Pardon my ignorance but there are occasional and sometimes frequent
mentions of tramlining—which tires are guilty and which do not cause
the problem. I assume "tramlining" means that the tires get caught
in grooves in the roadway and steering becomes more difficult.
OK. As an abstract concept, I can understand that. But what grooves?
I have lived in several different states and I never was affected by
grooves. I never avoided any because I never saw any. Are they
talking about concrete highways with tar divider strips running
parallel to the direction of travel? The roads I drive on are asphalt
(Tar Macadam, bitumen, etc). Maybe I don't drive fast enough?
Does this problem only occur at speeds above the legal limit?
Thanks for explaining it all!
In the US, I mostly noticed it on concrete road surfaces. But you're
right. If the pavement is nice and smooth, you're not going to
experience tramlining much if at all.
Out here in Poland, it's a whole other story. Asphalt is so soft and
not reinforced underneath that big heavy trucks over time cause the
asphalt to cave in and two deep grooves/valleys form. The wider the
tires and the stiffer/shorter the sidewalls, the more prone to
tramlining they are. Bridgestone S-03s were pretty bad in that respect.
My current ContiSportContact2 are much better.
No. It occurs at all speeds.
What model and size tires do you have?
My new tires (for my 1998 318ti) are BFGoodrich Traction Sport
205/55 ZR16. I don't know if they are sold in Europe. They are
highly rated by drivers on the internet and don't cost much. I
understand that Michelin bought BFGoodrich and that led to this tire
being made. My own experience with it is limited since I only drive
the car in good weather and we haven't had much of it here yet.
I have ridden as a passenger in cars and vans between Tuchow and
Tarnov and around Krakow and Wadowice but don't remember road ruts.
What I do remember is crazy drivers passing at high speed on
crowded two-lane highways. I thought I was dead several times
but drivers seem to "make way" at the last moment.
With that size, you're not going to experience too much tramlining at all,
me thinks - they're narrow enough and the sidewall is still pretty tall. I
used that size for winter - no tramlining at all. For summer I have
225/45/17 - tramlining is more pronounced.
Try the road from Warsaw to Katowice next time - tramlining hell, mainly in
the right lane. :)
With 205mm width tires you will not experience much, if any,
tramlining. 205 is the stock width on most 3 series. Tramlining occurs
primarily with increased widths.
I find it most noticeable when traveling on rutted asphalt roads around
here. Heavy truck traffic tends to cause 2 depressed ruts that the
wider profile tires want to wander around in.
Yes, they are talking about concrete roadways. When these roads are built,
the contractor will (according to the design specification) cut numerous
grooves into the surface. these grooves carry water away and reduce
hydroplaning. They also provide lateral support so the tires have something
Trammlining is, at the very worst, an annoyance. Back in the day when I was
a kid, we called this "road feel". Cars that had loads of road feel were
desirable for many reasons, having the car scoot to the side as a result of
following the grooves in the road surface was considered a bad side affect
of this deisrable trait. Feeling the road through the steering wheel was
considered an advantage over having the road be hidden through the steering
linkage, but the necessarily stiffer suspension components and designs that
give better road feel also make the tendancy to follow the grooves more
noticable. Oh well ...
Tramlining can also mean grooves worn into the ashphalt from heavy trucks
over time, I am in Montreal and we have these all over. Any tire wider than
a 225 is sure to give you some grief! I have 235 and 255 rear so I feel it
In this area the weight limits for trucks is much higher than in Ontario or
the USA so our roads get destroyed quickly.
Tramlining is a real issue, just not everywhere!
I have only seen those once in my life, and I was in Europe at the time.
Perhaps I have encountered them on the East Coast of the USA, but I have
only been there a few times, and the event(s) don't stand out in my mind.
In any case, wouldn't a reasonable person EXPECT a car to follow these deep
ruts in the road. I know I would expect it, and I would certainly NOT expect
this to be a function of my tires ...
That's exactly what a reasonable person would expect. But guess what?
That's not what happens. The tires don't actually *follow* the ruts,
they hit the sides of them and tend to want to climb out of them. One
second it's to one side, the next it's the other.
The first time I felt this happening I thought, gee, it must be really
windy out there... but then I noticed that the leaves and branches of
the trees on the side of the road were not moving at all.
Tires, or anything, will always try to climb to the high side of stuff they
encounter on the road. If you brush a curb, the tires will pull towards the
curb for a moment. The same thing is happening in a rut, the side of the rut
looks just like a curb to the front tires, except the rut is rougher so it
grabs the tire better. The ruts fit the track of a truck, which is going to
be wider than your car. so while one side of the car if pulling out of the
rut on one side, the other side is dropping down into the rut on the other
As uncomfortable as this might be, is it really a function of the tires?
Jeez, I love living in California where we don't have to deal with seasons,
and all of the crap that goes along with them.
It certainly does seem that way as my E36 will not do this with the
standard 205/60-15's but when I put on the summer skins 225/50-16 it is
quite noticeable. It is somewhat alarming at first, but not so bad once
you get used to it.
Ah, but the seasons have a lot of good things to offer too... like
shoveling snow, and raking leaves, and sweating like a pig the first
time it hits 80 degrees, and...
Hey, you guys got any extra room out there? Oh that's right. You
don't. At least the last time I was there it sure didn't seem like
there was. ;-)
Yes, but only in relatively warm weather areas. In areas subject to
deep winter ground freezing, the frost heaving under the concrete tends
to wreak havoc as the edges of the large blocks split and crumble due to
shifting and whacking with snow plow blades.
In the past, concrete was tried on somne roadways here in the northeast
US. Most of these are a complete mess now and have either been asphalt
paved over (which still causes problems) or removed and repaved with
asphalt (tarmac) which is more flexible and able to withstand the
An excellent point. I once lived near a major freeway in Vallejo, CA.
The noise (especially at night) from vehicles passing over the concrete
joints was miserable. Luckily, we only lived there for a few months...
I do not call following the grooves in concrete tramlining, though the
cause and effects may be the same. If you've never driven a car that
exhibits it on an uneven surface (not just grooved) then you may never
have experienced the phenomenon. It can be quite disconcerting as the
car will want to dart around requiring constant steering corrections
just to stay in its own lane.
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