Tyres. Rubber. Those black circle things. No matter how importantly you regard tyres, they play a huge role in how your vehicle performs. They’re the only thing connecting you and your car to the road; so naturally you want to get the most from them, especially when shopping for new tyres. Having to replace a tyre prematurely can be almost as irritating as getting a puncture, and can have you asking yourself, ‘why are my tyres wearing unevenly?’
It is more common for the driven wheels to experience tyre wear more quickly than the non-driven wheels. Whether you have a front- or rear-wheel drive car, if you’re inclined to try to race away from every green light as quickly as possible, you’re more than likely going to cause the power delivery to exceed the tyre’s grip levels. Doing so causes the inevitable tyre screech and wheel spin, and while it might look dramatic and cool in the movies, the result is a slower getaway and premature tyre wear.
Similarly, if you carry too much speed into bends and induce understeer, where the car pushes forwards rather than following the line through the corner, this is also going to scrub the front tyres, as they are pushed across the surface of the road. Easing off the throttle just a bit can make a big difference without any noticeable impact on driving time. It can also reduce wear and tear on other components in the suspension and transmission, leading to longer life and lower costs for you.
Get pumped up
If you don’t have the recommended pressure in your tyres, they are far more likely to begin to wear both prematurely and unevenly. Correct inflation places the majority of the tyre’s tread surface in contact with the ground. Over inflation will make the surface more rounded, causing premature wear along the centre of the tyre. With under inflation, the opposite can happen, with the outer edges wearing faster than the centre. This will also affect the vehicle’s handling and can increase fuel consumption.
Regardless of how much mileage you do, it is always a good idea to check your vehicle’s tyre pressures once a month. As the air pumps in fuel stations may not be regularly calibrated it is suggested that you buy a small tyre pressure gauge and keep it in your car. Not only will this give you more accurate readings, it will allow you to adjust the tyre pressures more accurately. One handy tip is that most modern cars will have a sticker, usually on the inside of one of the front door frames, that displays the suggested tyre pressures according to the vehicle’s use. For example, if you regularly carry many passengers and/or heavy loads then increasing the tyre pressure a little will compensate for the added weight.
Ensuring that your vehicle has correct alignment or ‘tracking’ as it is also known will result in improved tyre longevity. It can be very easy to knock a wheel out of alignment, by hitting a bad pothole for example. If this happens, the angle at which the tyre is rolling can be out by a degree or two. While this might not seem immediately apparent through the steering wheel, it is effectively pushing the wheel forward at an angle, causing the tyre to wear more quickly.
If you regularly find yourself traveling on roads that are particularly bad with lots of potholes, it is worthwhile having your vehicle’s alignment checked frequently. The alignment can be affected in many ways. If the front wheels are facing slightly inwards this is called toe-in, whereas if they point outwards, away from each other it is referred to as toe out. Ideally they should both be exactly parallel to one another when the vehicle is moving forward – though every car has different settings when at a standstill, so don’t guess.
When a vehicle’s camber is out of alignment, it can cause the inner or outer edge (or shoulder) of the tyre to wear prematurely. Camber is the angle at which the tyre points inwards or outwards when viewed head-on. Negative camber will see the tops of the tyres being slightly closer than the bottoms of the tyres. The opposite is referred to as positive camber. It is common for race cars to experiment with different camber settings to increase grips levels, but your standard road car should have fairly neutral camber. This means all tyres are pointed directly upwards and are perpendicular to the road surface at all times.
Wear and tear
The various suspension and steering components on your car which keep your wheels under control and pointing in the right direction are mounted on rubber bushes to help give a quiet and supple ride over uneven surfaces. Over time, these bushes, link rods and ball joints wear out. When they wear excessively, the play in the bushes allows the wheels to move around more than they should and this unwanted movement can cause all kinds of uneven tyre wear issues. So a word to the wise – if you have worn suspension components, there’s no point getting your wheels aligned until you’ve replaced the worn parts
We’ve got an in-depth article on suspension bushes which you might find useful if you suspect some of yours might be worn or if you have any unusual noises coming from your suspension. You can check it out here
Lowering a car to get the stance you want can cause uneven tyre wear – usually on the inside edge of the tyre. Generally speaking, lowering a car, without making any other adjustments will dial in quite a lot of negative camber. So it’s always a good idea to get the alignment properly set after you lower your car
Don’t lose your balance
When you do have new tyres fitted it is important to ensure that they are properly balanced. Accurate balancing involves adding a small weight to the wheel, usually stuck on with some adhesive backing, at a certain point on the wheel (this should only be done by those trained to do so). The weight has enough of an effect to make sure that the wheel will spin perfectly smoothly thus adding to the lifespan of the tyres. Over time it is possible for a wheel weight to come loose and fall off. If this happens, it can lead to a small vibration in the steering wheel that may only appear at a very particular speed. If you notice this it is good practice to have your wheels checked to make sure that it is nothing more serious. Rebalancing wheels doesn’t take long and can be carried out by any tyre fitter for a very low price.
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