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Tire Wear: What's Normal? What to Look For in the Wear in Your Tires

While irregular tire wear is a good indication that it might be time to have your tires replaced, did you know that it can also be a warning sign that your vehicle is experiencing steering, alignment or suspension problems?

"The underbody of your vehicle is an interlinking system," says Jeff Repaal, director for Spicer Professional Grade Chassis products.

"Steering and suspension life is directly related to proper 4-wheel alignment. Your vehicle chassis components depend on it. When you see your tires starting to show signs of wear, don't just assume that they are getting old. Tires can be a warning sign for other vehicle problems. Make sure you request a proper 4-wheel alignment inspection as part of your vehicle's annual check-up."

Irregular tire wear is a symptom of a problem that if neglected, could damage your vehicle and put your safety in jeopardy. Becoming familiar with these early warning signs is a good preventative maintenance tip that will keep you on the road.

If your vehicle is pulling to one side, make sure you first check your tire pressure. If your tire pressure is balanced, your steering problems could be due to any of the following: an uneven tire rod length, incorrect toe, unequal camber or caster, or an incorrect center link/rack height. If you are experiencing excessive steering play or hard steering, have your technician check for loose or worn struts, strut mounts, shocks, springs and/or bushings.

There are many components within the suspension system of your vehicle. If you are experiencing suspension problems, have your technician check the tire alignment, bearings, bushings, strut rods, springs and/or control arms. Be sure to inspect all suspension components and repair all parts that are worn or damaged. Failure to do so may allow the problem to reoccur and cause premature failure of other suspension components.

Wheel alignment is needed for proper handling and tire wear. Proper wheel alignment keeps the wheels from scuffing, dragging or slipping. It also reduces fuel consumption and strain on steering and suspension parts, and improves steering ability. There are three alignment angles that affect your vehicle; camber, caster and toe.

Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the wheel at the top from a true vehicle line and is measured in degrees. The purpose of this adjustment is to distribute the vehicle load closer to the point of road contact. This makes steering easier and helps prevent excessive tire wear.

Caster is a directional control angle measured in degrees and is the amount that the steering axis tilted from true vertical backward or forward. Caster affects turning ease, straight-line stability and steering wheel returnability.

Toe is the difference between the front and rear of the corresponding tires at spindle height. This is easier to understand when you compare your car's wheels to your own feet. When the fronts of the tires face in toward the car, this is called toe-in. When they face out from the car, this is called toe-out. Incorrect toe will increase tire scrub and wear.

For more information on tire wear, visit

(Source: Car Care Council)