How do I know when my tyres are worn?

Changing a tyre
Tyre changing

Always relied upon – yet so frequently neglected – tyres are the only point of contact between you and the road. It, more than anything, dictates your safety during cornering and braking, especially in wet weather. But many people don’t even know how to tell if their tyres are worn out.  Stop in at any of our car servicing centres and it won’t take our experts 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 you should do is have a quick overview of the entire tyre. While the average new passenger tyre has between 8-12mm of tread depending on the tyre’s size, the minimum standard is 1.5mm of tread. Less than this amount and you could actually be fined.

When you look for minimum tread, remember that this applies to the lowest level of tread you can find, not the highest. Some tyres can have irregular wear, especially if your wheel alignment or air pressure hasn’t been accurate. You need to gauge by the worst results you can find. Remember, it’s your life and the lives of those around you that tyre failure can have a devastating impact on.

tyre wear patterns

Measuring a tyre’s wear is a fairly simple process. Tyre manufacturers build a ‘tread wear indicator’ into all passenger and 4x4 tyres. This indicator can be found between the ridges of the tread of the tyre, which you can see in the example below:


tyre wear indicator

Sometimes these little ridges can be hard to find, particularly if your car is low to the ground and has low-profile tyres. If you can’t see the face of the tyre, manufacturers 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 photo:

tyre wear indicator on tyres

These marks 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 1.5mm 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 pays to change them early. Studies have confirmed that your stopping distance increases dramatically with every millimetre of tread that wears off your tyres. So, changing your tyres before they’re totally worn-out is the best policy.

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NRMA Members always save 10% off the total bill at NRMA car servicing**

*10% discount off the price for all tyres is available to NRMA members only for a limited time. The 10% discounted is calculated off the full invoice price excluding GST. Offer can only be redeemed via NRMA car servicing centres or NRMA mobile service in NSW. Offer is not transferable for cash. NRMA reserves the right to terminate this offer at our discretion. Standard NRMA car servicing terms and conditions apply, available at nrmamotorserve.com.au/warranty. MotorServe Pty Ltd trading as NRMA Car Servicing ABN 41 121 715 393 license number MVRL43713