Steering tires － How to spot and prevent irregular tire wear patterns
Every car owner knows that maintaining a vehicle in proper condition is the key to safe driving. We check the engine, breaks, airbags, lights and many other elements. The part that is often forgotten, or at least not controlled as often as it should be, are steering tires. This big omission can not only cause trouble but it can actually be dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, each year there are about 11,000 tire-related traffic crashes in the United States. Many of these accidents could have been prevented if more attention was given to the importance of tire care.
When it comes to trucks, checking the conditions of the tires is even more important! These vehicles, designed to carry heavy loads and drive long distances are especially exposed to extreme conditions, often causing tire tread issues.
Make sure to get new set of tires every once in a while to maintain safety of your driving experience.
Why is it important?
While driving on dry, well prepared roads may not cause much trouble, or raise any concerns, precipitation, on the other hand, can be extremely dangerous if tires are not in good shape.
When exposed to snow or rain, insufficient tire tread can create unsafe driving situations. In order to keep the vehicle steady on the road the tire needs to maintain as much contact with the surface as possible. In order to do that in bad weather conditions, the tread should prevent water or snow from getting between the tire and the road.
Tire depth is essential to safe driving. The deeper the tread, the better grip – in all weather conditions. Shallow treads may cause driver to easily lose control of the vehicle, especially when the road is wet and the tire can’t grip the road.
This issue is even more important to truck owners whose vehicles are exposed to some extreme weather conditions, long distances and heavy loads.
Irregular tire wear
While it is absolutely normal that all tires wear off with time and mileage, and thus should be checked on regular basis. When the tread depth becomes insufficient, irregular tire wear might be a sign that something isn’t right.
If the tire thread isn’t wearing evenly and the wear patterns on the tire are uneven, it can indicate that there is a bigger issue with your vehicle or tires. But fortunately if the problem is spotted soon enough, the issue can usually be fixed and in some cases the same tires can continue to be used.
What to look for first?
When checking your truck tires start with steer tires – these are the most important tires on the truck but also the ones that wear off a lot sooner than the others. Located at the front, they are designed to do the hard work and have a big impact on handling and ride.
If you spot uneven wear patterns on your steer tires you should quickly look for the cause. Irregular tire wear can significantly shorten your tire’s lifespan!
What causes irregular steer tire wear and how to spot it?
One Side Wear
If the uneven wear pattern is clearly visible specifically on one side, you are most probably dealing with a One Side wear. In that case you might want to check the tire’s alignment.
The most probable cause of one side wear is wrong wheel alignment. Tires should be adjusted at the right angles and have proper contact with the road. Check your truck manufacturer’s specification parameters for camber, toe, caster and axle parallelism.
Once you check the alignment, control your tires regularly – you can continue to use them until they reach the minimum tread depth.
Shoulder Step Wear
Another common irregular wear is Shoulder Step wear. You can recognise it by taking a closer look at the inside or outside shoulder tread rib – if you can notice partial or full depression, you are most likely dealing with shoulder step wear.
This irregular tear wear is most common on radial tires in slow wearing operations. Fortunately, there is no need to panic. If you notice shoulder step wear on your tires you can continue to run on them, but remember to check them regularly and replace them when the tread gets too shallow.
Erosion or River Wear
Erosion wear, otherwise known as River wear, is a condition relatively easy to spot and recognise. If you notice a circumferential worn area on the sides of the tread rib, you can assume that it is the erosion wear on your tires.
The bad news is that there is not much you can do to correct this problem. Erosion wear most often affects slow wearing radial tires in steer position.
The good news on the other hand is that you can continue to use your tires safely as long as you inspect them regularly and replace them in time.
Depression wear can be one of the most costly and difficult to correct types of tire wear. You can recognise it if you spot one or more interior ribs depressed more than the other ribs next to it. Remember that it does not affect the center rib.
There is a number of possible causes of depression wear – worn mechanical parts, inccorect air pressure or non-uniformity.
In order to fix this issue the first thing you should do is check the air pressure in your tires. If everything seems fine in this area you should start checking mechanical parts that could be causing the problem. You can try rotating the tires to another position or even retread your tires.
Diagonal wear is another type of irregular tyre wear that can, unfortunately, turn out to be quite costly to fix. It can be easily recognized if you spot distinctive wear patches on your tires. This could be a singular patch or repeated around the surface of the tire.
If you are looking for causes of this type or tire wear you should consider checking your truck for loose wheel bearings and inspect all the steering parts. Misalignment is another common cause of diagonal wear. You should also check for mismount and worn mechanical parts.
Before continuing to use the tires, you should try reversing their direction or consider retreading.
Radial Feather Wear
Another easy to spot irregular tire wear is the type called Radial Feather wear. It usually affects the edges of tread ribs － you should be able to easily recognise it by its characteristic feathering.
Radial feather wear can occur due to drive axle misalignment and counter-steering as a result of that. It can also form when tires are regularly exposed to lateral force, for example excessive toe.
The first thing you should do when spotting radial feather wear on your truck tires is check the alignment. It is also very important that you try rotating tires to another position or simply retread.
If you are a truck owner, or a fleet manager, taking a good care of your tires and checking them regularly should be on your to-do list. There are a number of things you should keep your eye on to assure your tires allow for safe driving and will stay in a good shape for a long time. Here are a few things you should be inspecting on regular basis to make sure your vehicle and tires are in the best condition:
If your tires are overinflated it can lead to a situation where the centre of the tire carries most of the load. It will not only lead to irregular tire wear but can cause some safety issues if only a part of the tire surface grabs the road and allow for a proper grip. What’s more, over-inflated tires can lead to increased fuel consumption of the vehicle. Checking your tire pressure regularly could even save you 12 cents on each gallon of fuel!
A similar situation can occur when your tires are under-inflated － it can cause only a part of the tire surface (the edges of the tire) to carry the load, possibly leading to some safety risks and irregular tire wear.
Bushings are another part that you should keep your eye on. They are quite vulnerable to very high or low temperatures and extreme weather conditions. If the bushings fail, it will most likely affect the wheels causing some irregular tire wear. So remember to check the busihings once in a while.
Springs are directly linked to the wheel’s alignment. As the springs wear off and can no longer support a vehicle, it will most likely affect your wheel alignment causing some serious tire wear as a result. So if you want to avoid unnecessary trouble, check the springs on a regular basis.
Inspecting your truck tires once every few weeks should be one of the main things on your to do list. Steering tires are the most important ones on your truck, so make sure you keep them in a good shape and check them regularly. It can save you a lot of money and trouble, but most importantly prevent accident