My mother’s 1997 Accord SE has a tire wear problem in front. The car was aligned at the dealer in October and new snow tires were installed in December and driven approx 3500 miles. When the snow tires were changed for summer tires I noticed that the inside of each front tire was worn severely. The Honda dealer rechecked the alignment and it hasn’t changed, still within specs. Any ideas? thanks, Peter
Did they check the shocks/cartridges and springs?
How many miles on the car? If an alignment was performed with worn tie rods then the alignment was pointless.
Worn inner edges on the front tires usually points to an excessive amount of negative camber or too much toe-out.
Did this alignment machine happen to be one that provides a computer printout of specs?
3 more posibilities:
The alignment shop didn’t make provisions for the “non-adjustable” parts, and are reporting - incorrectly - that everything is “in spec”
“In Spec” isn’t good enough. I have found many situations where the alignment tolerances are too wide and vehicles with alignments on the outer half of the tolerance have wear issues.
Your Mom’s driving style may be incompatible with the way the steerign geometry is setup. Turning the steering wheel results in different angles of the tires - left to right. This is called “akerman” and it is a property of the car. It can only be changed by changing or bending parts. When you drive slowly around a curve - like an expressway ramp - a certain amount of “akerman” is needed. But if you drive on the same curve at a higher speed, less “akerman” is needed. The reverse would also be true.
But I think your first step is to take the car somwhere else and have them provide you with the actual alignment values.
It is not impossible that your dealer’s alignment equipment is in need of calibration. The posts that refer to calling a supposedly unadjustable alignment setting as being “within specification” also may have merit. Something is not right here and so you may need to consult with another shop. I would not hesitate, if another opinion found valid is found, to go back to your dealer to ask for compensation for work not completed. I suspect that you have a camber or a toe problem. Toe, however, is easily adjustable on any car. Incorrect caster will not cause odd tire wear as you describe.
The three main adjustable alignment items are caster, camber and toe. All three were readily adjustable with older cars from the past. A supposedly non-adjustable item on a modern car may be adjusted with a creative measure.
Of course I have to disagree with the part about “within specs” not being close enough.
The +/- tolerances are tight and there is not enough leeway there to hurt anything.
An example might be a camber spec being given as 1 degree +/- 15’. The 15’ means 15 minutes and that translates to 1/4 of one degree. Tolerances that tight are not going to be a problem.
Same with toe. One degree toe-in +/- 15’ is nothing.
As mentioned, toe is adjustable and on many cars camber and caster are not.
If the camber and/or caster is beyond the limits then this means there is a mechanical problem; worn or damaged suspension parts. Potholes and railroad tracks can do it.
Some companies manufacture caster and camber kits (for some cars) to aid in correcting problems with non-adjustable models.
“…Of course I have to disagree with the part about “within specs” not being close enough.
The +/- tolerances are tight and there is not enough leeway there to hurt anything…”
Perhaps I should tell you where I am coming from.
I’m a tire engineer with a major tire manufacturer. I have investigated many complaints about tire wear, as well as complaints on pull and drift. Sometimes I’ll encounter a vehicle (meaning many samples of the same make and model) where there is a repeated tire wear complaint. When I actually get the alignment values, I’ll frequently find that the values are either “out of spec” or the values are in the outer half of the tolerance. This leads me to the conclusion that there are vehicles whose alignment specs are too wide. When these vehicles are realigned within the inner half of the spec, the wear problem goes away.
For further insight: Some vehicle manufacturers tolerances for alignment haven’t changed for 30 years - before radial tires were common. Because of the belt, radial tires are much more sensitive to toe, and less sensitive to camber.
During a discussion on alignment with some engineers at a major vehicle manufacturer, I took the same position. They confronted me with a summary of their alignment tolerances, stating that all the tolerances were the same - and therefore the tolerance is not the problem, otherwise there would be wear issues on all their vehicles.
I pointed out that included in their list was a heavy truck (the “tractor” part of a “tractor / trailer”, you know,18 wheeler style). The alignment tolerances were half that of the cars and SUV’s. This seemed to take the wind out of their arguement.
I’m not saying that ALL vehicles have alignment tolerances that are too wide. I am saying that when they say “IN SPEC”, don’t think that is always acceptable.
In your investigations on this how have you determined the effect of vehicle mileage and suspension wear on alignment?
Are you assuming that the front end is always tight in every respect?
How have you determined the effect of a worn suspension component or loose wheel bearing on the alignment rack readings?
Have you figured the effect of FWD on alignment?
By the time many people hit their second, or even first set of tires, some suspension parts may be worn enough that it will not be noticeable by feel.
However, that .002 thousandths of an inch, not noticeable wear in a tie rod can easily translate to a discrepancy on the alignment rack.
About every spec I’ve seen is pretty narrow; 1 degree positive camber +/- 15’, 1 degree toe-in +/- 15’, etc.
These were new vehicles and the mileages were in the 8,000 to 12,000 mile range. Needless to say, most of the question you asked are not applicable.
There were 2 investigations that occurred very close in time to each other. What would happen is that when a vehicle dealer would call in requesting assistance - meaning some help with warranty, we would request a copies of the “BEFORE” and “AFTER” alignment print out. When we were able to determine with some degree of certainty that we were actually looking at both, we always had the situation described earlier - either out of spec or in the outer half. This was a surprise to me, because I was expecting “akerman” to be the problem, since tire wear wasn’t a problem on the previous models. I found it very interesting that not one dealer sent in an alignment print where the vehicle was within the inner half of the tolerance.
You mentioned 1 degree toe +/- 15 minutes. I’m of the old school and remember toe-in in 32nds of an inch - meaning I have to translate.
I just looked up a number of alignment specs and the toe in is commonly around 0.1 degrees with a tolerance of 0.6 degrees (36 minutes). While we seem to disagree on what the target value is, we seem to be in complete agreement about the tolerance.
We have a 97 Accord as well, had it since new. A couple of things mentioned here have merit, the most important is that the dealers alignment machine may need calibration and/or, the dealers “technician” may not be qualified to operate it.
Another thing with this year Accord, the OEM tires are undersized. Our LX came with 185-65 15. The SE was basically an LX with alloy rims and a sunroof, but it came with 195-60 15. This car should have 205-60 15. Anything smaller will wear on both outer edges.
There also may be an issue with the snow tires or the rims they were mounted on. Where they mounted on different rims? If so, maybe the rims have a different offset than the Honda was designed for.
My investigations were on new vehicles - 5,000 to 8,000 miles - and the complaints were shoulder wear - feathering and irregular wear. So all the question you asked weren’t applicable.
Admittedly I don’t have a listing of current alignment specs - and they don’t seemed to be published on the internet, except for specific vehicles - and even then it is imbedded in a discussion and I don’t put much faith in data obtained in a discussion group. Maybe my sense to the tolerances is incorrect - or perhaps some vehicle manufacturers have tightened up their tolerances.
But when I looked up what was being published in these aforementioned discussion groups I get a different sense of the alignment tolerances than you.
You mentioned toe as 1 degree +/- 15 minutes. The 1 degree sounds positvely HUGE!!!, but if the tolerance you published is correct (+/- 15 minutes), then I would agree with you, that is a reasonably tight tolerance. However most of the tolerances I looked at in my quick internet search had tolerances of +/- 0.2 degrees with a target value of 0.1 degrees.
So while we seem to disagree on the target value (not the issue here), we agree on the tolerance.
Opps, I quoted the wrong results from my internet search.
What I found was a typical toe in spec of 0.1 degrees +/- 0.4 degrees.
Yes there is a printout of the alignment. The car has 110k on it and they have checked the mechanicals for wear
Here is some specific information about what is on the car and what’s been done.
The snow tires are on 15x6.0JJ rims which are one of many sizes in the owner’s manual. They are either 185/65 or 195/60 can’t remember which but I found the observation about 205s interesting as I have always put the next size up on my vehicles.
The dealer has told me the alignment machine is dynamic, not static and that it will show up any component wear. Whether that means it spins the wheel or just turns is X degrees I don’t know. I don’t have the printout handy but as I recall it shows a bar graph comparing actual vs. tolerance and everything was well inside the limits.
Considering the problems are occurring on near new vehicles with only 5 to 8k miles on them then my best guess would be that the factory is running them through the assembly line fast and a jig of some sort is being used to align the front end as the car rolls down the line; for close enough maybe.
I don’t see every car going on a rack.
And of course the car makers now and then allow a suspension design flaw through which can cause problems. The early Taurus and Merkurs both had camber problems on the rear.
New cars go through a PDI procedure (pre-delivery inspection). This involves going over all suspension/chassis bolts, verifying everything is operating correctly, fluid levels fine, tire pressure, etc.
One thing that is NOT done is verify alignment. Checking the alignment is part of the PDI on a few high end cars.
When I worked for SAAB, checking the alignment was part of the PDI procedure.
Most of the time the readings were what they were supposed to be but there would be a stray one come through now and then that was borderline off; and once in a while one would be WAY off. We had one SAAB that was toed OUT 1/2".
As to the 1 degree figure, I was just using that as an example. Most cars get a little toe-in, but some front drive vehicles require a bit of toe-out. Early VW Rabbits if I remember correctly.
I know that when I performed an alignment, and from friends of mine who do the same thing, we always shoot for the middle of the spectrum. As I said, if a vehicle has 80k miles on it one could align it right on the dot, swat a tire with an open hand, and have a different reading altogether due to looseness somewhere.
It’s JMHO, but considering those problems you mention are occurring on low miles vehicles, I would have to think that assembly line variances are causing an alignment problem and since the PDI does not include this (the dealer only performs what’s on the checklist), then it will never be known if the alignment is correct or not until a customer has suffered a problem because of it.
Note. Some dealers have their PDIs performed by the clean up and detail guys as it’s cheaper than paying the mechanics in their shop. It could be argued that some of these guys are not very proficient in mechanical inspections.
Ask your dealer if his alignment machine has been recently checked for accuracy. I used to work with an engineering organization that used a variety of mechanical and electrical measurement devices. We had tools as a dial caliper, micrometers, pressure gauges, voltmeters, oscilloscopes and many more checked by a calibration service against a standard traceable to NIST, at least once per year. Your dealer’s wheel alignment equipment is a sophisticated measurement tool used in a somewhat hostile environment by probably a variety of users. It deserves an occasional calibration check. Ask your dealer when it was done last.
Did your dealer check all 4 wheels or just the front? On a Honda, you have to start an alignment with the rear wheels, then the front.
This may be just a case of incompatibility with the tires. The snow tires may track significantly different from regular tires. See if the regular tires start to develop the same wear pattern. If it does, then maybe you should have the alignment checked by someone else.
yes, all four wheels were checked. there were repairs to the rear suspension at the time of the original alignment-a bent lower arm. the dealer has asked us to bring the car back after 5010k on the summer tires to check the wear pattern. the snows are ‘sticky’ toyo observes and they work great on snow and ice. they beat studs any way you look at it. but maybe they have different wear characteristics although I have them on a 2wd S10 and there’s no abnormal wear.
Here are the specs for a 97 Accord, from the FSM.
Front 0?3mm (1/8")
Rear 2mm?2mm (.08")
Its actually common for front wheel drive cars to have a toe of 0 or a toe out, not a toe in.