How to Check for Uneven Tire Wear
As part of your regular maintenance, you should check for uneven tire wear. This could be a sign of over- or under-inflated tires, an alignment problem, a suspension problem, unbalanced wheels and tires, or an internal tire problem. Any of these types of problems can mean that your safety is at risk while driving.
Step 1: Visually Inspect the Tires
As you approach the vehicle, glance at the tires to see if they look abnormal. A visual of the tire tread area will allow you to notice if there is greater wear at each of the sides, either one side or the other, greater wear in the center, or odd wear marks like solitary areas of wear that are in circular patterns. This is also a good way to spot rocks embedded into the tread, as well as any nails that you might have run over.
Step 2: Gently Rub Your Hand over the Tread Surface
If you noticed any irregularities, gently rubbing your hand across the tread in the tread direction, will confirm uneven tire wear. You will feel it as well as see it. Once you find uneven tire wear on one tire, it is wise to inspect the others for the same type of wear. For instance, if you found circular patterns of wear on one front tire, it is very likely that the other one will have the same problem. It may be to a lesser or greater extent, but it could indicate a suspension problem like worn shocks or struts.
Step 3: The Tire Print Test
Find a clean smooth area, preferably made of cement. Using a wet towel or sponge, wet the tire treads as fully as you can. Slowly drive the car forward approximately one car length and inspect the tire prints left on the ground. Uneven tire wear will show up in the print. A normal print would only show continuous, even tread patterns with no distortions or interruptions. If your print shows a "blank bar" pattern that disturbs the tread and covers the width of the tire, then you could need new tires. This type of pattern is indicative of the wear indicator that is built into the tread.
Step 4: Indicators and Their Meaning
The following is a quick guide to some common problems and the types of wear they cause. This is not an all-encompassing list, as driving style, road conditions and vehicle load also have an effect on tire wear.
- Under-inflation: Causes both edges of the tire to wear
- Over-inflation: Causes the center of the tire to wear
- Out of Alignment: Uneven wear seen on one front tire or the other
- Out of Balance: Circular/semi-circular areas of isolated wear
- Worn Shock/Strut: Circular/semi-circular patterns of wear
By being observant and performing a few simple checks on a regular basis, your tires will last longer and perform better.