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Business owners and fleet management personnel must equip tractor-trailers and commercial vehicles with solid sets of tires. While choosing a tire size and tread style appropriate for your applications is important, ensuring that installations are aligned and well-balanced is the key to keeping drivers safe between trips. If you operate or maintain a commercial fleet, monitoring tire wear is one of the most proactive ways to extend the life of your investment.

Drivers often overlook the value of tire maintenance, but taking the time to inspect your vehicle’s alignment before and after deliveries takes just minutes to complete. Remember to look over tires routinely, making alignment adjustments as necessary for benefits including:

Enhanced Fuel-Efficiency

Tire alignment contributes to your entire behind-the-wheel experience. Large tractor-trailers and commercial vehicles must work harder when tires are out of alignment, so you can relieve stress on engine components by ensuring your fleet is in top shape. Tires that roll evenly make it possible to coast for longer periods, resulting in lower fuel consumption.

Healthy Tire Wear

Tractor-trailer tires will last multiple years with care. Tire tread tends to wear out faster when installations are out of alignment, so make sure each tire sits evenly with one another. This will boost the lifespan of your purchases and help you stay in control at all times.

Pristine Steering Components

Drivers must respond to changes on the road in a split second. Performing routine tire alignments minimizes wear and tear on your entire steering system so that it is ready when you need it most. Something as simple as driving over a bump or pothole when tires are misaligned is enough to cause steering system failure leading to an expensive repair.

ONLINE MAINTENANCE GUIDE: THE LIFE OF A TRUCK

Whether you run a fleet or are only beginning your driving career, this guide will help you understand the little things that add up to big wins in fleet productivity.

Download the guide

A Comfortable Driving Experience

Some tractor-trailer drivers embark on long-distance trips for days at a time. Checking tire alignment before a delivery ensures drivers feel less hand fatigue, and vehicles do not pull to one side.

How to Use the Fingertip Diagnostics Shortcut Method

Fingertip diagnostics represent a truck tire alignment shortcut. Knowing where to look first will ensure the biggest bang for your buck in optimizing truck alignment and avoiding regular wear and tear.

In other words, fingertip diagnostics tell you where to start and help to identify the primary wear mechanism, which you should fix first before proceeding into the fine-tuning or secondary wear mechanism. Follow the three steps below. For more information, you can watch this step-by-step video.

1. Diagnose the Alignment Using the Fingertip Shortcut

First, run your palm around the circumference of the tire. While this shortcut is not an all-inclusive diagnosis, it will help you determine if you have significant irregular wear by finding out whether there’s a big difference in feeling sharp edges along the circumference. Run your hand up the tire until you feel a sharp edge. Then, run your hand in the opposite direction to feel for rounded edges — the direction of these rounded sides indicates the tire’s direction of rotation.

2. Know the Distinguishing Major Tire Wear Mechanisms

Symptoms of irregular tire wear in steer tires are typically due to an issue with the truck’s chassis. When the drive axles are misaligned to some degree, they cause the two steer tires to continually correct the vehicle to travel straight down the road.

To identify this wear mechanism, turn your palm sideways and trace your hand from inside to outside and outside to inside on each steering tire. Feel for sharp edges going across the tread. This is a type of primary wear mechanism related to drive axle thrust issues — the drive axle could be steering the chassis to one side, which makes the tires work harder to move the vehicle straight. You should have this issue corrected before moving forward in your diagnosis.

3. Learn the Types of Tire Feathering

Tire feathering is a type of secondary wear mechanism in which either the left or right side of the tire is lower and worn smooth while the other is sharp. Specific feathering patterns on your two steer tires relate to different types of toe issues:

  • Same direction: If the tire feathering is going the same direction on both front tires, then the primary wear mechanism could be a chassis thrust angle problem. To eliminate that, you must ensure the drive axle is square to the chassis.
  • Opposite direction: If the feathers are pointing opposite, then you’re likely dealing with a toe setting issue.
  • Opposite direction facing in: If the feathers are pointing opposite facing in, then the truck may have what’s called a toe out.
  • Opposite direction pointing out: If the feathers are pointing out, the truck might have a toe in.

The ultimate goal is for your tires to be feather free.

Other Irregular Types of Tire Wear

You can recognize some forms of tire wear with a visual inspection. Drivers can discover tire problems on commercial trucks by taking note of excess vibrations, bouncing, and inconsistent handling from inside the vehicle. Review the information below to determine what type of adjustment is the right approach for your commercial truck tire problems.

  • Center tread wear: Bald strips along the center of tractor-trailer tires indicates overinflation. Refer to your vehicle’s service manual to determine the correct pounds per square inch (PSI).
  • Tire side tread wear: Inner or outer side tread wear is linked to underinflation and misalignment. It’s possible that steering system parts are bent and require replacement.
  • Tire cupping: Scoops and marks across tractor-trailer wheels are signs that your vehicle is bouncing throughout transit. Reduce unwanted friction and trailer skipping by swapping out shock absorbers and realigning your installations.

Keep Your Fleet’s Tires Road-Ready

We specialize in innovative tractor-trailer tire solutions that help you achieve better fuel economy and gradual tire wear. We want to help you get the most out of your current rig with FLEXX tire balancing technology that will minimize vibration from the wheel end. For more information about any of our solutions, complete a contact form online today.