Premature tire wear

My '06 Audi A3 is eating up tires. Audi paid for the replacement of the first set of tires (started “cupping” after 10,000 miles). But now, after 19,000 miles on the second set (I bought the recommended Continental ContiPro Contacts), it’s starting again. My response this time from Audi Corporate headquarters was not as amenable. It seems rediculous to me that I have to buy new tires every couple of years and that’s deemed acceptable by the car maker. Do I have any recourse? Has anyone else experienced this with their Audi or other make?

There are lots of different kinds of wear patterns that you can get. A more detailed description of the exact kind of wear you are getting will help people say something. Here is one of many different guides that are available:

That said, one of the most common things that can produce tire problems are under or over inflation. You should check your tire pressure regularly if you don’t.

One of the things that helps tires wear most evenly is regular rotation (5K or so, though your owner’s manual may have specific recommendations).

Perhaps its time to have an independent suspension shop look at the wear patterns and inspect the steering & suspension.

Thanks, that’s all good info. Unfortunately, though, I’ve done everything possible. I rotate the tires regularly, have all the annual maintenance performed according to the manual, check tire inflation, etc. The cupping is occurring on all 4 tires and every 10,000-19,0000 miles; that’s why I believe it’s a design flaw in the car.

I’d be seeing an independent suspension shop - preferably with the cupped tires available for inspection.

It is a 5 year old car. Plenty can go wrong, and it is certainly possible to have had some problem right off the line. Many people think that the manufacturer reps (e.g. dealer service departments) know best - but that’s frequently a bad assumption. So I’d take it to my best local, independent front end/alignment/tire shop for an evaluation.

Cupping is generally caused by a faulty shock/strut, suspension component, or by a seriously out of balance tire. The odds of this happening on all 4 would be very odd.

Buy this car brand new (as in 4 or so miles on it), any collision history at all, known recollection of severe pothole or curb strikes, etc.?
Are the front ones wearing oddly, the rears rotated to the front, and the odd wear process starts all over again on the now rotated to the front rear tires?

Sometimes tires develop wear problems that are diagnosed as cupping when that is really not the term that should be used.
Considering the history of this car, it should have been put on the alignment rack a long time ago if that has never been done. You might post any alignment specs back for discussion.

I’ve verified that it’s cupping. I brought the car brand spanking new. No collisions, no tickets (i.e., I’m an excellent driver, not a testosterone-jacked up male adolescent), I’m easy on the car and take good care of it. Everything is normal but this. All 4 tires are wearing prematurely at the same rate. It’s a problem with the car.

I just found a post on an Audi forum site that was entered by an Audi technician. I think I may have found my answer. He said to resolve this problem, his service department modifies the rear toe specs from 25 minutes to that of the VW Golf’s (10 minutes). He said that reducing the rear toe to a setting that’s just slightly toed out has, so far, taken care of the problem (he admits there’s a problem). He said it’s the stock rear toe specs that wear the tires and that it’s like that to produce the handling everyone expects from a car like this.

I’ll see what my Audi dealership has to say about this…

You say you’ve done everything possible, but have you gotten second and third opinions from independent suspension shops? Some tire stores with a good suspension person can find a cause for the cupping. My bet would be on defective shocks or struts. I would also consider wagering on the fact that you inflate your tires to the maximum PSI recommended on the tire sidewall, instead of the lower PSI recommended by Audi. Am I wrong?

When I read you are going to the Audi dealership again, with more questions, it reminds me of what Einstein said when asked to define “insanity.” To paraphrase, Einstein said “insanity” is doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results. Your Audi dealership has proven they aren’t capable of solving this problem, so it is time to find an independent shop or tire shop that has better employees. You could even consider going to a different Audi dealership. Once someone else solves this problem, you will have some standing to ask for a partial refund for your tires.

If you were buying a new car, would you take the salesman’s word that the car is in great shape, or would you pay your mechanic to inspect it? If you were buying a house, would you let the seller hire and pay the inspector, or would you insist on hiring and paying the inspector? Personally, I would remove the conflict of interest. I would not ask the Audi dealership to find the problem so they can prove they or Audi owes you money. They have a conflict of interest. If they find the problem, they either have to pay your partial refund or go after Audi to pay it, neither or which is is a favorable outcome from their point of view. You need a mechanic who works for you, and who won’t lose time and money by properly diagnosing your problem. Then, once the problem has been successfully resolved, you can go after money from Audi, but asking one organization with a conflict of interest to act against its self-interest has gotten you nowhere.

And the fault may lie with the tires themselves. ContiPro Contacts may have been original equipment, but frankly they’re only average tires, and you’re not doing yourself any great favors by sticking with them. In general, all OEM tires are just good enough to be adequate, and nothing more. Go to and read the user surveys to see where the ContiPros rank as compared to other tires (10th of 28). If I were you, I would have switched to a different (better) tire after the ContiPros wore out.

I have seen cupping on rear tires on more than one brand of front drive cars when rotation was delayed. With narrow tires such as a 155/80R13 mild cupping will correct itself in a few thousand miles when the cupped tires are rotated to the front. With modern wide tires which you likely have, the cupping will not correct.

It is possible that you are waiting too long to rotate your tires. Your post states that the tires are cupping after 10,000 miles, and then 9000 miles. That has typically been too many miles from what I have seen. Possibly 5000 or even 4000 miles might be better. As the tire treads wear, you might be able to extend the rotation mileage a little.

I go with the answer that he Continentals are not "good enough from the start. Do others agree that the tires show an issue of substance? What I am getting at here is perhaps you have become sensitive to this condition.

OEM tires are selected on the basis of a few factors:

Low cost
Soft ride
Low cost
Low noise level
Low cost
Low rolling resistance (good gas mileage)
Low cost

Car manufacturers DO NOT select tires on the basis of long tread life, and they rarely select them for their handling capabilities. They are interested in being able to report good mpg figures, and in having potential buyers believe that the car is comfy-riding and quiet.

Did I mention that these tires were selected by Audi mainly on the basis of low cost?

In other words, when it is time to replace your tires, buying the same brand and model of tire that the car was originally equipped with will only serve to guarantee mediocrity. Doing the necessary research and paying more money for better-quality tires will result in great improvements in handling and tread wear–in most cases.

My new car is equipped with the same tires, and–trust me–I will NOT be putting ContiPro Contacts on the car when it is time to replace the original tires.

Many folks use the term “cupping” - which is caused by bad shocks and out of balance - when they should use the term “irregular wear” - which is caused by mis-alignment, and aggravated by insufficient rotation practices and insufficient inflation pressure.

Getting the toe correct is an important step, but I’ll bet the alignment spec for an A3 include lots of camber - which further aggravates the tendency towards irregular wear.

So you need to stay away from the dealer because he is ALWAYS going to fall back on the stock alignment specs. You need to find an independent alignment shop who will set the car up with less camber. This might require a plate or an eccentric bolt (extra cost).

Oh, and while some tires are more suseptible to irregular wear than others, if the vehicle is getting irregular wear, then the alignment is causing it. Even the cheapest tires will wear evenly if the alignment is good enough.

I’m in agreement with CapriRacer that what may be happening here is irregular tire wear and cupping is not what happened, with that word being used incorrectly.

Throw a bit too much negative camber on there, a bit too much toe one way or the other and it’s quite possible for a tire issue to surface.

I have seen cupping on the rear tires of three different front drive cars that we bought brand new when I delayed the first tire rotation. This is not because of bad shocks or bad wheel balance. It is a characteristic of some front drive cars. I won’t say all cars because I don’t know that to be true.

Once cupping begins, at first it is just visible. It will become audible if delayed more.

Why did I persist in delaying rotation? You might call it laziness or else an experiment to convince me that rotation on time is really needed. I now am convinced that it is; won’t delay rotation again.

Irregular wear can be any of a number of wear patterns but cupping is more specific.

For a picture, Google “tire cupping pictures” and look at the one under procarcare. That is how my cupped tires appear.

Sounds like the crappy Continental tires on my Toyota.
Even though alignment is well within spec for toe and camber and with frequent rotations they wear on the far edges and are noisy at 23k miles.
I had them flipped over on the rims to counteract the edge wear.
I have a co-worker with the same model car that came with a different brand of tire and she has no problems, even though I’m sure she’s not as fastidious as I am with maintenance.

Its the crappy tires, in conjunction with the slightly more aggressive alignment specs.

Those Continental ContiProContacts wore out on my '07 Nissan Altima 2.5S in under 20k miles. They also weren’t the most confidence inspiring tires in the dry, the rain, and were simply horrible in the snow. You would be well served by installing a different tire this time around.


You haven’t told us how many miles are on the car itself. My own car is an '05 but has over 149,000 miles. It too is cupping tires (rear) and after having checked it out I[ve ordered new rear shocks/struts (the mfg calls them shocks, but they’re a strut configuration).

Cupping, assuming the alignment is in spec and the tires well balanced, is a generally sign of tired struts/shocks. It’s a normal wear condition.