Tires get us where we need to go, but they pay the ultimate price for doing so. It’s normal for tires to wear down over time and eventually require replacement. But, when you notice uneven tire wear, it’s a sign that there’s a larger problem.
Signs of Tire Wear
Knowing what to look for in tire wear can reveal all kinds of issues. Wear around only the inside or the outside indicates an alignment problem, and so does feathering. Wear around both the inside and the outside usually means underinflation, as this leaves the outside edges contacting the road. If only the inside tread is worn, that is a sign of over inflation. Cupping or scalloping patterns around the edge are indicative of worn or damaged suspension components.
Improperly balanced tires can result in bald spots that may stand alone or show up in different spots on the tire. Front tires wear down more quickly than rears because they bear the brunt of turning and the weight of the engine. If they’re on a front-wheel-drive vehicle, they’ll likely wear down even more quickly.
Wheels of Misfortune
How do these issues end up impacting wear, and what’s the big deal anyway?
For one thing, overinflation can make tires more prone to dangerous blow outs. Anything that affects your ability to steer is trouble, and if these issues are neglected, small problems can compound and create bigger problems with other components.
For instance, an alignment issue that’s causing feathering across your tread could be due to a worn tie rod end. In the worst-case scenario, the wheel assembly can break free, causing you to lose ability to steer the vehicle while you’re driving. It’s important to look out not only for signs of wear but also for unusual noises and vibrations.
Don’t Wear It Out
Once a tire is worn, repair isn’t an option, so prevention is always your best bet. This means keeping your tires properly inflated. The correct inflation levels can be found in your owner’s manual and on the tires themselves. Your dash may alert you when levels are low, but it’s still good practice to check regularly and make sure they’re even and at the same level. Pressure fluctuates with temperature, and improper inflation can limit your mpg and even pose a safety hazard.
Get a regular rotation to address uneven wear. Your vehicle’s suspension system has a number of components that can wear or fall out of adjustment, causing the steering to pull and the tires to overcompensate. Getting an alignment should fix this issue.
Lastly, be a defensive driver. Avoid hard stops, and watch out for road dangers such as potholes and parallel parking next to curbs.
With regular check-ins on your tires and suspension, you can stay on top of tire wear and any underlying problems that may accelerate it. Remember that preventative maintenance to identify and fix issues early is key to ensuring the safety and longevity of your tires.
Check out all the tire products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on uneven tire wear, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.