The tires on your car need to contact the road properly or they will develop odd wear patterns that can damage the tires. Often the cause of tires that are wearing funny is that the wheel alignment is not right on your car or truck, so the tires are tilted or turned in a way that causes them to scrub on the asphalt.
Detecting Alignment Issues
One of the first signs of wheel alignment issues is tire wear that seems odd or uneven. Checking your tires from time to time for damage is a good idea, and when you have your car in the shop for a tire rotation, the tech will look for signs of uneven wear that could be alignment-related.
Wear on the outside edges on both tires can indicate a car with a camber issue that is causing the tires to lean out at the top and put pressure on the tire's outer edges. Inside edge wear is the opposite problem; the tires are most likely leaning in and causing stress on that inside edge.
While these wear patterns can help point the tech in the right direction, the best way to determine the wheel alignment on your vehicle is to put the car on an alignment machine and check it.
Aligning The Car
Once the tech has the car on the alignment machine, they will put four targets on the vehicle's wheels. The machine uses those targets to detect the position of the wheel on the car, using lasers to measure them precisely.
A computer on the wheel alignment machine will calculate the information and compare it to the specifications from the factory to determine if the alignment is off. The tech can adjust the inner and outer tie rods and steering links to bring the alignment into spec if the parts are not too worn to adjust.
Many times a tie rod end has worn out or a steering part is damaged, allowing the wheel alignment to drift and causing the tire wear. If that is the situation, the technician will likely recommend replacing the worn parts so that they can align the car properly. Damaged suspension or steering parts can cause handling issues as well as tire wear, and if they are neglected long enough, the part could break and make the car impossible to control, resulting in an accident.
Once the repairs are made to the suspension and steering, the technician can appropriately align the car. Once the wheel alignment is completed, the tires will correctly contact the ground, reducing tire wear and improving the vehicle's handling.