Tire feathering can be annoying and sometimes even dangerous. Avoiding feathering and potentially fixing it is vital for getting the full lifespan out of your tires.
This sort of uneven tire wear can range from minor to severe. If left alone, feathering tends to get worse before it gets better. Luckily, there is a lot you can do to counteract and prevent it. Keep reading to learn what I discovered.
What Is Tire Feathering?
Tire feathering occurs when the tire wears down at an angle. This angled wear leads to one side of the tire rib being worn smoother than the other. Often, this situation is caused by uneven tire alignment or an underlying suspension problem. If caught early, fixing the underlying issue often corrects the feathering.
Correctly identifying and fixing the feathering is essential to avoid a premature tire replacement. All the information you need to know is below!
What Causes Tire Feathering?
In 90% of the cases, tire feathering (which causes smoothness on the edge of the tread or valleys on the tread) is due to bad wheel alignment or a suspension problem.
Even if a single tire is to be slightly unaligned, it can cause feathering on all 4 tires as there might be a slight pull in one direction which can put uneven force on all tires.
Additionally, other causes of tire feathering are due to issues with the wheel bearings or ball joints.
Since these issues are hard to detect and fix yourself, it is recommended to talk to your local mechanic or tire technician.
Can Tire Feathering Be Fixed?
Maintaining a proper alignment on your car’s tires is essential to prevent feathering. If you notice feathering early on, you can often fix it by correcting your car’s alignment.
To accomplish this, you’ll need to see an auto technician. Unlike some other maintenance tasks, aligning your car’s tires isn’t something you can readily accomplish by yourself.
However, for severe tire feathering, it is often too late to reverse the damage.
Beyond this, there is no way to fix a tire feathering. Once the damage is done, it is done. The tire will need to be replaced.
With that said, there is little reason to get new tires unless the alignment or suspension problem is corrected. Otherwise, your new tires will have abnormal wear as well, starting the problem all over again.
For severe feathering, you’ll often need to get your tires realigned and purchase a new set of tires.
How Do I Stop My Tires from Feathering?
In most cases, tires feather because of improper alignment or an underlying problem with the suspension. Therefore, it is essential to properly take care of these two systems. If you don’t, then tire feathering may occur.
To prevent these problems, your car should be seen by an experienced mechanic at least yearly. Often, tires will need to be rotated and realigned at least once every year.
With that said, we do recommend checking your car’s maintenance schedule for details on how often the alignment needs to be adjusted. Different cars will have different suggestions.
Of course, it also depends on how much you drive your car. If you drive your car a lot, you will probably need to realign your tires and get your suspension checked more often.
Even if you don’t drive your car a lot, we do not recommend going for more than a year without an adjustment.
If your car’s tires are already feathering, a wheel realignment is sometimes plenty to stop the damage.
Other times, parts of your suspension may need to be tightened. In most cases, lightly worn tires will not need to be replaced.
Do Feathered Tires Make Noise?
In many cases, feathering can generate quite a bit of noise. After feathering becomes severe, the tread will no longer be a flat surface. Therefore, it will create noise while rolling across the pavement.
In fact, one of the first symptoms many people realize of tire feathering is increased noise. After inspecting their tires, the feathering is often pretty noticeable, though.
Sadly, by the time the tires are making noise, the feathering is often too severe to be easily fixed.
For this reason, you may want to consider inspecting your tires regularly to catch potential problems before they become serious.
What Does Feathering Look Like on a Tire?
Usually, feathering is easier to feel than it is to see. When you run your hand down your tire, it’ll feel worn and round on one side, but sharp on the other. In other words, the wear feels obviously uneven.
Of course, more severe feathering is easier to feel than minor feathering. In some cases, you’ll be questioning whether you’re actually feeling something at all.
Side note: The below video walks you through all the different types of tire wear (including feathering) and how to detect it.
If you suspect feathering, I recommend seeing a mechanic as quickly as possible.
However, if your tires have very minor feathering, the damage can often be corrected with a realignment or readjusting the suspension.
If you wait until it is completely obvious, you’ll likely end up needing new tires, which will cost you substantially more in the long run.
Can I Drive On Feathered Tires?
Generally, it is never recommended to drive on severely feathered tires. Due to the uneven wear, these tires will not function properly. For instance, they may not stop in situations when you really need to stop.
Because part of the tire is worn and flat, they may not grip the road quite as well. In some cases, this excessive wear can lead to accidents.
With that said, minorly feathered tires probably aren’t a huge concern. As long as the tire is still functioning, some minor feathering shouldn’t affect it.
However, continuing to drive without fixing the alignment or suspension will cause the feathering to become worse, and you never know when you’ll cross into dangerous waters.
For this reason, you may be able to drive on them for a few miles, but it is seriously recommended that you get the problem fixed as quickly as possible.
If you do decide to drive on feathered tires, be extra cautious of wet pavement. Due to their lessened grip, hydroplaning may be more likely.
Do Feathered Tires Need to be Replaced?
Sometimes. It depends on the amount of feathering already done to the tire.
If you catch the feathering early on, you may be able to fix the underlying problem to prevent them from getting any worse. After realigning your tires, minor wear inconsistencies are often fixed just by driving around.
However, severely feathered tires often do need to be replaced. If your tires have been feathered below the minimum tread depth, then you will need to replace them.
For the most part, the tread depth needs to meet the minimum requirement on the whole tire – not just part of it.
Therefore, if feathering has caused the tire to wear down below this level, replacing them may be legally required.
Of course, it does depend on your area. Certain states have different requirements.
Even then, it is often not recommended to drive on bald tires due to the increased chance of an accident – even if it is technically legal to do so.
For this reason, we recommend seeking professional help as soon as you suspect that your car’s tires are feathering.
If caught early enough, this problem is completely fixable without replacing your tires.
By getting the underlying problem solved early, you increase the chance of fixing the tires you currently have, instead of needing to purchase new ones.
How Bad is Tire Feathering?
Seriously feathered tires can be dangerous and lead to accidents. After all, the tire will be unable to grip the road correctly, leading to all sorts of problems. In many cases, handling will also be affected.
However, minorly feathered tires usually drive just like non-feathered tires. Usually, tires with minimum feathering are safe to drive on.
With that said, we never recommend ignoring feathering. If you don’t fix the underlying cause, it will get worse.
Therefore, we highly recommend seeking a mechanic as quickly as possible to diagnose the underlying issue.
Plus, tire feathering is always an indication of an underlying problem. That underlying problem may cause even more issues if it isn’t fixed.
To know more about tires, you can also see our posts on underinflated tires, if plugging a tire is safe, and the blown-out tires.
Tire feathering occurs when one side of the tire rib wears down faster than the other. Because one side is smoother, the tire’s ability to grip the road is often affected.
As you might imagine, severe feathering can make driving dangerous and negatively affect handling.
Typically, feathering si caused by improper wheel alignment or a problem with the suspension. Both of these issues can be easily fixed by a mechanic.
Luckily, minor feathering is often reversed after the underlying problem is fixed. Sadly, tires with severe feathering often need to be replaced completely. Once the tread is worn down smooth, the tire is no longer safe to drive.
For this reason, seeking help early is essential. Those who wait will likely end up with a bigger repair bill.