Uneven rear tire wear, 98 Escort wagon

I've got a (cheap) set of tires on my '98 Escort wagon, about 25-30K miles on 'em. A couple of months ago I noticed the rear tires have significantly uneven wear; almost no tread left on the outer edge.
Front tires are fine. Inner edge of rear tires is also fine.
Unfortunately I can't remember when they were last rotated - last few oil changes I have gone to a quick-lube place that does NOT routinely rotate. Safe to say that this problem is in the rear suspension somewhere.
Shop where I bought the tires said the alignment looks fine, they're puzzled as to why this is happening. I looked at the springs [yes they are still the OEM springs] and they look OK to me, not missing the lower coil. So I don't know what to think.
Any ideas on this?
Thanks.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

If the alignment is really ok then the tires are just worn out. This is assuming they are near slick on the outer edge with only a few 32nds of tread on the inside. These cars rarely wear rear tires perfectly even across the tread. If there is more than, say, 3/32" of tread on the inside there is a camber concern. Hard cornering will cause the rear tires to wear in a similar pattern, so stay off the road courses with that wagon ;) Regular tire rotation will help to prevent uneven wear on all 4 tires.
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Tom Adkins wrote:

I'm not sure I trust that shop, so I was hoping someone would pop up and say "You fool! You obviously didn't adjust the widget nuts!" :)

There are 5 bands of tread across the tire. The outer one is almost invisible, it's completely gone. The inner one has at _least_ 1/8" tread, probably more. Way uneven. The wear on the inner edge of these rear tires is approximately the same as the wear all across the front tires.
Do they routinely adjust camber on rear wheels as part of the standard alignment process on a FWD vehicle?

Must be my wife practicing for the next soccer mom NASCAR, I'll have a word to her when she gets back home ;)
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Ok, here goes: "You fool!!! You didn't properly adjust the widget nuts!! How could you be so neglectful! I'll bet you never serviced your muffler bearings or changed your headlight fluid either, did you!! You should never been granted the priviledge of owning an Escort wagon!! You, SIR, get the Yugo... And that goes for your little dog too..." How's that? :)
Given the fact that the tires were never rotated this may be "normal", or at least just within the "normal range". Camber is set within a range, for instance +1 degree to -1 degree. If you are just at the outer edge of the "ok" range (say,+.8 degrees), using cheap tires, and not rotating them you could very well get a wear pattern like you describe. Especially after 30-something thousand miles. 1/8" (4/32") is pretty darn close to the wear bars. They usually show at 3/32" remaining. I don't recall if the camber is adjustable on this vintage Escort wagon, I tend to think not. If not, there is a kit to make it adjustable. Ideally, when checked, the closer to 0 degrees the better on rear camber, IIRC. You want as close to 0" as possible on the rear toe setting also. I've never been a wheel alignment guru like some folks I've worked with. Maybe someone else here can offer some more in depth info about dialing your car in to your particular driving situation.
Hmmm, Soccer Mom Nascar. Now there's an idea.... IMHE, Soccer moms will kill to make a left turn in heavy traffic...
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Tom Adkins wrote:

:) I did _drain_ my headlight fluid the other day, does that count? (Darn steamed-up reflectors...)

For "little dog" read "one 75lb and one 58lb American Staffordshire Terrier mix", but otherwise that's pretty good :)

Hmmm, thanks for the discussion. The car is due for inspection in February, at which time this issue would fail it for sure. I've now got to decide if it's worth sinking the money on a real good set of tires, plus a couple of other "fail-worthy" issues. Hmm.
Maybe I will swap the wheels, or at least two of them, off one of my other cars. I have a 93 Corolla, which I think uses the same bolt pattern, and it has the same type (different brand) of tires on it.

I work in Long Island, New York - home to possibly the worst, most arrogant and least-apologetic drivers in the world, and with more soccer moms per square mile than any place I know (except maybe Greenwich, CT, with Rye, NY coming a close second). I injured my neck a while ago, and for a week or so I couldn't turn my head to the left. During this time I joked that I was driving normally for the area - i.e. never checking my blind spots when changing lanes. These people routinely weave in and out of 70mph traffic, turn left from the right-hand lane, overtake in the emergency lane (even when there's a rumble strip), and tailgate/honk if they're behind you while you're doing 60 (in the right-hand lane of a 3-lane road with a 50mph limit). If you see an MD plate (doctor, not Maryland) assume that the driver believes himself to be immortal and with diplomatic immunity, too.
If everyone on the island had their license suspended for a year, the overall traffic accident rate in New York State would probably halve. I can't wait to move!!!!
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<...>

I would be more concerned about the kids' lives than the tires, when it comes to mom's driving habits.
Jeff
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There are two schools of thought on that one. And they both have valid reasons behind them, so you have to consider the driver.
Your "put the best tires on the rear" is valid on passenger cars SUV's and mini-vans, because often the drivers are not well-versed in the realities of driving and don't really know how to drive when things go wrong - their reaction to a unusual instance (Accident, flat, blowout, sudden obstruction, etc.) is usually to nail the brakes to full lock-up and stiff-arm straight ahead on the wheel (no evasive steering) till they come to a stop.
For those who DO know how to drive, a blowout or flat in the rear is no big deal, you can handle it fairly easy - get off the gas, ease on the brakes, don't let the rear get squirrely and catch it if it tries to swap ends on you, ease over to the shoulder...
But a blowout in the front is much harder to actively control, because the front wheels provide all your directional control and most of your effective braking. And a tire coming apart on the front can induce violent unintended steering corrections that will have to be manhandled with brute force to overcome - if the tread wraps around the brake rotor and locks solid, you have to work at keeping out of the ditch. I'd rather have the best tires on the front so I can steer through the incident when a rear one comes apart.
On large trucks and semi-tractors there are Federal Laws that the tires on the front steering axle must be new first-quality tires that have a much lower chance of coming apart while driving - no recaps, no regrooves, no Blems or seconds. And loss of directional control is why.
--<< Bruce >>--
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Tom Adkins wrote:

probably a combo of cheap tires (sidewall), a little low pressure, not rotating, and cornering. I would get some good tires and watch it closely. (oh and rotate them):) look at the back of the wagon, does it LOOK like the camber is off?, you can actually see about 2 degrees(IIRC) if its off. So, if it looks wrong it will be.
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Go to a real mechanic for the oil changes. You're better off having someone competent do the work.
And use a good filter and oil, like Mobil 1 or Kendall.
And get new tires, good ones this time.
Jeff

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

My wife took it in, and in the course of checking the wheel alignment they discovered a "ready-to-come-apart" ball joint and bad tie rod. They want $500 incl tax (minus some change) to fix this and fit two new tires.
I can't really do much about it, since she already said yes, but:
1. Could this front-end problem be causing the rear-end outer edge wear I mentioned? (Bear in mind I never felt a symptom of this supposedly incipient ball joint failure).
2. Does this price sound about right? (Most of the other work this shop has done for me is a shade higher than "normal" prices people have mentioned in this NG).
3. Is it even sensible to replace a single failed ball joint - shouldn't they do both at once?
Thanks.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Assuming 2 quality tires, ball joint (control arm asy), tie rod end, and 4 wheel alignment, just shy of $500 isn't unreasonable. It's about $75-100 more than I would expect to pay in my area (Northern Ohio) but prices tend to be a little higher where you live. Ball joint wear on Escorts isn't uncommon. IIRC, the joint is part of the lower control arm and not servicable separately. The part can get pricy, so replacement of the other good joint isn't really necessary.
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Tom Adkins wrote:

OK, that's reassuring. (But damn. You mean I should move back to Akron? Actually I used to live in Copley, which is just outside the Akron city limits. Everything was so cheap there, but I felt like a space alien at times).

The $6,000,000 question is: do you think this could really be the cause of my _rear-end_ tire wear?
Thanks.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I'm familiar with Copley. I never spent much time around the Akron area. I'm in the Lorain\Elyria\Oberlin area.

Probably not. It's just another problem that needs attention. Misalignment between the front and rear can cause unusual wear but not the wear pattern that you describe.
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wrote:

Ball joints on 98 Escorts are serviceable separately from the lower control arm. Very easy to replace, as are the tie-rod ends (a very common problem). But since dealer price of a ball joint is around $85 and for a tie-rod end around $45, I'd agree that the total price of $500 is a little high.
Bob
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Bob Bailin wrote:

The tie rod part price on the invoice was $47.51 (Valucraft VES3048R), and the ball joint was $68.51 (Duralast FA2092). 1.10 hours labor charged for each of them = $143 labor total for this part of the repair.
Tires were $75 each (Cooper Trendsetter SE 185/65R14, same as the tires they were replacing) plus $65 labor (for both, not each).
4-wheel alignment was $89.95, listed as "sublet" which I guess means it was outsourced to some other shop.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Wow, was I ever taken for a ride there. I see these tires online as low as $36.
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Also, most tire shops charge a flat rate of $10-20/tire to mount and balance. $65 for two is a bit much.
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