In a perfect automotive world, all four tires would always wear evenly, and you’d never have to visit the tire shop, hat in hand, avoiding eye contact, sheepishly fessing up about your uneven tire wear while the tire techs shame you (oh yeah, it can be just that dramatic)…
But seriously, if you’ve ever experienced uneven tire wear, you’re not alone. Uneven tire wear between the front and rear tires is a pretty common occurrence.
What are the causes of accelerated front and rear tire wear and is there anything you can do to avoid this dreaded uneven wear scenario? Here’s the scoop.
Before diving into the causes of uneven tire wear between the front and rear tires, let’s make sure that you’re on a path to understanding how to maximize overall tire wear in the first place.
In most cases, the primary causes of premature tire wear -- no matter front, rear, left or right, or spare (think about it…) -- have to do with user error and a lack of tire awareness, or vehicle alignment/suspension component issues.
Tires are not like other automotive components in that they operate optimally and indefinitely, without monitoring or user involvement. They also rely upon the mechanical soundness of ancillary component systems to wear properly.
If front or rear tires, or any particular tire is not addressed as required to maximize tread life, then premature tire wear is probable.
So if you’re not necessarily tire aware, check out our article on how to make your tires last longer, then come on back to find out the causes of uneven front and rear tire wear.
High wear on the rear tires is typical, even expected on sports cars and high powered, high performance coupes and sedans.
With all of the drivetrain forces being sent to just the rear wheels, the rear tires bear the burden of transferring that power to the pavement. Of course, more power will exacerbate the wear situation, especially if the rear tires are regularly called upon to harness that power (ahem…).
Further stress is focused on the rear tires of performance cars because they trend more toward an oversteer balance than a typical car. This means that the rear axle is more often "in play" during cornering and maneuvering, which again puts a disproportionate burden of traction management onto those rear tires.
If you drive a rear-wheel drive performance vehicle with a square tire setup, then regular, even, accelerated tire rotation protocols between front and rear axles can work to even out your tire wear situation.
If your tires are staggered, then minimizing rear tire wear comes down to maintaining proper inflation, alignment, and keeping that right foot in check.
If none of this applies to your situation, but you’re still experiencing high rear tire wear, then inflation, alignment, or suspension issues are likely causes. (More details below.)
Under normal driving circumstances with a front-wheel drive vehicle (passenger cars, minivans, etc.), the front tires will wear at a slightly higher rate than the rear tires.
Similar to the case of a rear-wheel drive performance vehicle, although not to the same extent, the front tires are called on to manage all the drivetrain forces in a front-wheel drive arrangement. Front tire wear is further advanced because the front tires handle the bulk of the steering and braking forces.
Tire rotation is the solution to even tire wear in a front-wheel drive vehicle. Most front-wheel drive passenger cars have a square tire setup, which allows for front to rear tire rotations.
If tire rotations are occurring and your front (or rear) tires are experiencing a clearly disproportionate amount of wear in a front-wheel drive vehicle – especially uneven wear across the front tires – then inflation, alignment and/or suspension issues are the likely causes.
If you’re experiencing high, uneven front or rear tire wear, first rule out improper inflation as the cause. Check out knowing your tire pressure for guidance.
If tire pressures are within specification, then alignment and/or suspension issues are the likely culprits. Visit a tire shop for professional diagnosis and solutions.
If you’ve happened on this article too late, and are currently in a position of deciding how to deal with your uneven front or rear tire wear, here are some things to keep in mind:
If wear is advanced enough, all four tires should be replaced. Even if only the front or rear tires are expired, the remaining two tires might be worn to the point that replacement is advisable. Fitting two new, full tread depth tires could create a traction and handling imbalance with the older set.
Not maximizing the life of any tire is always regrettable, and feels like money down the drain, we get it. But in many uneven wear circumstances, replacing all four tires is the much better path in both the near- and long-term. We suggest you heed the advice of your tire technician.
Have questions about uneven tire wear, or want our help with any type of high tire wear conundrum? Give us a call at 866-961-8668.