Tire Sidewall Damage – Everything You Should Know

According to NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), approximately thirty-three thousand tire-related accidents happen yearly, out of which two thousand are related to tire sidewall damage. Tire sidewall damage can be thought to be minimal at first glance, but with proper diagnosis, you may discover a more significant fault with your tires.

Complete replacement of your tires can be costly, especially if you have giant rims, hence the need to consider if repair is possible. Read on to know more about tire sidewall damage; what causes it? Can it be repaired? Can one tire be replaced? Is it safe to drive with sidewall damage and top tire brands you can buy for your car?

What is Tire Sidewall Damage?

What is Tire Sidewall Damage?

Simply put, tire sidewall damage is damage to your tire’s sidewall; this means that the damage is not directly on the treaded part of your tire but its sides. Most times, tire sidewall damage is not repairable.

The tire side is the part that extends from the shoulder area to the point the tire touches the rim. It is the part of the tire where you can see the effect of the pressure felt by the tire as a result of the load or contact with the road surface.

This part of the tire is large and soft, making it susceptible to wear and tear. All noticeable deficiencies and issues around your tire sidewall are classified as tire sidewall damage. Sometimes, it is in the form of a bubble or deep scratch on the tire side.

Some noticeable signs of this damage are swelling, cracking, loss of rigidity, a puncture or missing chunk of rubber, vast and deep abrasions from hitting curbs, a bulge, and many more. These damages sometimes result from an accident or result of poor driving experience.

In addition, any missing chunk in your tire or abrasion will expose the textile cords within, and this could lead to a bigger problem. This is why we will consider if it is safe to drive your car with its tire sidewall damage.

Driving on a Tire With Sidewall Damage – Is It Safe?

Driving on a tire with sidewall damage is not safe, except you are on that trip to get it fixed. Unfortunately, many car owners assume they can use such tires without repairing or replacing them. So instead of risking your life, why not improve the damaged sidewall as a temporary solution.

If you drive with sidewall damage on your tire, you risk a blowout which could be dangerous at high speeds; even if you do not experience a blowout, your driving experience will be roughly coupled with bad fuel management.

In addition, your sidewall is more sensitive than the treaded part of your tire, and so, they can lead to an immediate failure of your MOT. Besides, it is considered illegal when you drive with a sidewall that has been damaged severely. It attracts a fine of up to $2,500 for each tire and point deductions on your license.

How Much is Too Much – Tire Sidewall Damage

Now you know that driving with tire sidewall damage is not safe for you, but the truth is, sometimes your pocket cannot accommodate the expenses for an immediate repair or replacement. Hence, the question is, how much tire sidewall damage is too much?

When the repair or replacement is imminent, what is the limit of managing your car’s tire sidewall damage? Even though you can manage the sidewall damage to your car, it still comes as a second option because you cannot risk your life in place of saving costs. Your life is costlier!

Since any minor issue in your car can become something massive over time, you should go for a repair or replacement at any slight indication. For example, whenever you see your tire treads dangling, you need not drive that tire for a second more.

This is the limit to using it before experiencing a blowout. Tire treads are located between 3mm to 4.5mm (1/8″ to 3/16″) into your tire; seeing them sometimes is not a guarantee of a blowout. A further check that reveals noticeable bubbles on the tire sidewall indicates an immediate replacement of the whole tire.

tire


This means that the air trapped inside your tire is about to escape; it is advisable to locate an expert to look at your tire immediately to avoid the risk of a blowout at any moment. In addition, you can identify workshops specializing in repairs and not tire sales to get an honest review of your tire sidewall.

Can Sidewall Tire Damage be Repaired?

In general, according to Rubber Manufacturers Association, about 88% of all tire-related repairs are not done correctly. Of course, this is because many repair shops and mechanic workshops are not adhering to industry guidelines about tire repair.

Regarding tire damage, though you can fill the holes in the tire (punctures), you cannot do the same for tire sidewall damage. This is because a puncture does not affect the overall structure of your tire. However, tire sidewall damage does. So while a puncture is repairable, trapped air in the tire cannot be fixed, except if you want to destroy the tire the more.

deep gluing as long as it does not get to the treads

Another case of unrepairable sidewall damages is those that reach the treaded regions. This is because it affects the overall tire structure. Damages like shallow scratches on the sidewall can be fixed by deep gluing as long as it does not get to the treads. However, if the scratch is indeed shallow, it needs no fixing.

In summary, tire sidewall damage is unrepairable if it goes past the tread, but if not, it is seen as a minor damage. Therefore, rather than risking one’s life in driving a car with tire sidewall damage, it is safe to replace the tire and avoid the risk of a blowout for a long time.

Main Causes of a Tire Sidewall Damage

Let us look at the significant causes of tire sidewall damage; knowing them can help you lengthen the lifespan of your tire if you avoid them. Some of the numerous causes of tire sidewall damage are:

  • Under inflation
  • Damage
  • Overload
  • Age
  • Tire wear
  • Manufacturing defects
  • Vandalism
  • Poor Driving

Under inflation

Your car tire loses air at a rate of 2psi per month and about 1psi for every 10°F temperature drop. Therefore, when your car is under-inflated due to the negligence of the car owner, it can become a big issue because the load in the car will outweigh the pressure, hence leading to a damaged sidewall.

When there is not enough pressure in the car tire, buildup around the sidewall will occur faster, and the sidewall will flex to hold up the load in the vehicle. This can put your car in immediate danger of a blowout.

Damage

Damage can result from a poor driving experience and various road hazards. Improper installation and maintenance of your tire can also lead to tire sidewall damage. This makes the tire lose air fast, and blowout becomes inevitable.

It is advisable to check your tire treads and sidewall during your routine maintenance to ascertain their state. If you do not know what to look for, you can ask your mechanic to incorporate it as your regular check during your scheduled monthly maintenance.

Overload

Most multipurpose and commercial vehicles face the problem of overloading, and they end up with tire sidewall damage most times; when your car handles too much load than it should, the wheels bulge or wiggle while in motion.

The tire becomes less stable and is prone to the explosion -blowout. In addition, whenever you notice your sidewalls coming in contact with the road, you are prone to sidewall damage because only the treaded part of your vehicle should contact the road directly.

In summary, because your sidewall is soft, it is made of different materials compared to your tire’s treaded part. Hence, any direct contact with the road surface contributes to its deterioration.

Age

The average service life of a tire ranges from 6 to 10 years, depending on the brand or manufacturer. When a tire is past its average service life, it begins to degenerate due to continuous exposure to heat and oxygen. Some of the signs of an old tire are noticeable wear due to prolonged usage.

The tire then loses its flexibility and becomes very hard and brittle. Inner pile connections weaken, and vulnerability increases. In addition, it loses the ability to withstand heat and the chances of a tire sidewall explosion increase.

Tire wear

Our focus here is bald tires. Do you know that driving bald tires accumulate heat faster than those with proper tread? A tire is first bald before it shows its cords and then calls for total replacement. Driving a bald tire and mistakenly hitting a curb can cause quick air loss and, eventually, a blowout.

The standard legal tread depth is 2/32” in many states; however, if your tire depth reaches or exceeds 4/32″, the chances of a sidewall blowout, especially when you hit a small pothole, is inevitable.

Manufacturing defects

Some causes of sidewall effects are beyond you; one of them is the manufacturer’s defect. This is why you should look at our recommended tires that have been tried and tested. A low-speed rating can cause tire sidewall damage and compromise your overall safety as a driver.

If there are any manufacturing defects, your tires can overheat after installation and sometimes wear faster than expected. It would be best if you only bought from trusted and recommended brands to avoid having a bad tire prone to sidewall damage.

Vandalism

This is another cause of tire sidewall damage when someone intentionally cripples your car to attack you or settle mischief. In such cases, until you have the tire replaced or repaired, you cannot continue your journey.

Poor Driving

Reckless driving can lead to tire sidewall damage; imagine driving and hitting a curb when there is an option to maneuver without crashing it. Over time, it affects your tire walls till they become so tender and eventually get damaged.

Can I Replace Just One Tire?

Replacing just one tire comes with many considerations; you must consider these considerations before replacing just one tire. Most times, when you are faced with replacing just one tire, it’s a result of a blowout or any other unrepairable situation.

The tread depth is around 10/32″ or 12/32″ for new tires. Now, imagine putting this up with a 4/32″ depth tread on the opposite side. Hence, the safest thing to do is replace both tires; keep the following in mind when replacing just one tire.

Type of tire

Your tires should have the same or similar tread patterns, and this can only come from buying the same model. This is a significant consideration if you want a predictable and balanced driving experience. Subtle differences in your tires affect their response to the vehicle’s ability to brake, corner, accelerate or handle water.

go for another all-season tire


If the exact tire model is not available, go for a similar option. For example, go for another all-season tire if the previous one has gone bad, and do not get an asymmetric tread pattern when the damaged tire has a directional tread pattern.

Type of vehicle

The type of car you drive also determines if you have the option of replacing just one tire. For example, an all-wheel-drive (AWD) demands the replacement of all four tires at once, as recommended by their manufacturers in conjunction with TIA (Tire Industry Association).

This is because lower tread tires have a smaller diameter and spin faster than the new replacement. As a result, it leads to additional strain on the engine of the AWD vehicle. A slight variation of more than 2/32″ will call for either two or four tires replacement.

While some vehicle manufacturers recommend four-tire replacement at once, some agree to replace just two at once. This is because slightly mismatched tires can lead to costly damage to the AWD vehicle’s drivetrain, transmission, and transfer case.

Tread on other tires

If you will replace tires without affecting the safety and performance, you must note the tread on other tires. If other tires are new, you may have no issues, but worn-out tires with about 4/32″ difference to the recent one call for a complete replacement of both the old and new.

Tires For You – Tried and Tested

We have come up with a list of tried and tested tires to help you choose the best tire for your car.

Michelin Pilot Sport (4S)

the Pilot Sport 4S


Talking about performance tires, the Pilot Sport 4S is the standard. The Michelin brand combines superior grip with ride quality and responsive handling. This tire is suitable in warm temperatures on both warm and dry roads without affecting its precise and crisp handling technology.

When it comes to street driving, the Michelin Pilot Sport (4S) is hard to beat in performance. It is built in cooperation with the best brands like Audi, BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, etc. With its technology built on competitive and grueling Le Man’sMan’s races (24 hours), it is suitable for car enthusiast that desires high speed.

It comes out on top among max-performance summer tires and uses an acoustic technology that uses absorbing foam to minimize cabin noise. Also, its sidewall treatment (touch velvet-effect checkered) enhances the vehicle’s visual presence. In addition, it comes with a tread life warranty of 6-years per 30,000  Miles (front)  and a uniformity warranty of 2/32″ wear for the first year.

Specification

  • Size: 255/40ZR19 (100Y)XL
  • UTQG: 300 AA A
  • Tread depth: 8.5/32”
  • Tread width: 9.3”
  • Rim width range: 8.5-10”
  • Sectional width: 10.2”
  • Overall diameter: 27.1”
  • Maximum load: 1,764 lbs.
  • Maximum inflation pressure: 50 psi
  • Tire weight: 28 lbs.
  • Revolutions per mile: 769
  • Country of origin: US

Pros

  • Superior grip in dry and wet conditions
  • Good ride quality
  • Excellent in heavy rain and wet roads

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Low tread life
  • Not recommended for competitive driving

Bridgestone Potenza Sport (Best Dry Traction)

Bridgestone Potenza RE980AS

This tire is still new in the market, but its feedback is already everywhere. Users boast of its excellent steering response, with the sharp and fast feel on turn-in. Its dry grip level is similar to the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, especially around corners.

It has improved snow and wet performance compared to its RE97AS Pole Position. With an extended warranty of 50,000 miles, it lasts longer than its RE97AS brand model. In addition, it has a redesigned tread with 3D full depth chamfered slots and sipes to improve both the wet and dry braking.

A 2% more open shoulder slots and see-through void reduce hydroplaning risk, coupled with a 5% improvement in snowy conditions due to asymmetric tread design. As a result, it is suitable for drivers of luxury and performance vehicles who enjoy driving in curves irrespective of the weather.

Specification

  • Size: 255/40R19 (100Y) XL
  • UTQG: 300 AA A
  • Tread depth: 8/32”
  • Tread width: 8.8”
  • Rim width range: 8.5-10”
  • Sectional width: 10.2”
  • Overall diameter: 27.1”
  • Measured rim width: 9”
  • Maximum load: 1,764 lbs.
  • Maximum inflation pressure: 50 psi
  • Tire weight: 26 lbs.
  • Revolutions per mile: 770
  • Country of origin: Italy

Pros

  • Low road noise
  • Excellent dry road performance
  • Excellent and responsive steering

Cons

  • It may overheat during track driving
  • Low wet road performance
  • Low tread wear performance

Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 (Best Treadwear Performance)

Firestone Firehawk Indy 500


This tire is similar to the Michelin Pilot Sport, just that it was designed with racing technology in mind. It is specially made for performance sedans and sports cars because it delivers refined handling and impressive traction (due to hydrophilic coating) on dry and wet roads.

Ride comfort is an added advantage if you get this tire because many car owners that use it claim that it is too smooth to drive. Centre groove dispenses water, and the 15% increase in block edges gives you better control on snowy surfaces.

In addition, it comes with wide shoulders that provide dynamic cornering and shorter stopping distance, even on wet surfaces. Also, it comes with a uniformity warranty of 2/32” wear for the first year.

Specification

  • Size: 255/40R19 (100W) XL
  • UTQG: 340 A A
  • Tread depth: 10/32”
  • Tread width: 8.8”
  • Rim width range: 8.5-10”
  • Sectional width: 10.2”
  • Overall diameter: 27.1”
  • Measured rim width: 9”
  • Maximum load: 1,764 lbs.
  • Maximum inflation pressure: 50 psi
  • Tire weight: 29 lbs.
  • Revolutions per mile: 770
  • Country of origin: Indonesia

Pros

  • Good comfort
  • Excellent dry road performance
  • Treadwear longevity compared to other tires

Cons

  • It can get hot during track driving
  • Tramlining in the road
  • It may hydroplane during a heavy downpour

FAQ

How Dangerous Is Sidewall Damage?

Sidewall damage is hazardous because it is part of the tire that bears the vehicle’s weight. Even if you have a healthy engine, tire sidewall damage can make you immobile. If your tire sidewall blows out while on motion, then you risk your life and that of everyone in the vehicle.

Is Sidewall Damage Covered Under Warranty?

Sidewall damage is covered under warranty if its leading cause was from the manufacturer. However, other causes that result from poor driving or tire wear are not covered under such a warranty. You can read your warranty documents, especially if you drive a particular car, to be sure of this.

How Do I Fix A Leaking Tire Sidewall?

The only way to fix a leaking tire sidewall is to replace the tire. Some people advise using glue or cement with the help of your plug installer. To know more, read our section about “Can Sidewall Tire Damage be Repaired?”

Wrapping Up

Tire sidewall damage is a common problem in many vehicles, caused by many factors, as outlined in our article. We have shown you the limit to which you can manage your tire and if it is possible to replace just one tire. If you see any deterioration of your tire sidewall, evaluate what could have caused it and avoid doing it. Then, you can read through any section that mainly addresses your need.

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