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Is uneven tire wear (left vs right) common with front wheel drive cars?

I have a 2012 Leaf with ~23k miles on it. I’ve watched the left front tire wear down more rapidly than the right. I calculated the cost of tire rotation vs more frequent replacement so the tires have been in the same location for many miles. I had the alignment checked and the the only out of spec reading was 0.09" right toe corrected to 0.06". The supervising mechanic asked me, “which wheel drives the car forward?” I thought that both did so equally. I’ve found it hard to get a reliable answer that is different. The mechanic told me that most front wheel drive gas cars drive primarily on the right front wheel. Is the mechanic correct?



In a city driving environment the right front tire wears faster than the others. After 20,000-25,000 miles I generally find the right side to be 1/32" more worn than the left side with scheduled tire rotations. Most people make right turns at a crawling speed and left turns at 15-20 MPH.

I agree with Nevada_545. The left side of my motorcycle’s front tire seems to wear faster than the right side, probably for the reasons given by his post.
No, the car is not driven by one front wheel. The differential applies equal torque to both front axles. It doesn’t favor one wheel or the other.
I find it hard to believe that a professional mechanic can be that clueless, though there are a lot of competent workers who’s understanding of the stuff they work on is limited to knowing the motions they have to go through to do their job.


I would think that a difference between wear on the left vs the right might to tied to the amount of turns left vs right - particularly freeway on and off ramps. These ramps are generally in the clockwise directions, which would unload the right tire and load up the left.

My past two cars have been FWD, the first I had until 238,000 miles and the last/current for 240,000 miles so far. I also had an '82 Civic way back when. Neither has exhibited this issue. I do recognize that there is a torque-induced bias in FWD cars, but I’ve never personally had it measurably affect wear.

But every design is different. There are variations in how the design teams deal with the bias issue. And, the leaf being all-electric with regenerative brakes, it’s even more unique, with more variables involved. The regenerative braking “drag” might also bias toward the right wheel, I don’t really know. I don’t even know if the right and left front wheels are attached to each other the way they would be in a conventional FWD car.

It might behoove you to seek out a model-specific forum and see what other Leaf owners have experienced. It being one of a unique breed of cars, I’m sure there must be such a forum.

The OP doesn’t think tire rotation is needed. I think this is a good example that tire rotation does make sense.

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In this case, as in the case of AWD cars, I’m inclined to agree.

Also an argument against directional tires as they can only be rotated front to back.

To answer the OP’s question, BOTH wheels drive the car forward equally. That is what a differential does and is for.

Over the past five years, I’ve had two tire repairs due to nails. Both were the right rear. The tire shop says that’s because all of the debris on the road is on the right side and the front tire kicks up the junk and the rear tire gets nailed (pun intended). So it wouldn’t surprise me to find more wear on the right side.

As far as rotation goes though, I rotate about every 5-7000 miles. On the one car it costs me $20 for the rotation while I sit and read a magazine. On the other car, free rotations are included in the tire purchase, so costs nothing. The one set of tires cost me $600 and the other set on the car I don’t have anymore cost me $1300. So I guess I just don’t see the rationale for not rotating and buying tires sooner instead. Next set of tires, buy from a dealer that includes rotation for the same price and ride on in my view.

I remember seeing a picture several years ago of a motorcycle with a flap mounted under the engine, to knock down the nails the front tire stood up, that way there’d be fewer rear tire flats. Can’t find a picture, though…

We have had front wheel drive minivans with no tire rotation, except of course the rotation while you are driving down the road :wink: and never noticed one side wearing faster than another.

(The mechanic told me that most front wheel drive gas cars drive primarily on the right front wheel. Is the mechanic correct? )

Reasonably certain the word mechanic does not apply here.

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Uneven tire wear (left vs right) doesn’t automatically come with front wheel design, no. There’s usually a little more wear on the right side tires than the left, but that’s due to the way we Americans drive on the right side of the road. Both for the turning reasons mentioned above, and that the road is crowned so the car tilts a little to the right even while driving straight. Your experience of seeing more wear on the left is unusual unless you live in a country where you drive on the left side of the road.

If I did not rotate tires I am reasonably certain my left side tires would show wear first. Most of the ramps I use turn to the right. I make more right hand turns then the average person because I avoid left turns in traffic as much as possible. 3 right turns to go around the block rather then a left across traffic.

Exactly how is the tire wearing?
Worn evenly across the tread width?
Worn on the outer edge?
Worn on the inner edge?
Any cupping or feather edging?

Personally, I’ve never seen much of a problem with FWD tire wear unless there was a problem or the driver kept the foot planted on the floor all of the time. My assumption is that the latter does not apply to you.

I’m glad I posted this question. I’ve been given much ‘food for thought.’

Here’s a quick analysis. If you rotate tires every 6000 mile on average at $20/rotation that comes to $140 or $35 per tire. If you are buying ‘ordinary street tires’ you can probably get them for around $150/tire. This suggests that you need to realize over a 20% increase in average road life on the 4 tire set on a car (35/150 = 23.3%.)

Is this a realistic expectation?

The Leaf in question is driven 4500 - 5000 miles/year and represents >90% of the miles we drive. We are both retired, so there is no daily commute involved. I’ve not done an exhaustive analysis, but my guess is that >60% of our driving is short trips on city streets shopping and running errands. This inevitably involves a lot of turns, but since the trips are round trips the turns should approximate 50% left and 50% right turns. Some destinations allow some freeway driving at speed. My greatest tire wear concern is sun damage and oxidation. Our cars are not garaged; the garage is storage and work-space.

I make an effort to check tire pressures regularly and to adjust the cold pressure on the OEM Goodyear Ecopia tires at 42 psi to avoid wearing the edges vs the center tread. I learned this the hard way on a 2004 Prius.

The shop that checked the alignment, a large local Shell station, has a good reputation for its repair work. It was recommended to me by another local mechanic with great reviews (Mechanics Files at Car Talk) because he does not do alignment work.

Thanks to all who have participated in this thread. If someone has more to add, please do so. Even at 76 I am eager to learn.


I rotate my tires at 15,000 to 20,000 miles to balance tire wear but I am able to inspect and monitor my tires for abnormal wear patterns, most people cannot.
Wear patterns, like cupping and heel/toe wear cause unsatisfactory tire noise and some vehicle owners have replaced their tires at 20,000 miles with plenty of tread remaining to quiet the ride.

Sun damage/weather cracks have nothing to do with tire rotation, alignment or tire wear. You did not post your tread depth but it seems your 5 year old tires will probably have to be replaced long before they are worn to the minimum limit.

[quote=“baumgrenze, post:16, topic:96079”] … This suggests that you need to realize over a 20% increase in average road life on the 4 tire set on a car (35/150 = 23.3%.)

Is this a realistic expectation? …

I have seen data that suggests up to a 20% increase in overall life can be had by rotating tires.

But since you are driving so little, it is much more likely that age will be the reason to replace the tires. Please note: Many tires don’t show the age affects very well. Some tire manufacturer put crack resistant rubber in the sidewall - meaning the risk of a tire failing due to being too old can not be assessed.

Why not rotate every 15,000 miles like I do on my Insight? With my Bridgestone Ecopias that should be good for 60K miles, that’s just 3 rotations and each tire spends 15K miles at each position.

I should have included the image link below last night. Mea culpa for being too tired.

The red numbers are my camera image numbers so that I can recheck against the original if need be.

The photo clearly shows the ‘original’ tread pattern on the rear tires and the fairly even wear but greater wear across the left front tire relative to the right one.

All 4 tires are OEM Bridgestone Ecopia tires. Two are fairly early “pot hole” replacements, at 7 miles and ~3,000 miles.

For those not familiar with the Leaf, Nissan elected to ‘go modern and emulate high-end cars’ so they do not include a spare tire and jack. For the 7 miles replacement the car was towed to the dealership. For the second I had it towed to my driveway. I bought the replacement tire online and had the tire mounted and the wheel balanced at a local shop. Unfortunately, I have no record of the mileage on the car since the shop did not see the odometer.

Thanks again for all the input.