What Are Tire Wear Bars? (How To Read Them + Meanings)

When tires start to wear, they leave tell-tale signs to show how close you are to needing new tires. Tire wear bars are one of the indicators that can help you make an educated guess when it’s time to see the tire man.

If you want to learn more on how to visually use these tire wear bars and other techniques to know what kind of shape your tires are in, read this article.

What Are Tire Wear Bars?

Tire wear bars are raised indicators that sit in between the tread of your tires and are lower than the actual tread. As the tread wears down, the more noticeable the tire indicators become. When the tread starts to get even with the indicators, that lets you know you’re about ready for a new set of tires.

Do you need to know how to check your tires for tire wear and how to tell if they need to be changed? This article will teach you about tire wear bars, what they are and how to use them!

Where Can I Find The Tire Wear Bars?

Tire wear bars are conveniently located in between the tire tread grooves.

Around the surface of your tire, you will find raised grooves that are set to run in the opposite direction as the tread grooves (cross pattern).

They should be located inside of each groove pattern and are purposely lower than the initial tread pattern.

Side note: The below video walks you through how to find the tire wear bars and their different meanings.

What Does It Mean When The Wear Bars Are The Same Size Or Higher Then The Tread?

If your wear bars are just slightly lower than your main tread pattern, it’s time to put new tires on your list of things to do.

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If the wear bars are just about even, or even worse, lower than your tread pattern, you need to get some new tires almost immediately.

What If Only One Side Of My Tire Is Showing A Wear Pattern?

This is usually a problem your front tires will experience.

If one side of a front tire is wearing down faster than the other, then you don’t have a tire wear problem, you have a front-end alignment problem.

If you can catch this problem fast enough, you might not need new tires.

Unfortunately, if you don’t and the tire bars are only showing on one side of a tire, then you need a front-end alignment and a set of front tires.

What If I Can’t Find Tire Wear Bars On My Tire?

It is entirely possible that your tires don’t have tire wear bars. It’s not a Department Of Transportation (DOT) regularization. So there are other ways to let you know if you’re about ready for newer tires.

A depth gauge can tell you where your tire tread stands at. Anything less than 2/32 of thread is not enough tread to be driving on.

You can also do a popular tread depth check with a penny. You can stick a penny inside the tread up-side-down with Abraham Lincoln’s head facing you.

If any part of Lincoln’s head is visible, you don’t have 2/32 of an inch of tread on your tire.

How Long Will It Take Before My Tire Wear Bars Start To Show?

This isn’t a question that can be answered straightforwardly. You will find that most tires will come with a warranty. That warranty will be based on the tires name, make, and brand, and how it has shown to perform in tests.

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Some brands can last up to 80,000 miles if taken care of properly, and some brands can only go for about 30,000 miles even when taken care of properly.

To find out what kind of tire you’re getting and how long they are expected to last, get with a sales rep to receive manufacturer specifications.

All specifications will still be an estimate but a close one nonetheless. If you have your tires serviced regularly and you drive normally, your tires should fall right into the manufacturers specification range.

Do I Have To Change My Tires Even If My Tires Aren’t Showing Tire Wear Bars? 

Do I Have To Change My Tires Even If My Tires Aren’t Showing Tire Wear Bars? 

There are a lot of people who believe that if they don’t drive their vehicles that much, they don’t have to replace tires as long as there is plenty of thread on them.

This is actually not true. It is recommended that all tires get swapped out after a ten-year period. Just because your tread may look good, does not mean that the rest of your tire doesn’t have aging problems.

Vehicles that sit for a long period of time can get flat spots on their tires. The weather elements can cause corrosion to the sidewalls, and who knows what’s going on inside of the tire that you can’t see.

It is just a good rule of thumb to have your tires changed after 10 years. If you don’t know how long the tires on your vehicle have been on there, a code on the sidewall of your tire will let your technician know the week and year the tire was manufactured.

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Why Should I Know A Little About Tire Wear Bars?

First, you should always be aware of your vehicle’s condition. It’s for your safety, your passenger’s safety, and the safety of other drivers and pedestrians.

Also, salespeople work off of commission, and tire techs don’t get paid unless they work.

I’d say 98-percent of automotive workers are as honest as can be, but there will always be that small population that might try to sell you something you just don’t need.

To know more, you can also read our posts on why do tires have treads, how long do spare tires last, and which tires wear faster.


Tire wear bars are put on your tires for a reason. Use them so you can know when it is time to start thinking about getting a set of new tires.

This is one of those things that drivers can forget to do, but you should at least take a peek at them at the beginning of each season or have a tire tech do it for you.

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