Defensive Driving Blog

Road Surface, Tires & Defensive Driving


There are many ways your tires can affect your driving but today let’s talk about road surfaces. The material and condition of road surfaces can greatly affect the wear and tear on tires. We are not talking about the most common reasons for tires to wear out – improper tire rotation, air pressure and wheel alignment, but a less obvious cause – the material that comprises the road surface.


At they compare the road’s surface to sandpaper.  Some roads or more coarse than others due to age or materials used that are common to the area, such as crushed sea shells that are often embedded in the surface in coastal areas. This can cause undue stress on your tires treads but if the surface is severely grooved or uneven it can affect how your car tracks. This is called tramlining but should not be confused with tire pull, which is most likely related to the vehicle and not the road.

So what is tramlining? Generally it is considered the vehicle’s tendency to follow the longitudinal ruts and grooves in the road. It usually occurs on areas of a highway that have uneven pavement or severe rutting. Here are some tires that are most susceptible to tramlining:

*High performance tires with short sidewalls

*Wider treaded tires

*A tire with large tread blocks

*A worn tire (tires become more responsive as their tread depth wears away making them tramline).

*Tires inflated over the recommended amount stiffen the tire and add to tramlining.

Other things also affect tramlining. Suspension bushings, ball joints and shock absorber mounts can have a direct influence. As these parts age the wear and tear permit play in the wheel that allows the tire to be misdirected easily into the irregularities of the road.


What can be done to minimize tramlining? Changing tires based on the information above can help, especially keeping the tire pressure at the level suggested by the vehicle manufacturer. Alignment settings also are important and as a general rule your tires should be aligned with negative camber and toe settings within the factory’s specifications. The roads you choose can also have an effect on tramlining. On a multi-lane highway the left lane offers the smoothest road surface because it sees the least amount of heavy truck traffic. It goes to follow that the right hand lane can be the roughest.

If you find yourself on a road that is causing a lot of tramlining just be sure to keep your hands firmly on the wheel. This will help you control the course of your vehicle and leave little room for meandering.

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