Tires are the primary contact point for your car to the road, so ensuring they are in top condition is paramount. Uneven tire wear may not seem like a significant issue, but the uneven wear pattern can result in road noise at best and considerable traction loss at worst.
Understanding uneven tire wear, including the signs, symptoms, and causes, allows you to easily spot potential minor tire wear issues before they become significant problems. The guide below will help fuel your ability to spot uneven tire wear.
Several types of uneven tire wear exist and are caused by different factors and exhibit different symptoms. Here are common examples of unevenly worn tire tread, their symptoms, and what causes them.
If the outermost edge of your tires are showing more wear than the rest of the tread, then you could have one of a few problems on your hands, including:
Other than the potential lack of wet-road traction, outer-edge tire wear generally shows no symptoms while driving. You'll only find this problem when you inspect the tires visually.
If you have an outer edge wear pattern, there are several issues to look out for that can cause this issue:
Like inner-edge tire wear, unless you notice a loss of traction on wet pavement, there are no real tell-tale signs of inner-edge tire wear. You can only spot it with a visual tire inspection.
You may also notice your tires have excessive wear on the inner and outer edges. Knowing the above conditions and what causes them, this type of wear may confuse you, as it may seem there is excessive negative and positive camber.
In this case, it has nothing to do with your wheel alignment. Inner and outer tire wear is caused solely by low tire pressure. What tire underinflation is present, the middle of the tire sinks inward, causing the bulk of the car's weight to rest on the tire's inner and outer edges, This causes excessive wear on both edges.
While there is no tell-tale sign of this wear when driving, you may notice a dip in fuel economy because of the low tire pressure. However, you may see reduced traction in wet conditions in most cases.
You can avoid this issue by always inflating your tires to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended tire pressure, which you can find in the owner's manual or the tire placard in the door jamb.
Your tires can also show excessive wear in the middle of the tread. Like inner and outer wear, center wear has nothing to do with wheel alignment. Instead, it's all about tire inflation pressure.
When your tires exhibit excessive wear in the center of the tread, this means your tires consistently endure over-inflation, meaning to inflate to a higher pressure than the manufacturer recommends. This improper inflation causes the center of the tire to balloon out, putting an uneven amount of weight on this section of the tire.
Centre tire wear also exhibits no direct, consistent symptoms, though you may notice less traction, especially in wet conditions. You can only really identify this type of tire wear with an inspection.
Like inner- and outer-edge tire wear, you can prevent this by always inflating your tires to the car manufacturer's specifications.
Heel or toe wear is when either the front of each tread block or the rear of each tread block wears faster than the opposite side. This gives the tread a saw blade-like wear pattern you can easily feel when you run your hand circumferentially around the tread. This feeling is generally more pronounced in the outer edges of the tire.
This wear pattern is caused by misalignment where excessive positive or negative toe — the direction the wheels point when viewed from the top — is present.
A telltale sign of this tire wear pattern is a humming sound or vibration in the seat or steering wheel. The vibration and humming intensity will increase with speed.
Feathering on the edge is when the inner or outer side of the outermost tire tread blocks — the ones closest to the outer sidewall — are worn more or less than the opposite side of the tread blocks. This creates a ramp-like feeling on the tread blocks if you run your hand across the tread.
This irregular tire wear is a sign of complex alignment issues, such as a combination of out-of-spec toe and caster settings.
You can rarely find tell-tale signs of feathered edge wear, but you may notice faint humming or vibration when cornering.
Some mechanics may tell you it's possible to rectify the issue causing your uneven tire wear and they will wear back into normal. However, this is very rarely the case. In most cases, you won't catch uneven tire wear until it's too late for them to wear evenly again.
That said, it's not impossible. If a technician has a keep eye and spots mild uneven tire wear early on, and you still have about three-quarters of the tread depth remaining on the tires, they may wear in with time. You can also have your tread shaved to even out the wear pattern, but this will come at the expense of tread life, as they shave off a significant amount of usable tread.
When buying a quality pre-owned vehicle, you expect things to be in order, including the tire wear. At Clutch, all our pre-owned vehicles endure a 210-point inspection and reconditioning process that includes inspecting the tires for uneven wear, rectifying any issues, like misalignment and suspension or steering component failure, and replacing the tires as needed.
On top of this inspection, we back all our vehicles with a 90-day or 6,000-km warranty and our 10-day, risk-free, test-own period. If you don't love your Clutch vehicle in the first 10 days or 750 km, you can return it for a full refund or exchange it for a different vehicle.
Check out our range of quality pre-owned vehicles online and enjoy Canada's first 100% online car-buying process. Simply choose the car that suits you, we'll help you arrange financing and complete the purchase online, then we'll deliver the vehicle to you.