Do your tires seem to be wearing down more on the outer edges? Outer tire wear is a common issue that can occur for various reasons. The uneven and accelerated tread wear on the outer edges of your tires not only looks bad but can also be dangerous by reducing traction. Fortunately, there are some straightforward ways to identify and correct the causes of outer tire wear so you can extend the life of your tires.
In this blog post, we will go over the common causes of outer tire wear and actionable steps you can take to fix the problem. With some basic maintenance and adjustments, you can have your tires wearing evenly again.
Signs of Outer Tire Wear
So, how can you tell if your tires have excessive wear on the outer edges? Here are some key signs to look for:
- The shoulders of the tread appear significantly more worn than the center
- Bald spots or smooth areas on the outer treads
- Visible tread groove depth is less on the outer edges
- Uneven tread depth from inside to outside when measured
- Steering wheel vibration, especially during braking
- Reduced wet traction and hydroplaning resistance
If you notice these signs, it’s likely time to diagnose and correct the causes of the uneven tire wear. The sooner you address the problem, the more tire life you can save.
Common Causes of Outer Tire Wear
There are three main causes of outer tire wear that you’ll want to look at:
1. Alignment Issues
One of the most common causes of outer tread wear is a wheel alignment issue. If your wheels are misaligned, it can cause more force and wear to be placed on the outer treads.
The main alignment settings that impact outer tire wear are toe and camber. Toe refers to whether the front wheels point slightly inward or outward when viewed from above. Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the wheels from vertical when viewed from the front.
Incorrect toe or excessive negative camber are the most common alignment issues that will accelerate outer tread wear. Every vehicle has specific alignment specifications from the manufacturer. If your alignment is outside these specs, it will lead to uneven tread wear.
2. Over or Under Inflated Tires
Another key cause of outer tire wear is incorrect tire pressure. Both over and under-inflation can contribute to outer tread wear for different reasons.
When tires are under-inflated, the tread makes less even contact with the road, concentrating force on the outer shoulders. This causes that portion of the tread to wear faster.
On the flip side, over-inflated tires have a smaller contact patch and tend to wear more in the center. However, the rounded shape also makes the tires more sensitive to alignment, amplifying outer tread wear if alignment is off.
Always ensure your tires are inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure found on the driver’s door jamb or owner’s manual. Use a quality tire pressure gauge and check pressures when the tires are cold for the most accurate reading.
3. Worn Suspension and Steering Components
Worn components in your suspension and steering systems can also lead to improper wheel alignments that wear the outer tread.
For example, a worn tie rod end or ball joint allows more variation in toe alignment when cornering and braking. Bushings that are cracked or deteriorated will do the same for camber alignment.
Have a mechanic inspect the condition of parts like ball joints, bushings, and tie rods. If they are excessively worn, replace them to improve alignment and outer tire wear issues.
How to Fix Outer Tire Wear with Ease
If you are experiencing excessive outer tire wear, here are the key steps to identify and correct the problem:
1. Thoroughly inspect tires for wear patterns
Look for the signs of outer shoulder wear and measure tread depth in multiple places to identify uneven patterns. This can help you narrow down the cause. For example, feathered outer edges likely indicate alignment issues.
2. Check tire pressures
Use a quality gauge to check the pressure in each tire when cold. Adjust pressure up or down as needed to match vehicle specifications. This may immediately help reduce uneven wear.
3. Get an alignment check
Take your vehicle to a tire shop or alignment specialist and have them do a full alignment check. They will measure and adjust the key settings like camber and toe to vehicle specifications. This will distribute force evenly across the tread.
4. Inspect suspension and steering components
Have a certified mechanic put your vehicle on a lift and inspect key components like ball joints, tie rods, and control arm bushings. If any are excessively worn, replace them to improve alignment.
5. Rotate tires
Regular tire rotation helps distribute wear more evenly across all tires to maximize tread life. Rotate every 5,000-7,500 miles or as recommended by your owner’s manual.
Following Up and Prevention
Once you have corrected the immediate causes of outer tire wear, be vigilant about checking pressures and getting alignments at regular intervals to maximize future tire life:
- Check tire pressures at least once a month to catch any gradual leaks or underinflation.
- Have alignment checked any time you replace or rotate tires, or notice vibration or pulling. Most vehicles need alignments every 10,000-15,000 miles.
- Inspect suspension and steering components during routine maintenance to replace if worn.
- Consider more frequent tire rotations. Some tires wear more evenly with rotation every 3,000-5,000 miles.
Paying attention to proper tire maintenance and alignment will keep wear even for maximum tread life. Outer tire wear can be fixed if caught early. With vigilance and regular inspections, you can avoid premature tire replacement.
Outer tire wear is a common problem that indicates alignment, inflation, or suspension issues need attention. But with some basic maintenance and adjustments, you can add thousands more miles to your tires. If you notice accelerated outer tread wear, don’t ignore it. Follow the steps outlined in this article to identify and correct the causes.
Your wallet and safety on the road will thank you. With vigilance and proper preventive maintenance, you can keep all of your tires wearing evenly for the long haul.