Some of the most common problems you’re likely to come across during your driving career will be related to your tyres. Whether it’s a puncture, a cut or just general wear, they may seem quite fragile as they take the brunt of every road surface you drive upon. While any of the above issues could happen at any point through bad luck or just through the passage of time, uneven and excessive wear on your tyres tends to point to larger issues somewhere else within the car. Let Scrap Car Comparison steer you through everything you need to know in the latest of our Car Care guides.
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What can cause excessive or uneven tyre wear?
There are a number of reasons that can cause your tyres to suffer excessive or uneven wear, and if you are beginning to feel the effects that it can cause, then it’s imperative to get it sorted sooner rather than later as the longer it’s left, the more expensive the problem becomes.
Incorrectly inflated tyres
Checking your tyres are at the right pressure is one of the easiest pieces of car maintenance you can carry out, and can be done at almost every, if not all, petrol stations up and down the country. If your tyres are not at the correct pressure, then the amount they run on the road alters considerably, and a different part of the tyre will be in contact with the road. Overinflated tyres will see more wear in the centre of the rubber, while underinflated tyres will wear the outside of the tyres more.
Not only will incorrect tyre pressures affect the amount your tyres wear, but they can also have an impact on your fuel consumption, as well as increasing the likelihood of a blowout and, by association, your chances of being involved in an accident.
Worn Suspension Components
If your suspension is nearing the end of its lifespan, then there is a chance it could result in your tyres leaning too much in either direction. It’s a logical conclusion that if a wheel is leaning too much to one side and putting more pressure on that side of the tyre that it’s going to wear at a much faster rate than the other. This could be anything from worn down ball joints, weakened springs or any other part of the suspension assembly, and should be fixed as soon as possible.
Wheel alignment issues can cause a number of problems, and one of them is the amount your tyres wear down in whichever direction the alignment is misplaced. Like your tyre inflation, if the wheels are misaligned it can not only reduce the lifespan of your tyres themselves, but also cost you when it comes to fuel efficiency.
If you’re regularly driving into kerbs or bouncing over potholes then your tyres are going to be taking quite a beating. They are, or at least they should be, the only part of your car that makes contact with the road, so will feel the full force of any sudden bumps or bangs. Any of these could easily knock your wheels out of alignment and we’re back into the territory we’ve just discussed.
Additionally, and to all those wannabe Max Verstappens out there, you might want to take note, sharp turns and cornering at speed can all result in uneven wear. Unlike Red Bull’s poster boy, however, you don’t have a near-unlimited supply of new tyres direct from the factory, so unless you’re prepared to pay for a new set on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to slow down a touch. It’ll be safer, too.
Hot to spot uneven tyre wear
There are few different ways that your tyres can wear unevenly so it’s worth familiarising yourself with the various types:
- Wearing on the outside: If you notice that the tyres have worn more on the edges, or they’re more rounded on the edges, then this is likely due to the tyres being underinflated. If there’s not enough pressure within the tyre then the contact patch will not be correctly supported and the load is transferred to the shoulder of the tyres. Not only will this be wearing the tyres faster than intended, but it will increase road resistance, causing fuel consumption to take a hit, too.
- Wearing in the centre: In contrast to wearing on the outsides of the tyres, heavier wear in the centre indicates overinflation. If you’ve got more pressure than you should, then the central part of the wheel will be supporting more than it should, meaning it will wear much faster than the outside edges. If the extra wear is minimal and confined to the rear wheels, it’s worth checking with your vehicle manufacturer as this could just be a characteristic of how it has been set up.
- Inconsistent wear: If your wear is patchy, or is only on one side of the tyre, then this indicates a larger problem with your suspension. It could be something as simple as the camber or alignment being slightly knocked out of position (easily possible with all of the UK’s potholes).
How to fix uneven tyre wear?
Have you looked at your tyres and seen one side has become significantly more worn than the other and are now looking for a way to fix it? Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do. Once a tyre is worn, there’s no way you’re going to be getting that tread back. You can take steps to try and reduce how quickly the tyres wear, by following some of the previous steps we’ve mentioned, but a worn tyre cannot be fixed. The only thing you can do is replace it and try and work out why the wear has been caused in the first place, and rectify that issue.
Can unbalanced tyres cause uneven wear?
It should come as no surprise that driving with an unbalanced tyre will indeed cause uneven wear. The definition of unbalanced tyres is that one, or more, is not the same as the others, this could include tyres being misshapen or being a different weight to the others bolted to your car. As a result, these differences will have a negative impact on the way your tyres wear down as you drive and there will not be even wear across your four corners.
Can I drive with uneven tyres?
Uneven wear on your tyres isn’t going to stop you from being able to drive your car, unless they have been worn down to the point where they no longer conform to the laws of the road. If any part of your tyre has worn down to have less than 1.6mm of tread left on them, then you will be breaking the law. A lack of tread on your wheels will have a detrimental effect to the safety and stability of your car, particularly in wet or slippery conditions, so if your tyres have worn down dangerously, it’s best to get them sorted sooner rather than later, and also rectify what caused the uneven wearing in the first place.
How do you know when it’s time to change my tyres?
If you have a look at your tyres when your car is parked and think “that doesn’t look quite right” then chances are you need to get a new set of boots. The most important thing to keep your eyes open for is your tread depth. The law states that you must have at least 1.6mm of tread on your tyres for them to be deemed legal, and while most people won’t be able to gauge that by just looking, using the ’20p test’ can be a simple way of checking if you need new tyres or not. The outer band of a 20p measures in at just under 3mm, so if you can see that band when it’s inserted into one of your tread grooves, you know your tyres are OK. If the band is visible, then it’s time to get them checked more thoroughly or even changed.
While uneven tyres is unlikely to make your car unviable to repair, you may find that your tyre problems are being caused by a much bigger problem, one that you possibly won’t be able to fix any time soon. Luckily, we at Scrap Car Comparison don’t care what condition your car is in, and will happily take it off your hands at any point. We work with both scrap and salvage specialists, so we can guarantee you the very best price for your car. Not only that, with buyers and collectors in all four corners of the country, we’ll even come and collect it from you absolutely free of charge.