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Tramlining: What Is It & How to Avoid It (Explained)

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Last Updated on: 7th September 2023, 12:41 am

Tramlining refers to a car’s inclination to follow dips and grooves in a road.

You may have noticed that your car has a propensity to follow the grooves in the road surface while travelling on some roads. Maintaining directional control of the vehicle in such situations may be difficult.

This phenomena got its name from its resemblance to the driver of a tram, who doesn’t have to steer since the tram follows the rails.

In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of a car tramlining and how to fix.

tramlining diagram

Causes & Fixes of Tramlining

There are some reasons why a vehicle may be more prone to tramlining than others, such as those shown below.

  • Low profile tyres
  • Run-flat tyres
  • Damaged suspension parts
  • Increased track width
  • Over-inflated tyres
  • Wheel alignment

1. Low Profile Tyres

Many individuals who install low-profile tyres claim that the tramlining effect is more noticeable.

This is due to the fact that low-profile high-performance tyres have less tyre flex and are unable to absorb road shocks and geometry as well as high-profile tyres.

This increases steering reaction while also transmitting road undulations to the driver.

2. Run-Flat Tyres

Because most BMWs are equipped with run-flat tyres, tramlining is a common complaint.

The sidewall of a run flat tyre is more rigid than most normal tyres, and it is unable to absorb road shocks and geometry as well. Tramlining becomes more likely as a result of this.

3. Damaged Suspension Components

Suspension components that are damaged have an impact on how the vehicle handles objects and grooves on the road.

The includes various components such as suspension bushings, ball joints, and suspension mounts.

Some suspension components degrade as the car ages, one common sign is hearing knocking sounds and a sloppy, bouncy, or harsh feeling car.This shift is so gradual that it may go missed.

There comes a time when the suspension has some play owing to faulty suspension components. This causes road disturbances to impact the wheels more harshly.

As a result, replacing worn-out suspension parts will remove suspension play and tramlining caused by poor suspension.

4. Increased Track Width

The distance between the wheels on the same axle is referred to as the wheelbase or track width.

Increasing track width can increase tramlining, the effect is stronger as the wheelbase gets longer.

If you install wheel spacers to shift the wheels out a bit for better stance or handling, keep in mind that you’ll increase your chances of tramlining.

5. Over-Inflated Tyres

Driving with a high tyre pressure stiffens the tyres and reduces their ability to absorb road shocks, which enhances the tramlining effect.

To some degree, just altering the tyre pressures according to the manufacturer’s recommendations will solve the problem.

6. Wheel Alignment

A wheel alignment is required not just to correct uneven tyre wear, but also to change the car’s handling characteristics. Both the camber and toe settings have an impact on tramlining.

The vehicle is particularly vulnerable to longitudinal grooves when it has extreme positive or negative camber.

The contact patch on a straight path is decreased by the additional camber, and the wheels will readily follow road imperfections.

In addition, increased toe-out setting diminishes straight line stability while improving the vehicle’s direction shifting capabilities.

The camber and toe settings of a vehicle may be adjusted according on the driving conditions.

If the car is used for racing, the settings may be somewhat aggressive; nevertheless, for everyday driving, it is better to stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

  • Andy Lewin

    Andy Lewin is a senior mechanic, ASE qualified master technician, and an experienced automotive engineer.He's passionate about serving the automotive community with the highest-quality and trustworthy information on all things automotive. He loves to write about car repairs, maintenance, car modifications and tuning, faults, and much more.

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