Have you noticed uneven wear on the outside of your tires? Outer tire wear is a common symptom of alignment and suspension problems.
Here are a few different things you can check if you’re trying to find the cause.
Related: Causes of Inner Tire Wear
Causes of Outer Tire Wear
1) Under Inflation (Not Enough Air)
Underinflation is one of the most likely causes for outer tire wear. If you don’t keep your tire pressures up, the weight of your car will put more pressure on the outside of each tire. The tire will run hotter and less efficiently if it is underinflated. You can drastically shorten the life of your tires this way.
It’s especially important to check your tire pressures often as the temperatures drop in the fall. As the temperature drops, tire pressure decreases. Your tire pressure light won’t always turn on when your pressures are too low.
2) Not Enough Negative Camber (Bad Alignment)
A bad alignment is a great way to wear out tires quickly. If your vehicle doesn’t have enough negative camber, there will be too much weight from the vehicle over the outside of the tire (the part of the tire furthest from the cabin). This is called positive camber.
3) Cornering Hard (Taking Turns Fast)
It’s rather unlikely that you would be taking hard turns often enough to cause outer tire wear, but it is a possibility. When you take a turn quickly, the G forces from the turn put more load on the outside of the tire as the weight of the vehicle transfers to the outside.
4) Bad Ball Joint
Ball joints are part of the suspension system that allow each corner of the vehicle to articulate over bumps. If your ball joints are worn, there will be excessive play in the suspension.
One way suspension problems manifest is through unusual tire wear.
5) Bad Tie Rod (For Front Tires)
Tie rods connect your front wheels to the steering rack, which moves when you turn the steering wheel. Bad tie rods can cause all sorts of weird wear patterns on the front tires, as well as erratic steering behavior.
If you think you have a bad tie rod, make sure to get it replaced as soon as possible. You don’t want that failing while you’re driving down the road.
6) Improper Tire Rotation
It’s important to rotate your tires on a regular interval. That interval will depend where, how, and what you drive.
If you forget to rotate your tires, the front tires may wear down faster than the rear tires, or the outer tire patch may wear down faster than the inner patch. The manner and rate at which your tires wear will depend on the weight distribution of your vehicle, how you drive, and if you have a front, rear, or all wheel drive vehicle.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to get your tires rotated once ever 6,000 miles. Your owner’s manual should give you a more accurate estimate for your specific vehicle.
7) Bad Shocks
When your shocks are bad, your tire may not remain in constant contact with the road. In other words, the tire bounces off the road slightly like dribbling a basketball.
You will actually see uneven wear from bad shocks. Depending on your vehicle, this wear may sometimes be more noticeable on the outside of the tire.
Can I Drive with Outer Tire Wear?
If your tire tread is still thicker than the wear bars, it’s generally safe to drive with a little outer tire wear. However, you want to make sure that the condition doesn’t get worse. It’s best to address the root of the problem as soon as you notice it.
If it’s exceptionally wet outside, make sure you have enough tread depth to handle any standing water you might encounter. This is especially important at higher speeds. The faster you drive, the less time your tire will have to displace water.
If you drive through too much water too quickly, you will hydroplane across the surface (also called aquaplaning). A hydroplaning car will not be able to steer much, if at all, until the tires come back into contact with solid ground.
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