What is Tire Feathering?

Tires are the most critical thing for road safety, apart maybe from the brakes on your car. Luckily, we live in a time when tires are very good at gripping the road well – even the most basic touring model is better than a performance tire from 30 years ago.

Advanced compound technology also gave us tires that last for a very long time. Some all-season tires can be used for more than 50,000 miles, and they will still give you excellent traction on dry and wet roads, and some will even work on snow.

Nonetheless, this is only true in ideal conditions, i.e., when the whole tread wears down evenly. In the real world, many vehicles have faulty suspension components, leading to uneven tread wear.

This problematic issue is known as tire feathering, and here you’ll learn everything there is to know about it. Be sure to read thoroughly, as feathering can make your tires less safe, regardless of the weather conditions.


How Can You Notice Tire Feathering?

If you are a responsible driver, you should monitor your tires occasionally – at least once every month. Look at the tread and see if it doesn’t wear down evenly, i.e., it wears down at an angle. In other words, if one side of the tread (inside or outside) is worn down more than the other one, it means your tire suffers from feathering.

The issue is usually easily recognizable; however, if you want to be more accurate, you could measure the tread depth with a special gauge on both ends and see for differences. This way, you’ll catch the issue sooner and avoid changing your tires sooner than anticipated.

What Causes Tire Feathering?

The leading cause of tire feathering is bad wheel alignment. Namely, if your vehicle suffers from excessive positive camber, you’ll see the outer shoulders wear down faster, and vice-versa for negative camber. Meanwhile, toe-in on the front axle will wear the tires on the outside, while toe-out will wear them out on the inside.

It is important to note that even if one wheel suffers from excessive toe/camber, all four tires will experience tire feathering, as the geometry of every wheel will be spoiled.

Fortunately, the bad wheel alignment issue is usually easy to fix, as most of the time, it doesn’t mean there is a faulty component you’ll need to replace. All you need to fix the issue is to visit your nearest mechanic, which shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.

However, tire feathering can also occur due to faulty suspension components. In this case, even if you brought your car to the mechanic for alignment, the issue will reappear shortly. I will look for worn-out ball joints or damaged bushings when that happens.

If the parts in question are faulty, I’d recommend them asap. They might seem costly, but surely not as expensive as four new tires. Besides, you will need to replace the faulty parts eventually, and doing that sooner will only save you from spending big on other parts.

Remember, in the car world, regular maintenance and timely repairs are crucial to saving money in the long run.

Can I Continue to Run My Car with Feathered Tires?


Can you continue to run car with feathered tires?

It depends on how big the issue is. Suppose there is a slight feathering appearing on one of your tires. In that case, I recommend bringing your vehicle to the mechanic, checking the wheel alignment, and fixing the issue if necessary.

However, if the feathering on your tires is at an advanced stage, I would recommend changing your tires entirely. Tire feathering is a big safety issue and significantly reduces the tire’s longitudinal and lateral traction.

Namely, each tire is designed to offer maximum traction when it hits the road, as the engineers intended. For longitudinal traction (acceleration and braking), that means a larger and even contact patch to increase friction.

When the contact patch is not uniform, the tires struggle to put the power down during acceleration, and the braking distances will be long. Meanwhile, a feathered tire won’t hit the road at the right angle during cornering, which limits the lateral grip.

But issues will be even worse in foul weather. Since one side will be worn-down excessively, the tire won’t be able to dissipate water well, which leads to hydroplaning issues. Things are even worse on snow, where the overall traction will be much worse than on an evenly worn tire.

Other Tire Feathering Symptoms

Apart from significantly affecting safety, feathered tires are also less comfortable than tires that experience regular wear. Notably, they will be much noisier, with a loud roar that can become tiring on longer journeys. 

Moreover, tire feathering leads to vibrations at higher speeds, which not only disturbs passengers but also causes instability.

How to Prevent and Fix Tire Feathering?

You can’t really fix a feathered tire, as the damage is already done. However, provided the issue is not at an advanced phase, a simple wheel alignment or replacing the damaged suspension component will prolong the life of your tires. If you are lucky, the tread will even out after a few thousand miles.

As for the tires, I highly recommend rotating them at each oil change or each 5,000-8,000 miles. This can significantly reduce the tire feathering issue and keep your tires fresh for longer.

Also, make sure you purchase tires from reputable manufacturers. Often, cheap tires are not perfectly round laterally, which leads to excessive tire feathering. These products not only hurt your investment but they will make you doubt your vehicle’s wheel alignment.

Is Tire Cupping Different from Tire Feathering?

Tire Feathering vs. Tire Cupping

Tire Feathering vs. Tire Cupping

Although it has similar symptoms, tire cupping is different from feathering. In this case, the tire wears down unevenly at random spots along the tread length. 

The biggest cause of tire cupping is bad shocks/struts, which lead to the tire jumping slightly over the surface. However, bent wheels and low-quality tires can also cause cupping.


Taking care of your vehicle’s components and tires is key to maximizing safety and keeping running costs low. Thus, I recommend checking your tires regularly, especially when it rains or snows, as tire feathering can significantly reduce traction in those conditions. 

A cheap tread depth gauge can be immensely helpful here, so ensure you always have it in your trunk.

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