All Wheel Drive Alignment


I have a 2001 Audi A6. I am the original owner. The car has never been wrecked, etc. Question 1: I have had a problem history with tire wear on the front driver side wheel/tire. I have tried to be vigilant on air pressure, rotation, and avoiding bad bumps (alignment problems) but have averaged less than 20K miles on sets of tires. Currently have a set of Goodyear Eagle F1 high performance tires on the car and all other tires have been premium grade as well. The roads in my area (Western NC) are sometimes windy and mountainous but I don’t believe I’m an aggressive driver. I generally rely on an Audi dealer, with a very good reputation, for most all service. Question 2: I understand that once one tire in a set goes bad you have to replace the entire set, but I’d like to think you could replace the one bad tire with the same brand/size tire of the other good tires.

Any suggestions on correcting the described problem would be greatly appreciated. Steve in Asheville, NC

“but I’d like to think you could replace the one bad tire with the same brand/size tire of the other good tires.”

I would like to think that I can defy gravity if I flap my arms hard enough, but unfortunately, my thinking that this is the case does not make it reality.

Seriously, however, it all depends on how much wear has taken place on the remaining three tires. If they are fairly new and still have very good tread depth, you may be able to go with your plan. However, if you are wrong, you will damage the AWD mechanism and incur repair bills that–in view of this being an Audi–could be substantial, to say the least.

The best source of information should be sitting in your glove compartment. I suggest that you see what the Owner’s Manual has to say on the subject. Likely, it will tell you how much “lee-way” you have on the difference in tire circumference if you want to replace just one tire. If the manual is not specific enough, a call to Audi’s customer service at the corporate level should yield the answer.

Incidentally, if you can find a tire retailer that will “shave” a new tire so that it matches the circumference of your 3 other tires, then you can definitely do what you are contemplating.

Also–your high-performance tires will never have long tread life under any circumstances, and 20k miles is probably about the most that you can expect from them. If you want to switch to a set of less high-performance tires, you can probably get much better tread wear, albeit at the cost of some of the very good handling that you now have.

Additionally, since the problem seems to relate specifically to one tire consistently, that points toward either alignment that is not being done properly or to damage in the car’s front-end. After at least 9 years of use, front-end damage is certainly possible. I suggest that you skip the Audi dealership and go to the best alignment shop in town for a check of the front-end and expert alignment–after mounting your new tire(s).

You didn’t tell us if the wear was even on the driver’s front tire - and if it wasn’t, then you need an alignment! The alignment could be bad even with even wear, but uneven wear is conclusive.

But you have 2 other things that are affecting the tire wear.

First is that you live mountains and all that turning is not good for tire wear. But there is nothing you can do about that.

The second is that high performance tires are designed for grip, not wear. It seems you are confusing ‘high performance’ with ‘premium’ - and while there are premium high performance tires, there are also preminum long wearing tires - and the 2 are pretty much mutually exclusive.

And lastly, at 20K, there is enough wear on the other 3 tires that the rolling diameters would be different than a new tire. So unless you want to pay for drivetrain repairs - pretty expensive - I suggest you go with the cheaper option - replace tires.

So get an alignment. Then look at what is available in tires with longer wear properties. And always rep[lace your tires in sets of 4.

I’m glad to see that CapriRacer, our resident tire expert, concurs with the advice that I gave the OP.

Let me add one suggestion here. Keep the other three tires from the first set. Then when one tire from the second set wears out, you have a replacement that has the same wear as the other three from the second set has. You just have to buy the same brand/size/model tires for the second set that you have on the first.

If you really want longer tire life, try Bridgestone Turanza or Michelin Hydroedge. If you go with these, you had better not be too aggressive in driving as they won’t have the gripping power that you have now, but they ain’t bad either.