Tire Sidewall Damage – Causes & Preventions

Tire damage is quite frustrating, as it means this car part is starting to wear and is unsafe to drive with. While repairs may hold your tire for some time, the most viable solution is getting a replacement, which will cost you a few hundred dollars to get. Tire sidewall damage refers to any degradation on the sides.

In today’s article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at this problem, focusing on causes, signs, and solutions. Stick on to get ahead of this issue in case you face it.

types of tire sidewall damage

What Exactly Is Tire Sidewall Damage?

As earlier hinted, tire sidewall damage is any physical problem affecting your tire’s sidewall. This tire part extends from the shoulders to the point where it touches the rim. It is a large area, which is also soft, making it prone to wear.

Some of the telltale signs of this tire damage type are cracking, swelling, a puncture, or general loss of rigidity. Other times, the signs reflect on the driving experience, which may be rough or result in poor fuel economy.

Types of tire sidewall damage

The types of tire sidewall damage include sidewall nicks and scratches, cuts, bulges and bubbles, cracks, slight deformations, and punctures.

Tire sidewall nicks and scratches

One of the common types of tire sidewall damage is scratches and nicks. If you see many scratches on your sidewalls or the scratches are deep, visit your mechanic or tire shop to inspect the tires.

Tire sidewall cuts

The depth of a tire sidewall cut can vary, and the severity depends on the depth of the cut. Most times, you cannot tell the depth of the cut unless you are a tire expert. This type of sidewall damage can occur on the inner and outer sides of the sidewall.

If the cut is deep, there is a chance that it may have damaged the tire carcass ply that helps secure the air pressure in the tire. If the carcass ply is affected, there will be sudden or gradual air pressure leaks. The best solution here is to replace the tire.

Tire sidewall bubbles and bulges

If you drive your car onto a curb at an angle or from the front, the tire will develop a bulge on the sidewall.  This is one of the most common types of sidewall damage, and it signals potential damage. A bulge looks like the tire is forming a bubble on the sidewall.

Tire sidewall cracks

Cracks on the tire sidewall are a sign of aging and can also occur due to too much exposure to sunlight. Another notable cause of tire sidewall cracks is using chemicals to wash your car. The chemicals used in washing your car may clear the protective agents used in formulating the tire and expose it to cracks.

Cracks on a tire sidewall are a sign that the tire is getting to the end of its shelf life, and you should change it with new ones.

Slight deformation on the tire sidewall

Even under perfect tire conditions, it is normal to see slight deformations after a long use. The deformation does not affect the tire performance. Tire manufacturers produce tire sidewalls with different materials, such as plies (metal or textiles). There will be a slight deformation where the plies overlap.

Tire sidewall puncture

When the tire tread, the area that makes contact with the ground, gets punctured, you can fix it. A tire expert just has to refill the punctured area, and you can drive again with the same performance. However, that is not true with the sidewall puncture. When the sidewall gets punctured, it is beyond repair and cannot maintain the same performance.

What Causes Tire Sidewall Damage?

The common causes of tire sidewall damage are aging, manufacturing defects, poor driving habits, overloading, underinflated tires, a case of vandalism, and long storage.

Old tires

Your tires can still go bad after a certain period, even if you don’t drive your car regularly. Just like snacks in the grocery stores, your car tire has an expiration date. It will expire even if you don’t use it.

Over time, the rubber compound used in manufacturing tires can lose its elasticity and become brittle due to changes in temperature, the sun’s UV rays, air humidity, and other external factors. If this happens, your tire sidewalls can crack and expose its internal material.

Long storage tire

If you park your car for a long time, the tires can become flat, and if the car continues resting on the flat tire, the weight of the vehicle will warp the tire sidewall. To avoid this from happening, I recommend you suspend your tires if you want to leave your car parked for over a month.

Manufacturer faults

Today’s tire market is flooded with tires from different manufacturers. Some of these manufacturers are just in the market to cash out. They don’t care about their integrity. They just assemble the tire with cheap rubber and other cheap materials and flood them into the market without test-running them. These tires are sometimes three times cheaper than premium ones.

These manufacturers don’t have good in-house control, they often source resources from cheap suppliers, and they don’t spend money on research and development. The end result is that these tire sidewalls develop cracks, bulges, and deformations. The truth is, these things can happen on premium tires, but they occur less compared to cheap tires.


Once a tire is past its service life, which ranges between 6-10 years, depending on the model, you will start to notice signs of wear. This is due to extended use, subjecting it to various forces of nature like friction and constant expansion and contraction due to heat changes.

Underinflated Tires

Tire wear patterns, such as those seen on the sides, are signs of poor inflation. The wearing may extend to the sidewalls, especially if the vehicle is supporting a heavy load. Due to low pressure, the sides will have to bear much of the load, leading to their tear.


Commercial and multipurpose vehicles are the ones that mostly bear the brunt of this problem due to overloading. If the vehicle handles too much load past its supporting limits, the wheels may bulge or wiggle as you drive. This makes the walls bulge out or come in contact with the road surface. Considering that the sidewalls are soft, such conditions contribute to its damage.

Poor Driving

Poor skills on the road may also bring about this issue. For instance, tire damage from hitting a curb, where the concrete erodes the rubber on the sidewall. With time, you will notice that the walls are becoming tender. If you continue driving on such tires, you risk a blowout.

A Case of Vandalism

The sidewalls are the main targets of vandalism, like tire slashing. Here, you have someone intentionally destroying your vehicle parts to settle a score or for mischief. A slash does a lot of damage, ensuring that you are immobile until you have the tire repaired or replaced. This is a major tire sidewall cut cause.

Additionally, manufacturing defects can be possible pointers to this problem, especially if it wears faster than expected.

Is It Safe To Drive On A Tire with Sidewall Damage?

With a quick look at tire sidewall damage Reddit discussions, you get a clear answer to this question. No, you can’t and shouldn’t drive on damaged tires. Instead, get a replacement. A cheaper option is to repair the damaged part, though it is a temporary solution. For instance, if you decide to patch it, it may open up after handling some distance.

Driving on bad tires is quite dangerous, both to you and other road users. First of all, the experience may be rough, with bad fuel economy. You also risk a blowout, which is severe when driving at fast speeds.

Furthermore, you may have to deal with law enforcement officers for driving an unroadworthy vehicle. Fines may come your way as a penalty.

tyre sidewall cut

How to Prevent Tire Sidewall Damage

Prevention is always the best measure for dealing with various vehicular hitches. For tire sidewall damage, you can follow the measures highlighted below.

Tire Maintenance: A thing to know about sidewall damage is that it comes due to prolonged exposure to wear and tear agents. The good thing is basic tire maintenance practices, like ensuring the correct pressure value, tire rotation, and balancing. These practices will lengthen the life of these parts and prevent other damage patterns.

Avoid Overloading: Overloading will not do any good to your car and may affect other parts, such as the suspension system. Look at the loading limits on the tire codes and adhere to them.

Careful Driving: Also, be disciplined when behind the wheel and avoid driving carelessly. Do not drive over potholes or hit the curb, as they physically do away with the rubber.

Replace the Tires: Once you notice signs of sidewall damage, start making plans for a replacement. It won’t be long for the small-looking problem to be too large to handle.


Can You Repair A Tire With Sidewall Damage?

As mentioned repeatedly, tire sidewall damage is severe and needs a replacement. However, there are instances that tire sidewall damage repairs apply, like if the crack or cuts do not go past the tread. Otherwise, driving on tire sidewall damage puts you at risk of a blowout.

When Should You Replace A Tire With Sidewall Damage?

If you notice bulges and bubbles, cuts, or punctures on the tire sidewalls, you have got some damage. It’s intense. You may not see it but prepare a visit to your tire shop for a replacement. The tire expert will examine the tire and see if it needs to be replaced or repaired.

How Dangerous Is Sidewall Damage?

The sidewall is soft compared to other parts of the tire. If there is any damage to this area, there is a high chance of expansion. You are at risk of a tire blowout if you ignore it and continue driving with it.

Why Can’t You Plug A Tire Sidewall Puncture?

Fixing a puncture on a tire sidewall won’t do you much favor. It’ll only hold the air pressure for a short while. One thing to keep in mind is that you have to pressurize the wheel. The tire pressure and vehicle weight may push out the plug, taking you back to the first step of seeking a solution.

Is Sidewall Damage Covered Under Warranty?

A tire warranty is a crucial area to look at when getting a new set of wheels. It covers any manufacturing faults. The warrant will only cover sidewall damage if it results from a hitch in their manufacturing process.

How Do I Fix A Leaking Tire Sidewall?

Typically, you cannot fix a leaking tire sidewall. If you are desperate to move to the next stop, you can plug it. The downside is that this is a temporary solution and may result in a rough driving experience. A tire change is recommendable in such a scenario.

Does Insurance Cover Tire Blowout Damage?

In case of an accident resulting from a tire blowout, comprehensive insurance can cover you. It focuses on damage caused to your vehicle besides a collision or accident. If the cause of the blowout happens because of negligence or due to underinflating, the insurer may decline to compensate you.

Can You Drive On A Blown-Out Tire?

In the event of a blowout, you can drive on the flat tire for a few yards before stopping. The short drive helps achieve stability, with the flat providing some cushioning for the rims. In normal situations, never drive on a blown-out tire, as you will damage other car parts.

How Much Does A Tire Blowout Cost?

A tire blowout repair cost will factor in tire replacements. The price ranges from $30-$300, depending on the manufacturer and type. Then, there may be costs to repair other spoilt parts resulting from the incident. 

Then there is wheel alignment and balancing, which is at least $100. On average, you may have to part with around $150 to deal with a tire blowout.

Final Thought

Tire sidewall damage is a common occurrence on many vehicles. It is a sign of aged tires or poor driving. If you notice a degradation of this tire part, go for an immediate replacement. This article touches on this subject, with impressive giveaways on how to deal with tire sidewall issues.

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Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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