Help me diagnose unusual wear on my Yokohama tires [photos inside]
May 30, 2009 1:21 PM   Subscribe

What is causing this strange wear on my tires? [Photos inside]

Hi there... I am experiencing strange wear on my tires, and I am wondering what might be causing this wear. It seems that only the outside edges of my tires are being affected. Since I rotate my tires frequently, I do not know if this wear occurs only on the front or the back. All I know is that the inside edge of my tires look normal. Struts going out maybe?

Here is a slideshow illustrating what I am talking about. Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks!
posted by yoyoceramic to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total)
Have you had your alignment checked recently?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:23 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the BitterOldPunk about alignment. Some other things I can think of:

1. Are your tires properly inflated?

2. Do your wheels happen to have positive camber? It's not common, but I've come across a few cars that do this. Even a few degrees will effect tire wear.

3. Are your tires unidirectional/what pattern are you using when rotating your tires?
posted by strangecargo at 1:44 PM on May 30, 2009

This is a toe or camber issue and needs attention by a professional as it could be struts, tie rods, or axle mount. Do not keep driving on them -- I had a brand new pair of tires wear down to shreds in just 3 months due to a bad alignment.
posted by crapmatic at 1:58 PM on May 30, 2009

N'thing bad alignment.

RUN do not walk - to someone who can do a full check. That is quite bad.
posted by strixus at 2:01 PM on May 30, 2009

Handy chart here.
posted by shinybeast at 2:03 PM on May 30, 2009

Yeah alignment, get it fixed. You'd be surprised how poorly cars handle in rain or snow when not aligned.
posted by Max Power at 2:22 PM on May 30, 2009

That is an alignment issue - camber would have to be enormously out to produce such feathering and graining as that. You can also get identical wear from driving too hard on them with lower tyre pressure than are optimum - if you drive hard and don't have the higher pressures suggested for speed/load in your manual, this may explain it. You don't give a location, but that wear is pretty consistent of regular hooligan driving through roundabouts (possibly UK style wear! You don't live in Milton Keynes, do you?).

Assuming no no other clunking or odd behaviour (like 'double' turn in or odd handling right to left) this is almost certainly alignment, but it is not the panic issue that some are suggesting here. The sooner you do it, the more value you'll get from your tyres, but you're not risking any imminent failure or accident. It needs attention, certainly, but you're not going to end up on your roof if you don't do it RIGHT NOW OMGRUN.
posted by Brockles at 3:02 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you do a lot of hard cornering? Sharp, fast or both at once? Might be a little under-inflation also. I would imagine most tire dealers could tell you, especially the Yokohama one you got the tires from.
posted by Taurid at 4:39 PM on May 30, 2009

I'm assuming you've checked the air levels. And certainly, alignment would be my first guess. Beyond that, you may need new ball joints. Replacing mine helped fix odd wear patterns in my own tires. (What those patterns were, I don't know, IANA mechanic.)
posted by axiom at 5:48 PM on May 30, 2009

What make of car is this, and is that wear happening on all four wheels? Is it happening to the inner tread too?
posted by Jon-o at 7:29 PM on May 30, 2009

Oh, and what does the tire feel like when you rub your hand back and forth across it (longways with the tread).
Does it have a coarse choppy undulation or is a fine feathered texture. A coarse undulation will generally be struts or a bad imbalance. Fine feathering will likely indicate alignment problems.

Also, do you ever feel a vibration in your steering wheel? Does the vehicle pull or drift dramatically? Does the steering wheel position correspond to actual vehicle direction?

How often do you drive your car?
posted by Jon-o at 7:42 PM on May 30, 2009

Response by poster: The responses here have been so encouraging - thanks everyone.... to answer some of the questions above:

I drive my car every single day.

This is a Nissan Sentra Spec V, so yes - some hard corning has been done on these tires.

I feel a slight vibration at high speeds in the wheel, and it drifts a little bit.

I have to hold the steering wheel slightly to the left for the vehicle to go straight.

The wear is on all four tires, and only on the outside of them.
posted by yoyoceramic at 6:09 AM on May 31, 2009

The vibration is likely to be from the odd wear from the alignment issue. As is the need to hold the wheel oddly.

It's alignment. Just get it fixed and you'll be good to go.
posted by Brockles at 6:46 AM on May 31, 2009

I think it's just from hard cornering camber and tire scrubbing.
Holding the wheel to the left is a common compensation for road-crown (the curvature of the road to promote water draining). If you said that the wheel was distinctly non-center (11 or 1 clock position) or that the alignment asserted itself by drifting aggressively, I'd be more inclined to condemn you alignment as the culprit.

What's the specific high speed that the slight vibration comes in at? Over 70mph?
How hard do you typically drive this car? Are you ripping wheels everywhere you go?
Those tires still look pretty new (less than 15k on them) so it's kind of hard to tell exactly what's going on. I'm gonna guess that your Sentra is a 2002/2003 model and this is your second set of tires, right? And it doesn't look like you've lowered it or anything.
If you're rough with this car, I guess the alignment could be a little out (dumping the clutch can cause axle tramp and misalignment in a FWD car, sometimes). But it doesn't look like you curb the rims and I'd be really surprised if you needed a tie-rod or a ball joint, given the age of your car.

Check your struts by applying a strong downward jounce to each corner of your car. If it reciprocates more than two or three times, your struts are shot and they're not preventing the oscillation of the coil springs.

An alignment is a couple hours of labor, just to get it set up and checked, so I don't want to send you on a $200 goose chase, just yet. Stuff like hard driving and incorrect pressures can kill a set a tires just as bad as alignment. Fixing the former two, by the way, is free.
posted by Jon-o at 9:42 AM on May 31, 2009

Hard acceleration causes the front of the vehicle to lift and the tires un-load and camber-out kind of like this:
\\ //
The suspension will "droop" as the weight transfers to the rear wheels, causing wear on the outside of the tire.
posted by Jon-o at 9:50 AM on May 31, 2009

I think it's just from hard cornering camber and tire scrubbing.

I find that unlikely. It would be unusual to have so much graining without any sign of the sidewall rolling over in hard cornering - especially over so small a width of the tyre. It'd take a track day to get that style of graining from purely hard cornering - it's hard to do with just normal road use, and road tyres do not have stiff enough sidewalls to prevent rolling over, in most cases.

To corner hard enough for a high enough percentage of the time (normal use would scrub the tyre clean again over time) the car would need to be driven consistently hard and surely then this sort of wear would be no surprise and, indeed, no mystery. This looks like prolonged, but minor, abnormal wear. In addition, as all four tyres are reportedly like this (after the fronts have been rotated to the back) this would have to be significant amounts of hard cornering in both directions for a sustained period of the normal use of the car.

I've screwed tyres up like that, and it took some time and I sure as hell knew what was at fault - I can't imagine anyone can drive like quite that much of a hooligan and then be surprised that the tyres look rough. Also, driving normally did scrub them back in - that doesn't seem consistent with normal (even hard) road usage every day. I have, however, seen many tyres look like that after a track day. Cornering doesn't do as much damage (as opposed to wear) to the tyres as most people think, and certainly not without extra signs of the issue (ie sidewall witness).
posted by Brockles at 10:06 AM on May 31, 2009

You're right. The more I look at these pictures, the more I'm convinced of an alignment problem. I'm just used to seeing it at the more advanced stage that a usual, inattentive customer might start to notice. Most people don't bring their cars into the shop until they need an alignment AND tires.
Seeing something this slight, I started looking for another cause.
posted by Jon-o at 10:54 AM on May 31, 2009

Regarding holding the steering wheel slightly to the left for the vehicle to go straight. If you take it to a fairly flat place to drive ( like an empty parking lot) , you should be able to let the steering wheel go without holding it while driving at a slow speed. Provided of course theres no pedestrians or other vehicles around you. The vehicle shouldn't veer to either side. Even if it were at a high speed, which I wouldn't recommend in a parking lot. A good mechanic will tell you this. Thats an old tried and true mechanics trick. Not sure if your tires are wearing because of this or not, but it sounds as though your vehicle does need an alignment. It may even be the frame out of alignment.
posted by Taurid at 4:32 PM on May 31, 2009

It may even be the frame out of alignment.
Only if this car has a salvage title after being in a total loss wreck.
posted by Jon-o at 4:37 PM on May 31, 2009

FWIW.....A frame can still be out of alignment without having been totaled.
posted by Taurid at 7:46 AM on June 2, 2009

« Older Stress relief   |   Any statisticians, psychometricians... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.