Tire wear symptoms

Written by mike biscoe
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Tire wear symptoms
Tire treads tell a story. (tires on water image by JoLin from Fotolia.com)

Knowing the symptoms of tire wear can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars in repairs, and being able to spot negative alignment issues can become a part of any vehicle owners' daily maintenance inspection. Even if taking the car to a professional, knowing the various tire wear symptoms can mean clearer communication with a mechanic if work needs to be done.

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Camber

Camber wear pattern is a common symptom of tire wear. Camber refers to the wheel angle, measured by degree, while observing from in front of the vehicle. If the camber is not set at zero degrees, tire wear will occur. If a tire has positive camber, the top of the tire leans away from the engine, and wear will appear on the outside of the tire. When the camber is negative, the top of the tire leans toward the engine, and wear will appear on the inside of the tire.

Toe-In and Toe-Out

Toe-in is a tire wear symptom and easy to spot by examining the tread. If an angled, saw blade type appearance is discovered with edges pointing towards the engine, then the problem is toe-in. Tires are generally set to run parallel to each other. If the front edges of the left and right tires are closer together than the rear edge of the tires, toe-in occurs, causing the tire to wear faster than normal. Conversely, if the rear edge of the tires are closer together than the front edge of the tires, toe-out occurs. Toe-out tread wear creates a similar angled, saw blade appearance, but the edges point away from the engine.

Caster

Caster problems are also a common symptom of tire wear. Caster refers to the angle of the steering pivot. Positive caster occurs when the top of the pivot leans toward the car's rear and may appear as stiff steering, and the steering wheel may jerk when the car hits a bump in the road. Negative caster leans toward the vehicle's front. Negative caster issues may show as a slight listing to the left or right and light steering. Though caster issues will not effect tire wear in the short term, over time negative caster can wear tread on the outside of the tire. If the car is listing to the left, for example, the outer edge of the front left tire will wear more quickly.

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