Tires are made up of durable, synthetic natural rubber materials, and rigid belt and body plies, which make them durable. This ultimately results in them being able to take upon the stress of load and heat brought by friction.
But as with any vehicle components, tires are not immune to damage. And there are damages that are beyond repair. One such damage is within the tire sidewall in a form of bulge, cuts or chipped off rubber. So it begs the question, “how much sidewall tire damage is too much?”
To determine how much sidewall tire damage is too much you need to check the threads in the area of damage. If you can see the threads or the radial cords, it’s time to replace the tire. These threads are located 0.125 to 0.188 of an inch beneath the surface of the sidewall.
What's In This Guide?
What is a Sidewall Tire Damage?
Any relevant issues or deficiencies you encounter within the sidewall of your tires, may it be on the inner or outer side of the wall can be considered as sidewall damage. This is a very serious concern and can lead to a complete tire failure. Having said that, tire replacement is the most sound decision you could ever take to address this issue.
What Can Be Categorized as Sidewall Tire Damage?
Since sidewall tire damage is any irregularities found within the walls of the tires, it can be categorized from minor cuts and abrasions, bulging or bubbles, to more severe cases of missing huge chunks of rubber.
Missing huge chunks of rubber
These are portions within the sidewall of the tire that has been chipped off from the tire. Also, it is most likely that the inner cords that hold the structure of the tire are already exposed.
Deep and big abrasions
Abrasions caused by hitting a curb or running on a deep pothole will vary their size depending on the impact. These can range from a slash-like appearance or rough scapes to some extent. However, regardless of the size, these abrasions should not be left unnoticed.
A sidewall bubble is a bulge protruding on the side of the tire caused by high-impact damage such as hitting a pothole, running into a curb, or driving too fast over speed bumps. Like any other sidewall tire damage mentioned, you shouldn’t ignore it since it can also cause a blowout.
Causes of Sidewall Tire Damage
Sidewall tire damage can be obtained by one or more factors brought by the driver’s negligence to the quality of the tires. These factors are not limited to the tire age, factory defects and poor quality checks, overloading, under-inflation, and tire wear.
Tires are built to withstand rough road conditions and certain load limits. However, their elasticity, strength, and durability don’t last forever. The majority of tire manufacturers declare an 8 to 10 years lifespan from the manufacture date.
After such, the rubber components will become brittle and dry, the inner plies that hold them together weaken, and eventually, their parts will start to fall apart.
Whatever the type you’re using, or regardless of your frequency using it, tires deflate by themselves even in normal conditions. That is why a regular air pressure check is essential for your safety and tires’ longevity.
The case of under-inflation can be attributed to the driver’s negligence to regularly check air pressure. Under-inflated tires result in tread and sidewall flexing more due to not having enough air pressure to carry the vehicle load. This puts too much stress on the sidewall that eventually leads to breakage and damage.
There will be cases more prevalent on lower quality tires wherein they skimp on important tests before rolling off the factory. One of the classic examples is regarding the speed rating. Skipping the process of thorough checking for the proper speed rating, these poorly rated tires have the tendency to overheat and affect the sidewall integrity during sustained high speeds.
Overloading your vehicle beyond its prescribed limit puts too much stress on your suspension system and ultimately on your tires. Too much weight causes them to flatten, or even explode as air pressure builds up on the sidewall plus the heat generated by friction while moving. Not to mention, overloading is also one of the culprits of compromised handling as this prompts the vehicle to wobble or wiggle from side to side of the road.
Tires that have significant wear on them are more likely to overheat faster than normal, and this overheating can result in a blowout. Additionally, the worst thing that could happen is when the reinforcement that maintains the shape of the tires was already showing up at the sidewall, and accidental hitting to the curb will definitely end up with a damaged sidewall.
Can I Still Drive with a Sidewall Tire Damage?
If you notice that your tire has any sign of sidewall damage, you should have it replaced right away! Throw in that spare tire sitting on your trunk and proceed to the nearest tire shop to purchase a new one. You might want to consider calling for roadside assistance if you have concerns with your spare.
You may argue, “It still seems sturdy enough, why need to be in a hurry?”. Just because you can still drive with it doesn’t mean you should. Remember, safety is a priority the moment you turn on the ignition. Sidewall tire damage could cause a blowout at any second and can put you and everyone on the road in a dangerous situation.
Can a Tire with Sidewall Damage be Repaired?
Whether the damage is just a shallow scrape, a bulge, or a chipped-off part of the sidewall, you should not attempt to repair sidewall damage as these are beyond repair. Also, don’t ever think of bringing them to any tire technician as there is an unwritten rule in the industry not to repair, patch, or plug any damage that occurred within the tire sidewall.
How to Avoid Sidewall Tire Damage
You can reduce the likelihood of having your tire’s sidewall end up with damage by following the basic instructions. These include regular checking of air pressure at least once a month, avoiding road hazards, only driving with recommended load limit and speed rating, and lastly, having them checked by tire experts should you feel something is not right with your tires.
Check air pressure regularly
You should have them check at least once a month or if you see any visual cues that they may be deflated. Additionally, you should conduct a cold tire pressure reading since the air pressure varies with temperature changes.
A good practice is to always have a tire pressure gauge paired with a portable inflator that can be powered by your vehicle’s power outlet. These tools don’t take up too much space and can even be stored along with your basic repair tool kit.
Match the vehicle load and speed ratings to the vehicle’s recommendations
It is essential that you also know the basics of tire information reading. The code embossed on your tires does not only mention the size itself, it also indicates the speed rating recommendation. Additionally, the tire information sticker on your vehicle door frame clearly states the load limit with the recommended tire air pressure in psi.
Avoid road hazards
It is best to plan your route ahead of time. Steer away from areas with ongoing road rehabilitation or repair since these are home to a lot of construction debris such as nails and other pointed metals, as well as sharp stones that may cause abrasions in the sidewall of your tires.
Also, take a look ahead for potholes, and be careful when maneuvering near a curb not to draw too close or you’ll scratch your tire’s sidewall.
Have your tires checked by experts
Tire technicians and experts have a wide experience dealing with such concerns over the course of their expertise. They may also look for other concerns on your tires that you may miss on inspecting.
Sidewall tire damage should not be treated the same way we fix punctures within the tread via patch and plugs. If you see that the sidewall damage already exposes the threads or cords of your tire, it is time to replace them at all costs.