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Home » BLOG » Fingertip Diagnostics: A How-To Guide

Maintaining a healthy fleet is an important, on-going task for any industry. One of the best ways to ensure your vehicles’ safety and improve fleet performance is through regular tire checks. Routine tire maintenance and alignment is a basic necessity, and you can begin this process on your own using a shortcut known as fingertip diagnostics.

Benefits of Understanding Your Tires

Many overlook their vehicles’ tires until they become noticeably worn or misaligned, but these components are arguably one of the most vital parts of your fleet. Taking the time to look over your tires regularly and re-align them as needed can be more beneficial than you might think. Some advantages of proper tire alignment include:

  • Increased fuel efficiency: When your wheels aren’t aligned correctly, it takes more effort for the engine to keep your vehicle moving forward. Once you realign your tires, your engine won’t have to work as hard to get you to your destination.
  • Better tire wear: Tires wear out much more quickly if they have to continually correct for misalignment. By servicing your tires, they’ll work together harmoniously over a longer lifespan.
  • Less wear on your vehicles: When you drive with misaligned tires, other parts of your truck like the steering system have to overcompensate. This added strain can cause premature wear and may even make the parts break down completely.

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 helps 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 axels 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 Tread Feathering

Tread 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 tread 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.

Benefits of Keeping Your Fleet’s Tires Road-Ready

Proper alignment is essential for the longevity and reliability of your trucks. Correctly aligned tires result in higher fuel economy and better overall tire wear that can increase the life of your tires.

For more information about preserving your truck’s tires, contact IMI today! We offer FLEXX tire balancing solutions to keep your fleet’s tires in top shape for many miles to come.