Proper Wheel Alignment Helps Reduce Tire Wear
Wheel alignment can make or break you in terms of tire wear. It is a costly tire care procedure, but if done properly, it can save you money over the long haul - much more than you might pay for an alignment.
Tires that wear evenly will last much longer, and you'll likely get the rated mileage out of the tires.
Tires that wear unevenly require premature replacement and can be dangerous from a vehicle handling perspective.
Wheel alignment has a tremendous effect on tire wear. After only a thousand miles or so, you'll be able to notice unusual wear patterns on your new tires if the alignment is not correct.
If you trust your car dealership, then get your wheels aligned there. If you don't, then find a reputable alignment shop. If you are the least bit concerned that your alignment isn't correct, then have the shop recheck it before unusual wear patterns set in.
Poorly aligned wheels will cause tire wear patterns to set in that cause road noise, adverse handling and premature tire replacement. The sooner the problem is identified, the longer life your tires will have.
As part of normal tire care, I periodically check the wear on my tires using a simple method. Here is how I do it:
- Check for embedded objects like nails or glass on the tread of your tire to avoid cutting yourself, as you're going to brush your hand across the tire.
- In one direction, in line with the direction of tire rotation, lightly drag your bare hand for about 10 inches over the entire face of the tire tread. Make certain the heel of your hand rides over the outside edge of the tread, and your fingertips ride over the inside edge of the tread.
Do this as if you were gently petting a cat.
You should feel the tire tread grab your hand a little as you pass over the grooves (sipes) that are perpendicular or angled on the surface of the tire in relation to how it spins.
- Do this same procedure, on the same portion of the tire, with the same hand, but in the opposite direction
- Compare the grabbing or snagging characteristics that you feel and note any differences from a pass of your hand in one direction versus the other.
- If they are the same, you likely have no problem. Your tire is wearing normally (as intended).
- If you clearly feel more snagging of your bare hand in one direction or the other, then you have feathering, and an alignment may be in order. If you feel depressions at regular intervals on the heel of your hand and/or fingertips, then you have cupping, and an alignment may be in order.
- Repeat this techniques on all four tires.
If the car has been aligned recently, then any abnormalities detected may have been corrected by the recent wheel alignment. Tire wear patterns that have set into the tire will never be corrected by a wheel alignment.
If these are new tires, then abnormal tire wear most certainly indicates an alignment problem and it should be checked by a trusted alignment specialist before you wear out your new tires. Tire warranties never cover wear due to misalignment.
You can save yourself some tire wear and money spent on alignments by:
- avoiding potholes
- parking near the curb, not bumping into it
- taking it easy on uneven surfaces
If you find yourself with a car that won't hold an alignment, then you might be better off just letting the tires wear and replacing them with cheap used tires when necessary. A wheel alignment can cost about half the price of a new tire, so it doesn't take more than a few wheel alignments before front tire replacement becomes about the same cost as repeated alignment of the front wheels.
Also note that some vehicles require a four wheel alignment, but usually only the front wheels are prone to going out of alignment because they turn and tilt and get bumped into things like curbs and concrete parking space bumpers.
Keeping my wheels properly aligned is part of my frugal living tire care. I has allowed me to get maximum life out of my tires.
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