Tire and Alignment Questions Tire and Alignment Questions

Q. I have a 1996 Ford Thunderbird, and I am always worried about my tires. They always look low to me. What is the proper inflation for my tires?

A. Today’s vehicles come with many different size tires. Chances are, your vehicle has a 70 series tire, which typically is a low profile tire. What this means is that it may appear to be low on air, but be inflated properly (an optical illusion). If you look in your owner’s manual or in the driver’s doorjamb, it will tell you how much air your tires need. Typically, you can vary a few pounds up from the specification. If you increase the pressure, it will give you a stiffer ride.

If your vehicle is equipped with alloy wheels, you could lose air from around the rims. Periodically, these rims may need to be cleaned and resealed. You should check your tire pressure on a regular basis or before any long trip. Both over-inflation and under-inflation can cause the tires to wear unevenly. One tip I will also pass along is that you should always check your tire pressure when the tires are cold.

Q. I purchased tires for my 1995 Toyota Camry less than 30,000 miles ago and they are wearing on the edges. Is this a defect in the tire or is something wrong with my car?

A. Uneven tire wear can be caused by a couple of things. Worn suspension and steering components, improper tire inflation or wheel misalignment are some possibilities. The most common cause is worn steering or loose suspension components. When you have worn parts, this can also change the vehicle's alignment. Both tire over-inflation and under-inflation can cause uneven wear. For a tire to roll down the road with the least resistance, it must be aligned to the road, parallel to the other three wheels, straight with the chassis and accurately inflated. When you have a front wheel drive vehicle, both the front and rear wheel alignment are adjustable. My suggestion is to take your vehicle to your technician and have your front steering and suspension components checked and then talk to your technician for wheel alignment. An educated technician should be able to tell by the way your tires are wearing what is causing the tire wearing condition.

Q. At about 55 to 60 m.p.h. I feel a shake in my steering wheel. What could cause this?

A. The first thing to look at would be the tires. You could possibly have one or more tires either out of balance or the actual belt of the tire may be separating. If the tires are OK, the next step would be to have a front end inspection for any worn components. I have a feeling by the way you described the shake being felt in the steering wheel that a tire problem will show up.

Q. My front end shimmies especially at low speeds. Does this mean I need a front end alignment?

A. Not necessarily. Alignments are usually performed to cure a pulling condition or to correct poor handling. If your car shakes or shimmies as you are driving, chances are it's caused by a worn tire or defective tread structure. It also can be due to a faulty front end component. Have your front end inspected. Your technician will road test the vehicle. They should inspect tie rods and ball joints for excessive wear. He or she will most likely inspect your tires for worn/uneven areas and for belt separation. If you do need new tires or have a worn end component, then an alignment will usually be performed once these items are replaced.

Provided as a public service by Car Care Council.

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