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What are Tread Wear Indicators?

Sonia Nair
Regular monitoring of tread wear indicators is one of the best methods to figure out the degree of wear and tear in tires.
Driving a vehicle with worn-out tires can be very risky. Periodic inspection of the tires can help you in determining their condition, and decide whether to replace them or not. A superficial inspection may not be sufficient to understand the actual condition of automobile tires. Tread wear indicators are meant for this purpose.
They are raised sections, that are molded into the grooves of tires. These indicators or bars made of hard rubber are located across the tread pattern, and are not visible in new tires. They become visible, as the tire wears down. Thus, we can assess the degree of wear of tear, by inspecting the tread wear indicators.
Nowadays, most of the automobiles are fitted with tires that come with tread wear indicators. Each tire has several such indicators, that have approximately 1.6 mm of height. They act like a monitoring system, that can help you find out when to replace tires.

How to Read Tread Wear Indicators

Each tire has several bars of hard rubber, molded in between the treads. These bars are located along circumference of the tire. Using these indicators is one of the easiest methods to determine the condition of the tire.
As per the current standards, the tread wear indicators become visible only when the tread gets worn down to 1/16 of an inch. You can measure the depth of the tread with a ruler to determine whether the tire has to be replaced or not.
If the depth is more than 1/16 of an inch, then, there is no need of immediate tire replacement. If the depth is nearer to 1/16 of an inch, then, you have to get new tires in the near future. If it is lower than 1/16 of an inch, immediate tire replacement is necessary.
However, there are various other factors, that have to be taken into consideration, while reading these indicators. The tread depth has to be taken at several different points along the circumference of the tire, because, it may happen that the wear and tear is concentrated on some locations only.
In such cases, wheel alignment can be done. If the wear and tear is uniform, then replacement is required. The visibility of two to three tread wear indicator bars on different locations, that are at least less than 120 degrees apart on the circumference of the tire, means that tire replacement is necessary.
Now, you know how to interpret tread wear indicators on a tire, in order to determine its condition. This built-in tire monitoring system is one of the easiest methods to find out the degree of wear and tear on tires. So, don't forget to inspect your tires, at least once in a month.