4 Things Your Tires Can Tell You About Your Car's Health

Your tires are your vehicle's only connection to the road, so they can tell you a lot about your car's overall health. In fact, a lot of mechanical issues may make themselves known through your tires, first. Luckily, there are ways you can identify car trouble just by knowing your tires before it becomes too big an issue.

Tire Cupping

Approximately 12 to 13% of all vehicular accidents are caused by mechanical failure or improper auto maintenance. Auto maintenance includes addressing your vehicle's tire and suspension problems. If your vehicle's shocks and struts are worn, you will often notice the signs and symptoms in the way your vehicle handles.

Worn shocks and struts may cause the vehicle to bounce or the steering wheel to shake while you are driving. Your tires are also a good indicator of a poor suspension system. Tire cupping is a term used to described hills and valleys or scallops that appear on your tire. If your tire looks "dented" it could be a sign that your suspension is in need of service.

Cupping may also be caused by tires that are not balanced properly. Make sure you replace cupped tires immediately. Have a specialist balance your tires to ensure cupping does not occur with your new tires. You will also need to address your vehicle's suspension issues to avoid future cupping.

Diagonal Swiping

Diagonal swiping is similar to cupping, but instead of having hills and valleys along the edges of the tire, you will frequently see a long, diagonal valley that forms from the edge of the tire to the center. Swiping most frequently occurs in front-wheel drive vehicles that lack a proper toe setting.

Your vehicle's toe setting is an adjustable setting. An automotive toe refers to the symmetric angle of the wheel in conjunction to your vehicle's axis or centerline. A toe-in adjustment angles the wheels so they point toward the centerline and a toe-out adjustment angles the wheels so they point away from the centerline.

Incorrect adjustments to the toe sitting can cause misalignment, which leads to diagonal swiping. Your vehicle's toe setting can only be adjusted by specialized equipment, so it is best to ask a professional for help.

If you consistently haul heavy loads in your vehicle, it can cause issues with the toe setting of your vehicle. Distribute weight evenly throughout your vehicle if possible. For example, set some items in the trunk and some in the back seat if possible to help distribute the weight more evenly on the back tires to avoid diagonal swiping.

Tire Feathering

Tire feathering is a term used to describe directional wear on your tire. The directional wear may give the appearance of ramps that appear in the tread blocks. The ramp-like shape appears rounded at the bottom and sharper, or more pointed, toward the top. Feathering is yet another sign of poor alignment or an improper toe setting.

If you notice feathering on your tire, it is a likely sign that your suspension bushing is damaged or worn, which has caused your vehicle's alignment to shift out of place. Make an appointment with a specialist to have your vehicle checked for damage to the wheel bearings and ball joints. You will also need to have your car realigned and your tires replaced.

Flat Spots

Flat spots on your tire look similar to skid marks. Flat spots often appear a single area on the tire, which indicates your car may skid when it comes to a stop, especially a sudden stop. If you notice flat marks on your tire, it could indicate a problem with your brakes. If you have an anti-lock brake system or ABS, flat spots are less likely to occur.

Have your brake system checked. If your vehicle is equipped with ABS, have a specialist ensure the system is working properly. If your vehicle does not have ABS, make sure your brakes are not worn and your brake fluid is topped off to the proper level to avoid flat spots from occurring on your tires.

Worn tires can create certain hazards for you and other drivers on the road. If cupping, diagonal swiping, feathering, or flat spots show up on your tires, have them replaced immediately. Any signs of wear and tear to your tires should be addressed immediately. Improper care of your tires could lead to a blowout, which in turn could lead to a very serious auto accident.