High performance tires and "tramlining;" how does that affect me?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 by Doc Horvath

The term "tramlining" is being used to describe when directional control is disrupted by the vehicle's tendency to follow the longitudinal ruts and/or grooves in the road. Its name could be compared to the tram or trolley driver who does not steer because his vehicle follows the path established by the tracks.

On the road!Any vehicle can exhibit tramlining on certain areas of the highway because of uneven pavement or severe rutting. And all vehicles tramline to some degree rather than obediently following the driver's steering input. For example, there's usually at least a small change in steering resistance felt through the wheel when crossing an uneven expansion joint or asphalt junction during lane changes.

Many high performance tires feature a directional tread pattern, and that pattern can make tramlining a stronger possibility. With a wider treaded tire, you may encounter more longitudinal ruts and/or grooves in the road than a narrow treaded tire. A tire with large tread blocks that transmits the driver's input to the road with great precision will also transmit the road's imperfections back to the vehicle's suspension. And because tires become more responsive as their tread depth wears away (which is why tires are shaved for competition and track use), a tire will become more likely to tramline as it wears.

When looking at high performance tires, take a moment to consider the roads you encounter every day. If you travel the highway quite a bit, and if the roads are well worn from heavy truck travel, then you may want to steer away from a directional tire!

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