I’m sure you’re aware a tire rubbing when turning is dangerous. Not only could the tire give way at any time, but depending on the cause, the steering could be a problem. The good news is that there aren’t many reasons for a tire to scrub when turning. The bad news is that most of them require you to spend out on a repair.
What causes a car tire to rub?
The five causes listed below are the most common causes of tire rubbing. Not all of the causes are relevant to the everyday standard road-going cars, but they are something to be aware of if you have purchased a car with aftermarket upgrades.
1. Suspension problems
Suspension problems causing the tire to rub on the inner arch, shock absorber strut, or fender are most commonly caused by the damaged suspension. Very commonly caused by an impact on the wheel when driving. Worn or broken components can cause the tire to touch when turning, depending on the problem. Regardless of the cause, the problem is that the wheel’s angle may have changed.
It’s not always as noticeable as you think because a suspension component like an arm may only be slightly bent and have no other obvious signs; the only problem being the tire rubbing when turning. When the issues are present and prominent, you may hear rattling under the car, or the vehicle may feel or sound unusual when turning the steering wheel. The items you should check are:
- Snapped coil spring
- Bent track control road
- Worn strut mounts
- Damaged lower arm/control arm
- Damaged shock absorber
- Wheel bearing play
2. Aftermarket adjustable suspension
Aftermarket suspension upgrade changes the side of the vehicle; if the car sits too low, the fender will touch the tire and rub. It may not rub all the time, and when driving, you may hear the tire skipping and scrubbing on the fender; it can even be worse with people sitting in the back of the car. This isn’t necessarily a problem with the suspension, but it’s a problem that can occur when lowering the car too much.
3. Incorrect size rim or tire
An incorrect size tire fit could be too wide for the rim and cause the tire to rub on the shock strut or the inner wheel arch when turning. This sometimes happens when a tire is changed and mistakenly fitted with a tire wider than the original. You can easily overcome this and diagnose this problem, by just checking the size of the tires on the vehicle, if you find one mismatching the others, there’s your problem.
A bit different if you’ve changed the size of the rims and the profile of the tires to something other than standard. It will rub when turning if the rims or tires are outside the original wheel and tire rolling radius. This happens because the car is designed to run a set rolling radius, so no matter what size tire is fitted, it should always be the same. The rolling radius means if you were to roll two different size tires, the rolling circumference of both tires should be the same, regardless of the size of the tire or the profile.
4. Incorrect wheel alignment
Severe issues with toe, caster, or camber angles can cause the tire to scrub on the inner arch. You would usually notice this sort of problem through driving; the steering wheel may be off-center, and the car may veer or snatch to one side. The caster angle is a little unusual as it means the tire is sitting too far forward or backward in the arch; then, when you turn, one wheel may be out of sync and turn too much or too little, causing a tire to rub.
The toe, camber and caster angles can be adjusted on most sports vehicles but rarely on everyday road cars. Check this type of issue requires using a 4-wheel alignment machine, which will read every angle simultaneously, and if there is nothing bent or damaged, it can be adjusted and reset. Caster and camber angles causing the tires to rub when turning are not very common, as you will usually find a track rod or lower arm bent from some impact when you come to check the issue.
5. Bodywork damage
The wheel arch on most modern vehicles is a plastic liner or dirt shield to stop debris from getting into the engine bay. Made of plastic, they can break from debris being flicked up when driving. The liners usually clip to the front bumper and the fender, so they are damaged; the liner can’t be adequately attached and will flap in the wind scrubbing on the tire. The liner can be removed when broken, although be warned that dirt and debris can impact the motor and rotating belts on the engine, potentially another issue.
6. Wheel spacers
Although you would normally know if your car has wheel spacers fitted, on the one hand, they can sure this type of problem. On the other, they can also cause a problem. Spacers are designed to allow you to fit larger wheels by changing the offset. Offset pushes the rims inwards or outwards. By moving the offset with spacers, you can use wider tires because they will not rub on the suspension, but it brings the tire closer to the fender.
When you go over bumps in the road or turn the tires, scrub on the underside of the fender, this is especially dangerous because it wears the tire sidewall away quickly to the point you can end up with a sudden blowout.
When using wheel spacers, it is essential to ensure that these problems are not evident immediately. You may need to use a different spacer to ensure there is no contact between the tire and the car, contact between the tire and the car especially when turning.
How to stop a car tire rubbing
Fixing the problem is obvious, and the only thing you can do to a standard road vehicle. There is a bodge that can fix problems when larger rims and tires are fitted, but this is no use when a suspension arm is broken, causing the tire to scrub.
As mentioned, with aftermarket rims and larger than the original tires, there is a way to stop the rubbing.
Use an arch roller to change the shape of the fender by allowing more space for the larger rim and tire. The roller pushes on the fender, which forces it out and upwards, changing its shape. Remember that once you use an arch roller, the car will not look as original, and you may void any remaining warranty.
Why would only 1 tire rub when turning?
The most common causes of only one tire rubbing when turning is either an incorrect tire fitted that is too wide, a suspension component is damaged, or one of the wheel alignment angles being off. It is normal to hear that only one wheel is rubbing when you have this problem in the first place. Both tires rubbing would indicate a different hold set of problems.
What happens if you drive with a tire rubbing?
Driving with a tire rubbing is very dangerous; the tire will not last long before it blows out and starts to shred. Fitting the spare tire will likely result in the same problem, and you will be no better off.
If your car randomly starts rubbing when turning, you should immediately take the vehicle to the garage for inspection. It could be broken on the suspension, which can also create driving hazards.
A car tire rubbing when driving is commonly found to be a broken suspension component or an incorrect tire fitted. When modifying a vehicle by changing wheels and tires, these are the sorts of issues that can follow. Unfortunately, the standard procedure to rectify this is fitting wheel spacers which can have the opposite effect.
Regardless of the cause, you should not drive the car if you find the tire rubbing, seek repair urgently.