Today's tire consists of about 43 percent rubber—some natural and some synthetic. The balance is made up of metal and other compounds. Tires are fundamental in supporting a vehicle and its load while steering and braking.
Tires wear down normally over time, but when their life is unusually cut short, you need to determine why.
This article discusses the probable causes and remedies for this occasionally neglected, but extremely essential, safety item.
What Causes Uneven Tire Wear?
The most common reasons for uneven tire wear are improper inflation of tires, bad wheel alignment, bent or broken wheel rims, or unbalanced wheels.
Improper Inflation of Tires
Under or over-inflated tires typically cause irregular wear across the widths of their tread. An overinflated tire will wear in the center of the tread, while an underinflated one will wear more on the two sides than in the center.
The best way to avoid uneven tire wear is to check their pressure at least once a month and make adjustments accordingly. Properly inflated tires will also help maximize your gas consumption.
Inflation according to manufacturer specs will prevent any irregular wear from continuing. You can find these tire pressure recommendations either in the owner's manual or on a label usually affixed on the inside of the driver's side door.
Bad Wheel Alignment
The wheels on your car are independently attached through an intricate suspension system with numerous interconnected links and many adjustment points.
Each of these adjustments should be set to the manufacturers' specs to ensure proper alignment of your wheels. Any improper alignment adjustment will result in multiple different patterns of irregular tire wear.
Bent or Broken Wheels
Common driving hazards, such as nicking a pavement or driving through a pothole, may cause a steel wheel rim to bend, dent, or can even cause a crack—in the case of an alloy wheel—to form in a portion of the wheel.
Any of these instances could cause vibrations in the tire as it rotates, resulting in irregular tire tread wear. Once you’ve noticed any uneven tire wear, have a technician examine that wheel for bends, dents, or breaks.
Uneven tire wear also occurs when your wheel and tire combination is not balanced. Any unbalance results in vibration; the wheel and tire will not rotate smoothly about the axle and bounce up and down or teeter from side-to-side as it turns. To fix this, a technician should manually balance your wheel and tire assembly.
How to Fix/Prevent Uneven Tire Wear
We have compiled a list of suggestions of what to do and what to look out for when it comes to uneven tire wear.
1. Avoid Potholes and Bumping into Curbs
Hitting a pothole or curb can puncture your tire, bend or crack your wheel, and also damage your tire's belts or sidewall. A minor impact may even knock your wheel out of alignment. A pothole strike could damage your shocks, struts, or suspension.
After hitting a pothole, check your tire for any of the following signs of damage.
- A bulge on the sidewall may indicate that the tire was pinched between the pothole's lip and the wheel, causing the tire's internal plies to be severed or weakened.
- The vehicle pulls to one side or the other, and the steering is no longer centered. The impact may have affected the alignment or damaged a suspension or steering component.
- You feel vibrations that weren't there before.
- There may be a new noise when moving. Something might have been damaged or moved and could be rubbing on the tire and wheel assembly.
- A warning light appears.
2. Feel/Check Tires Regularly
Tires are one of the many important parts of your vehicle. Besides regular visual checks of the condition and wear, you need to feel for possible defects or potential problems. These often occur in places that you can’t see. The video that follows will give you some guidance on this often overlooked aspect:
3. Check Cold Tire Pressures
Cold tire pressure is the tires' inflation pressure before you drive the car and the tires warm up. Recommended cold inflation pressure is shown in the owner's manual, inside the driver’s door, or the fuel filler cap.
4. Check Alignment Regularly
As already mentioned, wheel alignment is an integral part of car maintenance. It refers to the direction or angle at which your tires are set, known as toe, caster, and camber. Your wheels should be independently aligned to a position as specified by your vehicle's manufacturer.
Poorly aligned tires can affect your vehicle's road-holding, lessen the life of your tires, and affect your braking distance and gas consumption.
The following video is an excellent explanation of wheel alignment.
5. Rotate Tires During Oil Changes
Tires on a vehicle usually wear at different rates. To ensure that tires wear as evenly as possible, they should be occasionally rotated or switched around. Each car owner's manual should contain a tire rotation schedule, but the consensus is that you should rotate your tires simultaneously as you change your car’s oil.
One vital thing to bear in mind when rotating tires is that some have been designed to turn in the same direction. If your tires are directional, you should only rotate them from front to back (or vice-versa) on the same side of the vehicle.
We have included the following video to illustrate the importance of tire rotation:
Safety Risks of Uneven Tire Wear
Let's discuss some of the safety issues regarding tires:
Don't Drive a Car on a Flat Tire
You won't only ruin the tire while driving on it; your car won’t feel the same afterward. Just do it to get out of a dangerous situation if needed.
An ill-advised concept is that overinflated tires will reduce the rolling resistance of tires on the road to increase fuel efficiency. While this might have some truth to it, the likelihood of tires bursting increases, and you will have a lot less traction/stability. This practice is, therefore, not recommended.
Besides increasing your gas bill, underinflated tires have negative safety implications, such as the increased risk of a blowout when hitting a curb or pothole. The air pressure in a tire also fluctuates depending on temperature changes outside.
Uneven Tire Wear Can Be a Sign of Something Serious
As soon as you see any sign of uneven wear on one or more of your tires, please take it as a warning that your vehicle may be unsafe. Immediately check for all possible causes.
Inflate Tires According To Vehicle Load
When loading your vehicle—with family and everything but the kitchen sink—to go on vacation or something similar, please bear in mind that the vehicle manufacturer recommends tire inflation to a slightly higher level than usual.
Tires Must Have Tread
Driving on worn tires has many inherent dangers and should never be attempted or practiced.
Always Have a Spare Tire
When checking the inflation of your vehicle's tires, be sure to include the spare. When using the spare to replace another tire, get the other tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
Tires are the only contact point between your car and good old mother earth, so they deserve plenty of attention and respect. Look after them, please.
People Also Ask
Unsafe tires cause many deaths and untold misery worldwide because they didn’t receive the proper attention. We provide answers to the following frequently asked questions.
Is it Bad to Drive With Uneven Tire Wear?
Uneven tire wear indicates that something on your vehicle isn’t correct, so, yes, it’s dangerous to drive with uneven tire wear. It can not only put your life in danger but that of others, too. Once noticed, you should immediately attempt to establish the cause.
What Does Uneven Tire Wear Sound Like?
A moving tire will always make a sound when in contact with a surface, whether it’s wearing normally or unevenly. You could mistake a sound from a faulty wheel bearing as coming from your tire, so it’s essential to check and feel your tires when hearing unusual sounds.
Can a Bad Wheel Bearing Cause Uneven Tire Wear?
A bad wheel bearing can cause uneven inner tire wear. Wheel bearings ensure that your tires spin continually with as little friction as possible. Some familiar sounds you might hear from a bad wheel bearing are humming, moaning, rough scraping, or high-pitched noises.
Can Uneven Tire Wear Cause Vibration When Braking?
Uneven tire wear can lead to vibration when braking but isn’t the only possible culprit. Other issues such as bad wheel alignment, bad wheel balancing, suspension problems, worn tie-rod bushings, or warped brake rotors can also cause vibration in the steering column that’s worse when braking.