In the past, tire shaving, or purposely reducing tread depth on a tire, was a service intended to save you money and extend the performance or life of your tires. It might
seem crazy, but it’s true. It’s essential, however, that tire shaving be done by
professionals in an appropriate and controlled environment.
ARE THERE BENEFITS TO TIRE SHAVING?
You’ve probably had your tires rotated. You know this helps maintain even tread depth
on all the tires, ensures reliable handling, and preserves tread life. It makes sense to do
this every so often and some shops will even offer it free.
Tire shaving can make sense in certain circumstances. For example, let’s say you get a
flat tire and need to replace it. Your other tires are only worn about 30%, but that’s a big
difference for your vehicle.
What do you do? Get four new tires? For customers that don’t want to go through that
process, tire shaving has been an alternative—the benefits being a lower cost and a full
life for your other three tires.
Tire Shaving for Four-Wheel Drive and All Wheel Drive
Tread depth affects tire rotation speeds. For four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive
vehicles, this is a big deal. Different rotation speeds strain the driveline.
Now, vehicles have viscous couplings that allow for differences in wheel speeds (think
slipping on a wet spot in the road), but this feature is only meant to account for a
momentary difference in tire rotation speed. If this condition persists, as would happen
with uneven or mismatched tires, they wear out, and uneven tire use would constitute
This is why tire inflation is important. It’s why tire rotation is valuable. And it’s why you
must have four tires with even tread wear.
So, if you need to replace a flat tire, but the rest of your tires are relatively new or up to
½ warn, tire shaving may be a cost-effective solution.
Tire Shaving for Racing
Tire shaving four new tires often improves performance in competition, track use, or
autocross racing. New treads have more give, or squirm, due to greater tread depth and
any small elements on the tire meant to improve wet traction. This give decreases
performance in dry racing conditions. Most tires give the best dry performance right as
they’re going to wear out as they have less tread and therefore less flex.
Another reason tire shaving has been popular for racing has to do with the rubber
compounds. Driving heats up tires. This heats special bonding agents in the rubber
compounds which causes the tire to harden a little when it cools. In time, the tire
becomes hard and inflexible.
Shaving a new set of tires for racing produces the best track performance immediately.
The reduced tread height decreases flex. This gives the vehicle better grip. As the
rubber is still new, it’s still flexible for increased friction and performance.
How Far Should a Tire be Shaved?
For four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles, a tire should be shaved to match the
tread depth of the other tires. This should never be lower than 4/32” of depth or a little
more than 50% of the tread depth. Realistically, at this depth, you’ve only got 2/32” of
depth left before the tire is no longer drivable, so it makes more sense to replace the
tires for the best value and overall safety.
Questions? Any of our tire professionals will be happy to provide answers.
For racing or high performance, most experts recommend 4/32” for maximum
performance. For a little more tire life, it might make sense to shave them to 6/32” which
still gives an improved performance. Some brands manufacture tires to 4/32” for track or
Need racing tires? Our team can match you with the exact tires suited for your specific