You might not have realized it, but your tires are trying to tell you something. All you have to do to get the message is take the time every few thousand kilometres or so to look at your front and rear rubber to see how the tread is wearing. Individual tire wear patterns can tell you a lot about not just the condition of your tires, but whether your vehicle is properly aligned, and whether you have any suspension issues that may need to be addressed.
Here are four common types of tire wear, and explanations of what they could mean.
1. Wear along the edges
If your tire is showing you increased wear along both edges – outside and inside – simultaneously, with the middle of the tire featuring significantly less wear, this is an indicator that the tire is underinflated. Not keeping tires inflated to manufacturer specifications (which are listed in the owner’s manual, and occasionally also on the door jamb of the vehicle) is one of the most common causes of uneven tire wear. It’s caused by the tire bowing in the middle, causing the edges to make the most contact with the road. Underinflated tires are less efficient (causing your car to use extra fue l), and also not as good at gripping the asphalt as their tread patch doesn’t make full contact with the pavement.
2. Wear down the middle
On the opposite side of the coin are tires that show a strip of accelerated wear down the middle of their tread. This is a clear sign that there’s too much air in the tire: the tire is bulging in the middle and taking the brunt of the road along the center of the tread instead of spreading it evenly across the entire surface. Again, refer to manufacturer specifications, and reduce the amount of pressure in the tire to the recommended amount.
3. Wear along the inside or outside
If your tire is showing a strip of wear along either the inside or the outside of the tire – not both sides – usually means that your car’s front suspension is not properly aligned. When driving at speed, the tire is oriented so that one side or the other is in greater contact with the road, while the opposite end of the tread is bearing much less of a load. Have your car professionally aligned in order to fix this issue before it ruins the tire.
4. Uneven patches or feathering
Scuffs of wear, located uniformly or seemingly randomly along the surface of the tire, are most often indicators of a suspension problem that is causing the tire to ‘skip’ along the surface of the road in certain driving situations. It could be a bad shock absorber, a failed spring, or a joint in the suspension that simply can’t keep the tire in constant contact with the pavement. This problem is also referred to as ‘feathering’. You should consult with a mechanic as soon as possible to diagnose the root of the issue before it becomes more serious.
Stay on top of what your tires are trying to tell you, and not only will you be safer on the road – but you’ll also know how much more life you can expect from you current set of tires, and plan out exactly when it’s time to purchase new rubber.