How to Recognize Different Kinds of Tire Wear

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Your tires are amazingly durable. You rely on them every day and yet few drivers even give them a second thought. If you experience a bumpier ride than usual or your handling feels off, it may not be an issue with the car itself but with your tires. Sometimes the wear on a tire’s tread will indeed point to an issue inside your car, and this article will help you identify different kinds of tire wear and their probable causes.

Wear on the Edges of Your Front Tires

Examine all four of your tires. If everything looks normal except for noticeable wear on the edges of your two front tires, the cause is very simple: You’re taking corners too fast. The fix is also easy: Slow down.

Wear in the Center of Your Tire

Look at your tire straight on. If the center of the tread is worn down but the sides are relatively untouched, the cause is consistent overinflation. Your air pressure is too high and as a consequence the tire is riding mainly on the center of your tread. Let some air out and make sure to always inflate to your manufacturer’s recommendations.

Wear on the Sides of Your Tire

This is just the reverse of the problem above: underinflation. If the center of your tire tread is normal but the sides show excess wear, your tire pressure is too low (this may also be the secret to your poor gas mileage). However, if you check your tire pressure and find that it’s where it’s supposed to be, the issue may be with your car. A bent steering component may be the culprit or it may be time to align your wheels.

Wear on One Side of Your Tire

This occurs when the wheel is leaning too much to the inside or the outside, putting an excessive load on the tire. This can be attributed to an issue with the suspension, worn ball joints or control arm bushings, bad springs, etc. The fix is usually a wheel alignment, but if one of these mechanisms is worn or damaged it will also need to be replaced.

Feathering or Cupping Wear on Your Tire

To inspect your tire for feathering you may need to feel it with your hands. A feathered tread will be rounded on one side with a sharp edge on the other side. This is usually because of an incorrect toe angle. The “toe” for your car is the degree at which the axles are tilted, and a skewed angle will affect your handling. If your car’s toe is not the issue, feathering may be caused by worn bushings in your front suspension. Cupping is fairly easy to spot – look for rounded dips in the treads. This can be caused by any component that connects the wheel to your car (shock absorbers, springs, bushings, ball joints, etc.).

Bald Patches on Your Tire

If you see smooth patches randomly distributed on your tire, the problem may be unbalanced wheels or faulty shock absorbers.