One of the most important things your vehicle should have is four properly inflated, healthy, high-quality tires. As the only part of the vehicle that touches the road, tires are directly responsible for how a vehicle drives on any given road or weather condition. Tires with minimal tread or uneven wear are not only going to affect your vehicle’s driving dynamics, but are also a considerable safety hazard for yourself and fellow drivers.
In addition to being essential for the handling of your vehicle, tires are also a critical component of your suspension system. Not many realize that each tire is responsible for 1/4th of the weight of your entire vehicle. On some larger SUVs, each tire could be responsible for well over 1,500 pounds! Therefore it is crucial to have your tires inspected during every service period to ensure your tires are fit for the road.
Most newer vehicles are equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) that constantly monitors the tire pressure in all four tires. When this light comes on, it is typically indicative of a tire low on air pressure. It is important to resolve this light as soon as possible to prevent damaging the tire and cause outer tire edge wear.
The Different Types of Tire Tread Wear
Over-inflated Wear - Tires that show more wear at the center of the tread pattern tell that the tire has been driven on when over-inflated. When a tire is over-inflated the center of the tread pattern is making the most contact with the road, causing wear only on the center of the tire. Driving with over-inflated tires means the contact patch is small, which could mean less grip, especially in wet weather, making for hazardous driving.
Under-inflated Wear - A tire that has been driven on while under-inflated will show extreme wear on the outer edges of the tread pattern. As is natural with opposites, an under-inflated tire will increase the contact patch however the tire will spread the load of the vehicle to the outer edges, causing the additional wear.
Tire Feathering - A tire that is feathered shows choppiness on the edge of each tread bar or block. While running your hand across the outer edge of a tire, you may feel that the tread blocks do not line up in a smooth continuous fashion. This feathering on the outer edge of a tire is indicative of an excessive toe-out alignment. Feathering on the inner edge of a tire is indicative of an excessive toe-in alignment. (To learn the differences between toe-in and toe-out, see our alignment page.)
Scalloped or Cupped Wear - Scalloped tires can be identified by running your hand across the tread pattern. If there are dips or divots in the tread pattern, your tires are scalloped. This tire wear is indicative of worn or broken suspension components, or of an unbalanced wheel. Suspension components such as shocks and struts are responsible for maintaining tire contact with the road. If these components are worn, maintaining a steady contact patch with the road is more difficult and the wheels and tires become more prone to improper rotation.
Outer-edge Wear - This sort of edge wear is not extremely common on modern vehicles, however it is certainly still possible. Positive camber, toe, and caster could be the cause of excessive outer-edge tire wear. Enthusiastic cornering is also a leading cause of this tire wear as the centrifugal force of cornering pushes the weight of the vehicle onto the outer-edge of the tire.
Inner-edge Wear - The most common tire wear typically seen is inner-edge wear. Negative toe and camber are the causes of inner-edge wear and hint at suspension component wear. A thorough inspection of your vehicle’s bushings and springs would provide the best answer why your tires are experiencing this wear pattern.
Summer vs. All-Season vs. Winter
Tires come in all different sizes, treads, and compounds. But which is the best for you?
The most common tires available are all-season tires. All-season tires offer the best value because they are formulated from durable compounds, have tread patterns favorable for all weather conditions, and are made in the widest range of sizes. Because they are also the most widely used tires, they are often the cheapest and have the most high-quality brands to choose from.
Summer and winter tires are, as the name suggests, best used in the summer and winter, respectively. Summer tires offer minimal tread and are typically made of a softer compound to allow for the most grip on hot summer days. Comparatively, winter tires are made from more rigid compounds and provide much deeper tread patterns. Additionally, winter tires are often offered with studs which could add greatly to grip in snowy weather.
Essential Auto Care has great relationships with all major tire suppliers and can provide a wide variety of options for you to choose from.