth. This is a simple tool designed to measure car tire treads. Check in multiple places, all across the tire, in case of uneven wear. 

tire wear indicator3

While you’re at it, you might also want to take the opportunity to look all over the tires for the signs of wear listed in the checklist above – tire wear can come in many different forms, including along the middle and in isolated spots.

You should also have your tires checked regularly by a professional, who can look inside for signs of damage and wear as well as checking the outside. 

See also our article on how to check your tires’ tread.  

When to replace tires?

Although it may seem like a good idea to change your tires when they begin to wear down and before reaching the legal limit tread depth, this is costly, unnecessary and can have a negative impact on the environment. On that matter, Michelin’s keeps innovating to offer tires that can be safely used for as long as possible, until the legal tread wear limit. Thanks to Michelin’s Performance Made to Last, excellent longevity meets a high level of performance, from the first to the last mile.

However, once they reach a tread depth of 2/32 of an inch (1.6mm), it’s important to replace tires as soon as possible to ensure maximum safety on the roads, as well as remaining law-compliant. If you have any concerns about your tires, or are worried that they are wearing down too quickly, make sure to have them checked over by a professional as soon as possible. 

Knowing when to replace your tires | Michelin Garage

What are the risks of driving with shallow tire tread depth?

Although it's normal for tire tread to wear down and become shallower over time, checking the depth regularly means you can stay ahead of any potential problems, particularly if you discover your tires are wearing down irregularly or too rapidly.

If you have too little tread on your tires, this can make it harder for your tires to grip the road, and could potentially put you and other motorists at risk. This is particularly problematic in wet weather, when you need to keep as much grip on the road as possible to keep control of the vehicle and minimize the risks of aquaplaning.

As well as making driving more difficult as the car is less able to grip the road, driving with bald tires, that is with a tread depth below the legal minimum of 2/32 of an inch (1.6mm) is illegal, and could incur a fine.

Are there any common causes of early tire tread wear?

It’s important to remember that there are also different types of tire tread wear, depending on the cause. Here is an exhaustive overview of common causes and different types of early tire tread wear :

• Underinflated tires : creates uneven tire wear on outside edges of the
• Overinflated tire : causes early tread wear on the centre of the tire
• Improper camber setting : make the tire wear on either the inside or outside shoulder of the tread

When this occurs, drive to a garage nearby to seek professional advice.

What can I do to prevent tire tread wear and prolong the life of my tires?

As a driver, you actually have quite a lot of control over how quickly your tires wear down. That’s why it’s important to keep some essential factors in mind when driving to make your tires last as long as possible.

One of the key elements is ensuring the correct pressure for the load of the car and not going over the maximum load capacity advised by your manufacturer, as this can put unnecessary excessive pressure on your tires. This information will be available on the valve of your gas tank, on the label in the driver’s door, in your car manual or car manufacturer's guide.

When driving, you should avoid sudden braking or accelerating too quickly, as well as avoiding driving quickly over obstacles that might impact your tires such as potholes, speed bumps and curbs. Finally, you should regularly check the condition of your car, making sure the tires are correctly inflated and that the wheels are aligned too.

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