Common causes of premature tire wear

Feb. 12, 2018
Here are some key issues to watch for.

Tires are a significant financial investment, and fleets can often avoid tire issues that cause breakdowns or contribute to premature tire wear, reduced casing life and reduced fuel efficiency.

Experts at Continental provide the following list of what to look for when evaluating premature tire wear:

  • Underinflation/low tire pressure: Underinflated tires are a leading cause of tire failure on the road. Tires typically lose up to 2 percent of their air pressure each month. A tire that is underinflated by as little as 2 percent can exhibit irregular wear and other tire issues. Worn valve stems and temperature changes can increase the amount of pressure loss, as can nail holes and other tire damage. Tires should be checked weekly or more to ensure proper inflation.
  • Mismatched tires: When tires are used in a dual position, having mismatched tires can significantly increase premature wear. The easiest method for identifying mismatched tires is examining tread depth: differences as small as 4/32nds can cause premature wear. Using tires from different manufacturers or pairing worn tires with new tires can cause this type of mismatch. Mismatches between identical tires can also be caused by differences in air pressure. Variations in inflation pressures between inside and outside dual assembly tires can cause irregular wear, which can then lead to early tire removal.
  • Alignment issues or improper toe settings: Axle alignment plays a large role in premature tire wear. One major culprit of tire wear that often goes undiagnosed is toe-in or toe-out misalignment, or alignment issues on trailer axles. A steer tire is the best place to start when diagnosing alignment issues, because it shows the irregular wear most strongly. When there is lateral scrub on the steer tires, it’s usually an indication of toe or thrust wear from either steel axle misalignment or the drive thrust angle.
  • Mechanical issues: Worn out parts such as kingpins, ball joints and wheel bearings can have an impact on tire wear. The tire reflects what is happening with the truck. Tire experts can often look at tire wear and use it to diagnose a truck’s mechanical or maintenance issues. The wear patterns typically seen with mechanical issues include spotty and diagonal wear.
  • Incorrect tire for the application: Using the wrong type of tire for your application can lead to premature wear and damage. Commercial tires are engineered for specific applications, and it is important to use the right tire for your needs. Tire tread depth, groove geometry, tread compounds and other engineering factors affect how the tire will wear under its designed application.
  • Tire bead seating/assembly: If the tire is not seated properly to the wheel flange area, the tire and wheel assembly will have an ‘out of round’ posture, which creates wear. If the tire bead doesn’t fit into the wheel properly, it will not properly center onto the wheel flange. This prevents the tread from lying flat as the tire rolls forward and backward, and causes uneven wear on the shoulders of the tire.
  • High speed on wide base tires: New generation wide base tires have a tread mass that is much larger than the tread mass of a traditional tire. This causes the tire to crown at high speeds, causing a tire wear pattern similar to that seen on mismatched tires. This type of wear can be avoided by respecting the maximum speed posted by the tire manufacturer.
  • High torque: Excessive torque causes heel and toe wear patterns on drive tires. This type of wear can be avoided by adjusting the truck to reduce torque, or by driving more slowly. However, real-world situations sometimes prevent fleets from taking these measures. If it can’t be avoided, then drive tires should be rotated frequently to ‘even out’ the wear patterns.
  • Road hazard/impact: Premature damage to a tire is often caused by a road hazard or impact. However, the impact frequently goes unobserved until the tire is removed. Impact damage can almost always be identified on a demounted tire. Visual clues can show that impact has occurred, including radial splits, condition of the rubber after failure, the way the reinforcement wires come apart and indications of heat generation.
About the Author

Fleet Maintenance staff

Sponsored Recommendations

The Technician’s Guide for Mastering DPF Regens

Become a regen expert today! Equip yourself with the skills necessary to recognize when a forced regen is the correct procedure to maximize the lifespan of your filter and keep...

Report: The 2024 State of Heavy-Duty Repair

From capitalizing on the latest revenue trends to implementing strategic financial planning—this report serves as a roadmap for navigating the challenges and opportunities of ...

Fleet Industry Benchmarks: How does your fleet stack up?

Discover how your fleet compares to industry benchmarks and gain insights from a 2024 Benchmarking Report on maintenance spend, turnaround time, and more. Join us to identify ...

Reducing CSA Violations & Increasing Safety With Advanced Trailer Telematics

Keep the roads safer with advanced trailer telematics. In this whitepaper, see how you can gain insights that lead to increased safety and reduced roadside incidents—keeping drivers...