Why Do Tires Wear in Different Patterns?
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Why Do Tires Wear in Different Patterns?

You may have heard of “reading” spark plugs to tell the condition of your engine, but did you know you can also find problems with your tires, wheels, and suspension by the wear patterns of your tires? Here are some of the most common wear patterns and what they indicate.

Bald at the Center of the Tread

Over-inflation can cause the tread to bow outward so only the center of the tread contacts the road. This tread wear can also be caused by using a tire that is far too wide for the wheel.

Bald at the Edges of the Tread

Under inflation can increase sidewall flex, allowing the outer edges of the tread to contact the road. Suspension problems including bent or worn components can also cause this type of wear and is usually combined with changes in the vehicle’s handling characteristics.

Feathering

If the tread blocks are rounded off on one side and sharp on the other, the toe is incorrect, causing the tire to rub as it rolls down the road. If this still occurs after an alignment, worn suspension bushings may be pushing the tire out of position when the car is on the road.

Wear on One Side

Excessive camber can cause the wheel to tilt in our out, moving the contact patch to one side of the tire. As with other tread issues, this might be fixed by an alignment, but worn springs, ball joints or control arm bushings could be pushing the wheel out of alignment on the road.

Cupping

These dips and scallops are caused by worn or damaged suspension components that are unable to maintain even tire contact with the road.


Bald Spots

If driven long enough, an unbalanced tire can wear in spots that experience the most force as the wheel shakes down the road. These same forces can be exerted by the springs if the shocks are worn out and can’t keep rebound under control.

Wear Around the Edges of the Front Tires

Driving through curves puts extra stress on the outer edges of the tires as the vehicle load shifts and the steering angle changes. If you’re not going to give up spirited driving, keep the tires rotated to help spread the wear.

Sawtooth Shaped Tread Wear on the Rear Tires

The rear tires shift around as they go around corners, causing this type of uneven wear, especially on front wheel drive cars with solid axle rear suspensions. This wear pattern will increase if the suspension is out of alignment, while tire rotation will keep any pair of tires from getting too much wear.

Second Rib Wear

The treads on radial tires are backed by steel belts that overlap each other. These overlap points can experience more wear than the rest of the tire. Some difference is normal, but this problem can be mostly eliminated by rotating the tires regularly to shift the load on the tread.

Cracking

Today, tires last long enough that they will need to be replaced due to age rather than mileage. After years of exposure to UV light, changing temperatures and road debris, cracks can form on the tire. These are usually first seen in the spaces between the tread blocks. Most manufacturers recommend having tires inspected after 5 or 6 years of use and replacing them if any signs of cracking are present, and replacement of any tire after 10 years regardless of wear. To find out how old your tires are, look at the sidewall for the letters “DOT” followed by four numbers. These numbers indicate the week and year the tire was manufactured: if it was made during the last week of 2016, it will be stamped “5216.” It may be months or even years between the manufacture and use of a tire, but a tire in a warehouse will age slower than one on a vehicle.

How Do I Fix These Issues?

Rotating tires and keeping the tire pressure correct is easy, but when it comes to more complex problems like wheel alignments, you should have your vehicle checked out by a professional. When you think “auto body,” you probably think of painting and body panel repair. However, Merton Auto Body repairs all collision damage, which means we can not only align your car’s suspension, we can also address frame twisting and other problems that are causing uneven tread wear.

 

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