A tire is a ring-shaped device that surrounds the rim of a wheel on any moving vehicle and helps to transfer the load of the vehicle to the road on which it travels.
Tires are pneumatically inflated structures that also help to cushion the vehicle from any shocks that it receives while traveling over any rough surfaces. They are designed in such a way that the load that the vehicle is meant to carry is distributed over its contact area and causes a force on the surface that does not exceed its bearing strength. Modern tires are made of synthetic or natural rubber, wire, and fabric. They have a body that has treads. It is these treads that are meant to provide the traction required to facilitate movement. Treads can get worn out under normal contact with roads or surfaces on which the vehicles are driven. Tires need to be correctly inflated and have a minimum depth of tread for them to gain the required traction.
Uneven tire wear results in poor traction and can make a vehicle difficult to drive. The reasons for uneven wear of the treads of the tire are many and it is only regular maintenance and servicing that can help in detecting minor faults that can rapidly become serious if ignored. To prevent uneven wearing of tires it is necessary to ensure that they are always correctly inflated, have adequate depth of tread, and that the wheels are aligned correctly.
A tire will only have a small area that is in contact with the surface on which it is traveling. On cars, these patches can be as large as the palm of your hand, whereas in two-wheelers it can be the size of a credit card. The air that is filled in tires supports the entire weight of the vehicle. Manufacturers of vehicles recommend tire pressures for their vehicles and this must be adhered to prevent uneven tire wear. The flatter that a tire is, the greater will be its contact with the road and will give more grip. This increase in the area can heat the tire more, cause greater rolling resistance and increase fuel consumption. The steering can become hard. Underinflated and flat tres have a risk of coming off the rim on which they are mounted. They will also get more heated and cause blisters on tires or their delamination.
A tire that is inflated harder and more than the recommended pressure will have less area in contact with the road and reduce rolling resistance and fuel consumption. Steering will feel light, but as tires are part of the suspension their hardness caused by over inflation will mean bumpier rides. Recommended tire pressures are the best compromise that will help to reduce the uneven wearing out of tires.
Uneven tire wear can also be caused by improper alignment, worn out suspension, besides the underinflation or overinflation referred to above. How then do you know the causes for this that have to be looked at to prevent this uneven wearing? A close examination of tire wear patterns can tell you whether your tire is functioning correctly or needs attention and probable replacement.
If you notice either the inner edge or the outer edge is showing signs of wear, then this points to a problem with the alignment of the tires and needs to be corrected. When tires are correctly aligned they will have all of them presenting an equal surface to the surface and will also be rolling in the same direction together. A tire that shows more wear in the center is probably being overinflated resulting in smaller central areas that get worn out. Underinflation will, on the other hand, cause the outer edge of the tire to wear out resulting in uneven wear. Worn suspensions on any tire can cause cupping wear or diagonal scalping and is a defect that needs urgent attention. Tires also need to be balanced while spinning and if a tire is out of balance that can cause the wearing of the tire to be patchy and uneven.
The depth of the tread is especially important when you are traveling on wet roads. The tread helps to disperse the water and prevents the water from causing an aquaplane that can cause your vehicle to slide over the water and you to lose control of your vehicle. This can happen when the tread depth is less than 3mm. The tread depth of a new tire is about 8mm, and this should never follow below 2mm, at which stage you must replace the tire. In some countries, you can be fined if you are driving with tires that are below the acceptable depth of 1.6mm. Most tires have depth indicators, which are small areas at the bottom of the grooves in a tire that are rased. Once your tire tread is at the same level as these indicators, it means that your tire is worn out and needs to be replaced.
You can reduce uneven tire wear by regularly rotating your wheels, putting the front wheels at the rear and vice versa. It is better to maintain the same sides of the tires while rotating, that is the right front wheel goes to the right rear, while the right rear tire moves to the right front. Do the same for the tires on the left side. This is all the more important if your tires are unidirectional, as they disperse water properly in one direction.
Every driver knows that when you drive on tires that have gone bald or have very little treads you are at risk. These tires will not grip the roads properly and will cause skidding when you apply the brakes, and be difficult to control on wet roads. Tires that are worn unevenly or cracked can be susceptible to blowouts. Uneven wear on tires can cause vibrations in a car and lead to uncomfortable rides. Steering and control can be harder, and lead to higher risks at high speeds.
For tires to wear evenly, they must be properly balanced so that the tread gets worn down evenly. It is always safe to have all the tires on the vehicle you are using to be in the same condition, as this produces a ride that is safe and smooth, and can also extend the life of your tires. Tires go from the state of being balanced to the state of unbalance very gradually. Balancing is necessary once you have been involved in an accident that could have distorted your chassis or the wheel assemblies.
Tires need to be replaced after they have done a certain mileage, or defects in them are noticed, like uneven wearing, lesser tread depth, cracks in the sidewalls and others. It is generally better if all the four tires on a four-wheeler and two tires on a two-wheeler are replaced at the same time. Over time, there will be variations in the overall diameter of a tire compared to a new one, and if you combine both old and new, your car will become difficult to drive. If you are forced to replace fewer tires, replace the two on the rear of the vehicle, as these are the ones that take the maximum load. You can always buy used tires that have received a retread, but these may not give you the extended service that newer tires will do.
Improperly functioning brakes can also be another reason for the uneven wearing of tires. If one side brake acts earlier than the others, this tire will slow down first, and this uneven speed of the two tires can cause different forces on them that determines how they get worn out. Tires can get punctured and will need to be replaced with spare tires that will not have worn out as much as the other regularly used tires. It makes sense to replace the spare tire with the one that has been repaired, as soon as possible, so that the vehicle is restored to its original set of tires. You can also use your spare tires in any regular rotation of tires that you go through, as this will ensure that is also get equally worn out as the other tires, and then will function equally well.
Give as much importance to your tires as you do to the engine and other parts of your vehicle. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to a tee, of both your vehicle and your tire maker. Carry out a regular inspection of the tires at least once a month, if you are using the car daily and for long distances. If you notice any signs of uneven tire wear, it means that there is some problem that you will need the experts to have a look at. Check tire pressures at least once a week, and that all tires have the correct pressure in them, and are neither underinflated or overinflated.
Well maintained tires will ensure that you will always have a smooth and safe ride.