Right front tire wear

So the parking guy, instead of chalking my tires (I live in Boothbay Harbor, ME), left me a note: “Check your right front tire.” The right front tire on my '98 VW Beetle was bald. I also checked the right front tire of my my 2002 Volvo and that tire was showing more wear than the other three tires. I vaguely remember that I have always had noticeably more wear on the right front tire on every car I have owned. My question, then, is it true, does the right front tire wear out faster than the others? And, if so, why?

It does on FWD cars. Torque is applied with a bias toward the right axle to compensate for the torque steer inherant in FWD systems. This is accomplished by simply using different axle lengths.

…and, can be compensated for–to some extent–by rotating the tires every 5k or 7.5k miles.

Can the OP please tell us what schedule he uses for tire rotation, and also how often he checks his tire pressure?

One of the ancillary benefits of checking your tire pressure on a regular basis is that you get “up close and personal” with your tires. A person who does frequent pressure checks is unlikely to be in a situation where he is unaware that one or more of this tires has significantly more wear than the other tires, simply because he can do a visual inspection of the tires while he is checking their pressure.

You really need to get in the habit of checking tires (to name one of a number of things) now and then rather than rely on a parking guy to point this out to you. Tires should never be allowed to get to the point where they are bald.

Right front tires don’t wear out faster than any of the others unless there’s a problem. That problem could be driving the beejeezus out of FWD vehicles or the alignment is off due to age/wear or something bent due to a collision, curb strike, et.

Respectfully, my friend, my past research of years back into the issue or torque steer uncovered literature to the effect that engineers learned to compensate for it by using uneven length axles, slightly biasing torque under WOT toward the right front axle. My own experience with FWD cars has been that the RF wears slightly faster than the left. I use directionally treaded tires, so I’m unable to rotate side to side and I notice the difference. The difference is really only noticable when the wear gets down toward the wear bars. Out of curiosity, I’ll measure it in another month or so. I’m about due for tires anyway.

But I wholeheartedly agree that if there’s any question the vehicle should be checked out. I constantly and obsessively track details that others probably don’t even notice exist, and I’m an obsessive-compulsive reader, so my own sensitivities may not be a good guideline to go by.

How much tread is left on the other tires? (I’m trying to get a sense of how much faster the right front tire went.) It sounds like you don’t ever rotate your tires. Is this correct?

As others have said, it’s a little surprising that a tire could get to this state without being noticed. You really do need to look at your tires more often (and probably check your tire inflation far more often, if I had to guess). If you ran these tires last winter in Maine, count yourself lucky that you didn’t have an accident.

It appears that I am not the only one to question how often and how consistently these tires were rotated, as well as how often the OP checks the pressure in his tires.

Could the OP kindly respond to the questions that I posed yesterday?

While I guess a small difference might exist, none of my fwd cars have shown any noticeable difference right to left over 30 years. And on one I chose not to rotate the tires because of their even wear. So the right front tire spent its life there, and wore out at the same time as the left fron tire.

Perhaps the agggressivenss with which one drives is a factor.

I should add that I am interested in the inputs of others on the subject. I testify to my own information and experience, but I realize that my answers and experiences may not be universal, and now that the question has been brought up it might be an interesting thread. I hope to never stop learning until the day they plant me in the ground.

Here’s a possible reason for the OP’s tire wear - the right front tires on his cars might be encountering curbs, etc. more often, getting it out of alignment, causing extra wear.

Gentlemen/ladies, I offer the following link, which seems to contradict my recollections technically but does support the axle length vs. torque steer relationship.


I’m going to wander into this subject further. Enquiring minds want to know.

Maybe the OP makes a lot of quick left turns! ;o)

“I use directionally treaded tires, so I’m unable to rotate side to side and I notice the difference.”

I might pay to have the tires flipped over on their rims once in their lifetime.
I nearly doubled the life of a set of tires that wore more on the extreme inner edges in spite of good alignment.

That would certainly balance the wear, but the difference side to side on mine is very minimal. It only becomes seeable if one is actually examining the wear.

Side to side across each tread is perfectly even.

I drive 30K-35K each year, which takes most of the life out of my tires anyway, and I like lots of tread heading into winter, so I put new rubber on in October or November every year. To me tires are the first line of defense against winter accidents, so to me it’s worth a few hundred a year to prevent them.

I actively and routinely keep track of my wear, but as a symptom of any developing problem rather than to get the max life out of them. Most folks. I realize, are after tire life and cost, and I respect that. I’m insecure. I’m more interested in good traction than in saving a few bucks.

I changed those (OEM) tires well before the wear bars, and got 25k out of them.
The edges were getting iffy when I had them flipped at 15k.
The other edges and the center wore down together evenly after that.
I drive about 4k per year, mostly city, 2-3 drives per week.
Since I can walk to work or the grocery store I never HAVE to drive in deep snow etc.

I tip my hat to your situation. Some years ago I lived exactly 1 mile from my work, and it sure was nice. Most of my life I’ve been a commuter.

Since we drive on the right side of the road, right turns are tighter than left turns, especially when turning at intersections. At first glance, it seems like this would wear the left tire more, but maybe I’m not picturing things correctly and the right tire gets a little scrubbed at intersections somehow. Anyway, it seems like a factor to consider here.

As data input for MB:

On my 4Runner (RWD/4WD), I rotate religiously, every 5K. They all appear to wear evenly, and even have cracking requiring replacement long before wear is a factor.

Pretty much the same on my wife’s Jetta (FWD). Replaced the last set due to cracking and rubber aging, rather than wear.

We live in Texas, so I’m sure heat played a significant factor in the rubber degredation. As for how we drive, well, you guys already know we drive the snot out of them. :slight_smile:


Lion, that’s an interesting theory worth considering, since I’m referring to minimal wear differences. Certainly the inside wheel in right turns would have to cut a much smaller arc than the inside wheel on left turns. That just might be a factor.

I understand the torque steer thing but don’t necessarily agree that is the problem here.
Some years back when I used to commute a long distance each day I owned 2 older model FWD Subarus (not at the same time) and used those as daily beaters/commuters. Both of those cars had equal length halfshafts (as all Subarus do) and there was no abnormal RF tire wear at all. My commute and other driving on those cars probably added up to about 40-50k miles a year so the cars definitely got a workout.

I’ve also driven a couple of my daughter’s Mitsubishis (unequal axle length) aggressively during test drives and had no problem breaking the RF tires loose every time.
In a dealer shop setting and seeing a lot of equal length axle cars over the years of various makes there has been no chronic RF tire wear complaints that I’ve heard of.

The problem with this complaint is that the OP says it occurs not only with this Beetle but his Volvo and every other car they’ve ever owned.
If that’s the case this means every car they’ve owned has been collision damaged on the RF or the alignment is off on all of them due to potholes or curb strikes and that would be near impossible for me to believe unless the OP has a tendency to always whack the curb while pulling into their driveway; assuming a curb exists.