Understanding Automotive Tire Toe Wear

It's natural for an automobile's tires to experience wear as time goes on--after all, that's just part and parcel of their job on your car. Yet premature or unbalanced tire wear can unnecessarily shorten the lifespan of your tires, sending you to the tire shop far before you may have needed to otherwise. If you would like to learn more about three avoidable types of tire wear, read on. This article will introduce you to a problem known specifically as toe wear.

Toe Wear

Toe is a specific tire term referring to the degree of parallelism between the wheels. Good toe designates tires which remain perfectly parallel. Toe misalignment, on the other hand, when the wheels either point subtly toward or away from one another, tends to produce patterns of premature wear. Such wear will ultimately ruin an otherwise good tire, requiring that it be replaced far sooner than it would have been otherwise. Toe misalignment generally stems from other structural issues with the car.

Patterns Of Wear

Toe misalignment often results in so-called feathered patterns on the surface of the tire. It may also result in an increased degree of wear on the inner shoulders of the tires. Another key sign of toe wear is the tread blocks on the tire will wear more heavily on one side than on the other. This results in rubber projections that feel like rubber saw teeth to the hand.

Toe wear may equally affect both the front tires and the rear tires. That said, toe wear always affects the tires in terms of left/right pairs; there is generally not any correlation between wear on the front and wear on the rear.

Deeper Causes

Front toe wear most commonly occurs as the result of wheels that bow outward away from each other when the car is moving in a forward direction. In the majority of cases, this is the result of tie rods whose ends have become excessively worn. Where this is the case, certain secondary symptoms--for instance, loose or wandering steering--are usually also present.

Front toe wear may also arise as the result of any of the following:

  • worn inner tie rod sockets
  • faulty control arm bushing
  • bent tie rods
  • bent steering arms

Rear toe wear may be caused by most of the same things, provided the vehicle is equipped with an independent suspension system on the rear. Rear toe wear is often correlated with steering problems, such as a pull to one side or the other or off-center steering.