I have had my '03 Ford Escape Ltd for about 11 months now and have learned a lot about this neat little truck. So far I have replaced right and left front control arms (including the ball joints), the anti-sway bar linkage on both sides, the drivers side axle hub and bearing assy and axle shaft, a tie rod end and took it in for an alignment. For the most part, I am very happy with the Escape but one thing that is proving to be a bit frustrating to me is tire wear.
I just replaced the Conti's that were on the Escape when I bought it. (From the previous owners records - it looks like they went through quite a few sets of these.)The tread was very worn on the inside of the tires that were primarily used on the front and one of the tires had severe cupping. Obviously the cupped tire was very noisy. I am well aware that these issues seem to be common on this vehicle, having researched this quite a but - but I am not finding a solid stated reason and fix for the premature tire wear condition.
My theory is that Ford designed the Escape with a camber negative condition built in to improve handling and help to prevent roll overs and that this was most likely spurred by the nasty roll over issue they had with the Explorer. I can understand this from a pure corporate liability reason but as the owner of this vehicle, I am a bit frustrated with the premature tire wear this causes. (Tires are not cheap.)
Having just spent North of $550 for a new set of Cooper Tires and hoping to get 60,000 mi out of them, I am on a mission to try to get to the bottom of this and see if others can confirm my theory. If so, I am wondering what the negative ramifications would be to purchase a camber bolt kit that will allow the front camber to be set to Zero degrees and also what measures (such as adjustable upper control arms?) would be required on the rear end to prevent the cupping that I noticed.
Would setting the front camber to Zero adversely effect the performance of the vehicle to the point of being dangerous? If not, I would prefer to maximize tire life and set it to Zero as I would with what ever condition on the rear is causing cupping.
Hopefully someone who is an expert in either the design of this vehicle or an alignment professional can provide some answers. Thank you in advance for your help!
Cupping is common on rear tires of front wheel drive vehicles, regardless of make or model. The use of soft-carcassed tires, which the Continentals certainly are, only increases this tendency. The solution is to use sturdier tires, ensure that rear toe is set perfectly, and rotate the tires at no more than 10k intervals.
As for the front camber, setting it more toward positive will not do anything other than introduce torque steer. Setting it outside specs isn't necessary for good wear characteristics.
I certify a dozen or two used Escapes each month for our dealership's used car department, and it is clear that the vehicles that didn't have rotations performed as required will have the wear problems you pointed out. The others will have some minor feathering of both shoulders and will be evenly worn.
If you could provide the data from the alignment printout, we could probably provide further guidance.
Thanks Jay!! I will see if our friends at Belle Tire have the records of the alignment. They did not provide them when I picked it up and shame on me for not asking. I can see the negative camber with my eyes so it seems a bit excessive. However, let me try to get the documented results.