Your tires are your vehicle’s connection to the road. They provide the traction necessary for safe and reliable braking, steering and acceleration. The condition of your tires can have a significant impact on your safety as well as your gas mileage.
The condition of your tires is also important because it can affect the way you drive. If your tires are worn unevenly, for example, then your steering may feel strange and unpredictable at times. And if one tire has significantly more tread than the others, it could mean that you’re driving at an angle when you should be straight.
Here’s how to tell if alignment wear on tires is affecting your vehicle’s performance and safety:
Steering wheel vibration: If one of your tires has more tread than another, this may cause a vibration in the steering wheel when driving at speeds over 30 mph or so. This vibration might make it difficult to keep control of your vehicle while driving at high speeds or during turns.
Uneven tread wear: Uneven tread wear can indicate that there’s something wrong with your alignment — most likely due to improper alignment wear on tires or parts needing adjustment or replacement. Your tires will usually show signs of uneven tread wear after about 6 months or so of having an improperly aligned
Center Wear On Tires
Wheel Alignment And Tire Wear Patterns
If driving down a highway requires your steering wheel to be turned at a crazy angle, it may be time for an alignment check. Proper alignment makes driving safer, more comfortable, and less expensive. In this article we will discuss alignments and how they affect your vehicle.
Alignment refers to the relationship of your wheels to each other and the vehicle. Over time, wheels can slowly move out of position due to wear, impacts with potholes, rough driving, and even accidents. As this happens, you’ll notice some irregularities in your vehicle’s operation and handling.
The drift test
When you’re driving down a flat, level road, take your hands off the wheel for a second (with no other vehicles near you and not at high speed, of course). If the vehicle continues to drive straight, your alignment is in good shape. If it starts drifting to the right or left, then your alignment needs some attention. If you’re unfortunate enough to have to fight against your vehicle trying to make an undesired turn, then you need to fix your alignment immediately!
This simple test is just one of many that can provide vital information about your wheel alignment. Other signs that something is not lined up properly include vibrations, a steering wheel that is not straight even when the car is not turning, poor shock performance when hitting potholes, and reduced fuel economy.
Understanding wear patterns
Along with the performance testing, you can take a look at the wear patterns on your tires and learn what type of alignment issue exists. If you see a lot of wear on either the inside or outside edge when compared with the center, you have a camber issue. Smooth tread on one side of the tire and far less worn tread on the opposite side is evidence of a feathering issue, multiple problems with the suspension system. If the fronts of your tires are closer together than the backs of your tires, that likely means toe-in. While this sounds complex, what you need to take away from it is that poor alignment will reduce your tires’ useful life.
Other alignment benefits
Worn tires are bad enough, but there are other detriments to driving a poorly aligned vehicle. When tires are not aligned properly, it takes more energy to keep the vehicle moving in a straight line. Rather than spinning freely, wheels experience higher friction that robs them of momentum. This, in turn, demands more power from the engine to maintain a given speed. The end result is up to 10% higher fuel burn. Ensuring the wheels are aligned properly will eliminate this source of drag.
Fixing alignment will also produce a smoother ride. You may be surprised at how quiet and soft the ride feels after getting your wheels back in line. Additionally, handling will be greatly improved, giving you superior control in inclement weather or when avoiding hazards.
Overall you will also save money on vehicle maintenance. The amount of shock experienced by a misaligned vehicle far exceeds that of one that is in proper shape. Hitting potholes and bumps with bad alignment can cause damage to normally rugged suspension components. Fixing your alignment can mitigate this risk significantly.
If your vehicle keeps losing alignment, it may be time to look for something newer. We make sure that every vehicle has proper wheel alignment before it leaves the lot. We encourage you to take a look at our inventory of smooth-riding, straight-tracking vehicles.
HOW TO READ TIRE WEAR PATTERNS & IMPROVE YOUR SAFETY
Nine times out of ten, you can get an idea of how someone is doing by the expression on their face. Believe it or not, the same thing can be said for tires. Clues in tire wear patterns, like inner and outer wear, center wear, edge wear, cupping, and patchy wear, can help you understand the inner-workings of your vehicle—even if you aren’t a tire expert! Follow along as we teach you what to look for in your tire wear patterns, and then what you can do to help get them fixed. Let uneven tire wear run its course and you could be in for an unexpected tire failure when you least expect it.
INNER OR OUTER SHOULDER WEAR = MISALIGNMENT
If you examine your tire and discover that the inner or outer edge of the tire is wearing down faster than the rest of the tread, your vehicle’s wheel alignment is likely out of specification. This wear pattern indicates that your wheels are leaning too much to one side, which can typically be blamed on misalignment. Alignment problems can affect steering, suspension, and even your safety, so don’t waste time coming in for alignment services.
CENTER WEAR = OVER-INFLATION
If your tires are wearing down rapidly in the center of the tread, you may be driving on tires that are consistently over-inflated. When your tires are filled over the recommended pressure, they’ll ride along the center of the tread—this makes the center of the tread wear down much faster than the rest of the tire. Review your owner’s manual for the vehicle’s recommended tire pressure and check your tire pressure regularly!
EDGE SHOULDER WEAR = UNDER-INFLATION
In contrast to center wear, edge wear may occur when tires are under-inflated. If you’re driving on tires that are under-inflated, the edge of the tires will make the most contact with the road, causing the edges to wear down more quickly. Again, it’s important to check your owner’s manual to get the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle, then get in the habit of checking your tire pressure regularly! Wear on two shoulders can also indicate hard cornering or improper rotation.
CUPPING = SUSPENSION TROUBLES
If you notice that there are random smooth spots on your tire or little dips in the tread wear, the culprit could be your vehicle’s suspension system. More specifically, suspension parts are probably worn out or even bent out of shape. Could you have recently hit a curb or pothole? If you notice a cupping pattern or feel a slight rumbling sound when you drive, it’s important to get your suspension checked and replace any old or misshapen parts.
DIAGONAL, PATCHY WEAR = TIME FOR TIRE ROTATION
Patchy tire wear suggests your tires are out of balance. If you examine your tires and notice that the wear is uneven, it’s time to have your tires rotated and probably aligned! By regularly rotating your tires, you help prevent this uneven wear from worsening over time and you’ll extend the lifespan of your tires.
If you notice unusual wear patterns on your tires, the best thing to start with is an alignment check at your local Firestone Complete Auto Care. Compromised tires may cause car accidents—don’t put yourself or others at risk. Whether you need a quick tire pressure adjustment or a wheel alignment, you can be sure our technicians will take care of your tires.