The way your tires look can tell you a lot about the condition of your suspension system. If there are signs of wear on the inside of your tires, you can diagnose the more severe issues plaguing your car.
Inside tire wear can slow your vehicle down significantly, cause you to lose control over your steering wheel, and put you in great danger. Thus, you should know what’s causing your tires to wear out on the inside so that you can prevent potentially fatal situations.
Luckily, here you will learn how to recognize the main causes of wear, as well as how to test your car to determine what the underlying issue is.
Main Causes of Tire Wear
Worn-Out Ball Joints
Ball joints usually have a ball-in socket-design, are lubricated with grease, and covered with a dust boot. They need a firm connection to your tie rods to ensure that your car steers where you want it to.
However, every time you’re on a rough road, your tires will bounce and wear out the ball joints over time.
Their design is what prevents dirt from damaging them. Still, it makes maintenance difficult. If you have an issue with your ball joint — you’ll probably have to replace your car’s entire assembly.
Fortunately, there are a few quick and easy ways you can figure out if your ball joints are causing your tires to wear.
How to Check for Worn-Out Ball Joints
Because symptoms of worn ball joints usually develop slowly, sometimes, it’s impossible to notice the wear on time. If you suspect there’s something going on with your ball joints, or you just want to give your car a thorough checkup, you could do one of three things.
Inspect Your Car While Driving
Take your car out on a public road and pay attention to your steering, engine, and car performance. If your steering wheel is wandering to the right or the left — your ball joints may be too worn out. Additionally, vibrations in the steering wheel or the car’s floor are telltale signs of worn-out ball joints.
Go Over Speed Bumps
Drive your car somewhere with speed bumps and go over them several times at a low speed. If you notice any squeaking or clunking noise — that could be a cause for concern.
The squeaking noise could be coming from the rubber boot that protects the crease inside the ball joint. So, if there’s something wrong with the ball joint, it will start squeaking and likely get louder over time.
Additionally, if you hear a clunking noise, it typically means your ball joints are causing the suspension to rattle. Again, if you don’t fix this, the noise will get louder — and you risk permanently damaging your car.
Turn Your Steering Wheel
Finally, you can leave your car in “park” and turn your steering back and forth a few times. If there’s any wear and tear on your ball joints, your car will start making loud noises.
Worn-Out Tie Rods
There are two tie rods: an inner and an outer one. Each is connected to the steering linkage and ensures that your car’s wheels always remain steady. However, if your tie rods have gone through a lot of wear and tear, you could be at risk of losing control over your vehicle mid-drive.
The tie rods ought to ensure solid suspension. Thus, when they get worn out, your car will start vibrating or bouncing on the road. The motion could occur at speeds as low as 20 mph and gradually increase as your car accelerates.
To test your tie rods, you can unlock the steering column and make the wheel completely free and mobile. Lift each tie rod and make sure it’s securely connected to your steering linkage. Once you’ve ensured every component is firmly in place, simply lock your steering wheel.
Poor Wheel Alignment
Inner tire wear can also be caused by bad wheel alignment. That can, in turn, knock the camber out of place. The issue typically occurs as a consequence of running into potholes or other obstacles on the road.
The symptoms of poor alignment can be similar to those of worn-out ball joints, such as:
- Steering wheel vibration
- Uneven steering (the car pulls to one side on a flat road)
- The steering wheel is squealing
If you notice that your steering has gotten loose over time, that could also be a sign of bad alignment.
Additionally, you can inspect your tires visually to check if some treads on your tires are wearing out faster than the others. Get a tread depth meter to determine if all of your tires have the same rubber depth — and thus, proper alignment.
Camber is the angle at which your wheels and tires stand in relation to the road. Thus, Camber issues could be dangerous; they could make your car oversteer and prevent you from accelerating out of corners.
If the top of your tires is leaning out, that means your camber is at a good angle. However, if the bottom of your tires starts leaning to the outside — the camber angle needs to be adjusted.
How to Check the Camber
The only way to ensure your camber is at the perfect angle is to get a pyrometer. This device works as a specialized thermometer and can determine if one side of your tire heats up more or less than the other.
All you have to do is place the pyrometer on the tire and check the temperature. In general, if the alignment is good, you can expect a temperature difference of up to 20°F.
However, if you notice your car is cooling off too quickly and disproportionately after a few laps around the block — your camber might be off.
Can Inside Tire Wear Be Dangerous?
Depending on what’s causing the tire wear, the consequences can be detrimental for both you and your vehicle. For example, if the tread on your tires has become shallow, it will affect the performance of your car greatly. Additionally, it could cause your vehicle to swerve uncontrollably.
Insufficient tire tread could also make you lose control over your vehicle and slip off the road. The shallower the tread is — the more you’re at risk.
Also, if your tires are unstable, the weight won’t be distributed evenly — and you’ll be in for a bumpy ride. Your tires will start bouncing on the road and compromise the integrity of your car.
Finally, worn-out ball joints can even cause permanent damage to your car and start eating into other components. So, if you notice your car has any of these issues — you should schedule an appointment with your mechanic.
Final Thoughts on Inside Tire Wear
Unfortunately, sometimes, there’s nothing you can actually do to prevent tire wear. After all, it will occur just by driving your car over certain terrains. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t always be on the lookout for signs of wear. As you know by now, inside tire wear can put you at risk of injury; thus, regular maintenance is key.When in doubt, you can perform all of these simple tests to figure out what’s causing the inside of your tires to wear out. In any case, they’ll help you determine if your vehicle is safe enough for you to drive it.