What types of tire sidewall damage can occur?
There are 6 main categories of sidewall damage:
1 - Tire sidewall scratches and nicks
Scratches may appear on the sidewall of your tires. If they are numerous and/or pronounced, you should have your tires examined by a professional
2 - Tire sidewall cuts
A cut in the tire sidewall can be more or less deep.
The severity of the cut will depend on this. But it is difficult for a non-expert to assess its depth.
- If the cut is deep, it may have damaged the carcass ply that lies under the rubber and helps contain the pressure. If the carcass ply is damaged, there is a risk of sudden pressure loss. In this case, the tire is not repairable and needs to be replaced.
- If the cut is not deep, it may not be an immediate danger, but it could escalate and compromise your safety.
Note that this type of damage can occur on the inner sidewall (not visible when you examine your vehicle) of the tire as well as on the outer sidewall.
For these reasons, after driving over sharp elements (e.g. sharp stones), it is recommended that you have your tires checked to ensure that they are free of cuts.
3 - Tire sidewall bulges and bubbles
When your vehicle drives onto a kerb, either from the front or at an angle, or a pothole a bulge may appear on the sidewall of a tire.
It looks like a bubble forming on the tire sidewall.
It is probably one of the most alarming signals as it constitutes a real danger.
Driving into a pothole can also cause a bulge on your tire sidewall. Try to avoid them when you see them on the road!
If you do hit a kerb or a pothole, you should have your tires checked to see if they have been damaged or not.
Why is a tire bulge dangerous?
The appearance of a bubble on the tire sidewall means that the carcass ply behind the rubber has been punctured. This exposes you to a rapid loss of pressure if the bubble bursts. If this happens while driving fast, for example on the motorway, the sudden loss of air from your tire can cause the loss of control of your vehicle and lead to an accident.
As with cuts, a bulge can occur on both the inner and outer side of the tire. This means that it may not be visible when you walk around your vehicle to examine it. However, when there is a bulge in a tire, abnormal vibrations are usually experienced. This is a sign that should not be taken lightly and that your tires should be checked urgently by a professional.
Can speed bumps damage tires and cause a bulge?
No. As they are designed with a slope to go up and down, they may damage the suspensions, but not the tire.
4 - Tire sidewall cracks
Sidewall cracks are a sign of ageing of your tires but also of exposure to sun and ozone.
Another cause may be the cleaning of the sidewall of the tires. If you use chemicals to shine your tires, they may remove the protective agents and therefore expose your tires to cracking more quickly.
The appearance of cracks in the tire sidewall is a warning sign that the tire is nearing the end of its life and that you should prepare to change it. You can consult a professional for advice.
5 - Tire sidewall slight deformation
It is quite normal to observe slight deformations in radial tires (the majority of tires).
This does not affect their performance.
The sidewall of your tires is made up of many components including plies (textile or metal).
You will often notice a slight deformation where the plies overlap.
6 - Tire sidewall puncture
The hole is filled in and once the tire is reassembled, it can be driven again with the same performance.
However, it is different for the tire sidewall. If the sidewall is punctured or cut, it is impossible to repair the tire and to regain its deformation qualities which are required for optimum performance. The tire must therefore be replaced in this case.
How to prevent tire sidewall damage
- Make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended pressure (you can usually find the information in your vehicle manual or on a sticker in the driver's door)
- Avoid bumping into kerbs
- Avoid driving into potholes
- Inspect your tires regularly for cracks, cuts, tears or bulges
- Avoid cleaning the sidewall of your tires with cleaning products, especially those containing silicone.