September 5, 2008
Tire Whisperer: How To Read Your Weird Wear Patterns
By Jen Dunnaway
With all the hype about gas mileage and tire inflation, everyone’s familiar with the kind of tire wear caused by overinflated and underinflated tires. But do you remember what your rollomundos can tell you about some of the less obvious suspension and alignment issues? Read on for a quick refresher.
Shoulder wear (outer edge more worn down than inner). Usually due to excessive positive camber—the wheel is angled inward from top to bottom. Check the alignment, but also look for thrashed control arm bushings, bad tie rod ends, and bent suspension parts or body structures (i.e., shock tower pushed out of place from crash damage). Shoulder wear can also be caused simply by frequent hard cornering. More…
Wear on the inside edge of the tire results from excessive negative camber. Check alignment, but also consider whether shock, struts, or springs needs replacing—a sagging suspension can cause wheels to squat out under the weight of the car, and if this is what’s going on, it’s futile to try to compensate with alignment.
Feathering: this refers to a specific kind of directional inner-edge wear—when you run your hand over it, it’ll feel smooth in one direction, rough in the other. It comes from the tires scrubbing due to an incorrect toe adjustment.
Cupping: this bumpy or scalloped tread pattern results from the tire dribbling up and down as it rolls down the road. A severely unbalanced wheel can be the culprit, but worn-out shocks are more likely.
"Heel and Toe" wear: this refers to a directional choppy or saw-toothed wear pattern where the leading edge of the tread block is rounded and the trailing edge is pointed, often leading to vibration or wheel-bearing-like noise. It’s most often seen in low-profile tires, particularly the rear tires of FWD vehicles. It can be prevented by rotating the tires regularly, though this won’t help much once the condition has already developed.
Well, I think that covers some of the more common ones. Got any tire wear issues and suspension fixes that aren’t mentioned here? Share them in the comments.
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