The tire sidewall is part of the tire that connects the tire tread to the wheel. It’s an essential component of a tire because it provides the tire with structural integrity and helps it maintain its shape. The sidewall also contains important information about the tire, such as its size, speed rating, and load-carrying capacity.
The condition of the tire sidewall is crucial for the overall safety and performance of the tire. Cracks in the sidewall can weaken the tire’s structure and compromise its ability to maintain proper inflation, leading to reduced fuel efficiency and increased risk of blowouts. It’s essential to inspect your tire sidewalls regularly and take appropriate maintenance measures to keep them in good condition.
Causes of Cracks in Tire Sidewalls
There are several reasons why tire sidewalls may develop cracks. Here are the most common causes:
Tire rubber is designed to be durable and long-lasting, but it can still break down over time due to exposure to oxygen, ozone, and other environmental factors. This process is known as “tire aging,” and it can lead to cracks in the tire sidewalls. The older the tire, the more likely it is to develop cracks, even if it hasn’t been used very often.
Sun and heat exposure
Sunlight and heat can also crack tire sidewalls. High temperatures accelerate rubber degradation caused by UV rays from the sun. Your tires may crack if you park in direct sunlight or live in a hot, dry climate.
Underinflation and overloading
When a tire is underinflated, it flexes more than it should, which can cause the sidewalls to crack over time. Overloading the tire with too much weight can also cause the sidewalls to flex excessively and develop cracks. It’s essential to keep your tires properly inflated and within their recommended load-carrying capacity to avoid these issues. Regularly checking your tire pressure and ensuring it matches the manufacturer’s specifications can help prevent cracking in the sidewalls.
Types of Cracks in Tire Sidewalls
Cracks in tire sidewalls can come in different forms, each with its unique characteristics and causes. Here are some of the most common types of cracks in tire sidewalls:
Dry cracks are usually thin and shallow and can appear as a result of the tire’s aging process. These cracks often appear on the sidewalls’ surface and can be caused by exposure to sunlight, heat, or low humidity. Dry cracks can affect the tire’s structural integrity and may lead to air leaks or blowouts if not addressed.
Weather checking is a type of cracking that appears on the sidewalls due to exposure to extreme weather conditions. This type of cracking can be identified by the presence of small, shallow cracks that resemble fine lines. Weather checking can be caused by exposure to cold temperatures or by long periods of storage in a garage or storage facility.
When the tire’s internal structure is compromised, sidewall bulges form. Overloading the tire, hitting curbs or other road hazards, or impact damage can cause this cracking. Sidewall bulges indicate serious tire damage and require immediate replacement.
Cuts and punctures
Cuts and punctures can occur on the tire sidewall due to exposure to sharp objects or road debris. These types of cracks can be small or large and can lead to air leaks or blowouts if not repaired promptly. Cuts and punctures are often caused by driving on poorly maintained roads or parking in areas with debris or sharp objects. It’s crucial to inspect your tires regularly for cuts and punctures and have them repaired or replaced as needed.
Effects of Cracks in Tire Sidewalls
Cracks in tire sidewall can have significant effects on tire performance and safety. Here are some of the most common effects of sidewall cracks:
Reduced tire life
Tire sidewall cracks weaken the structure and shorten tire life. The tire loses shape as the cracks deepen and spread, causing uneven wear patterns and reduced tread life. Sidewall cracks may necessitate tire replacement.
Increased risk of tire blowouts
Tire sidewall cracks can cause blowouts. A tire blowout can happen suddenly and violently, making the driver lose control. It’s important to check your tires regularly and replace them if they have sidewall cracks because they’re more likely to blow out.
Reduced fuel efficiency
Sidewall cracks accelerate tire deflation, reducing fuel efficiency. Underinflated tires increase rolling resistance and require more energy to move. This reduces fuel efficiency and raises fuel costs over time. Tire inspection and inflation can improve fuel efficiency and reduce sidewall cracks.
Inspection and Maintenance of Tire Sidewalls
Regular inspection and maintenance of tire sidewalls can help identify and prevent cracks from forming, ensuring safe and reliable performance. Here are some of the best practices for inspecting and maintaining tire sidewalls:
Visual inspection techniques
Visual inspection is one of the most effective ways to detect cracks in tire sidewalls. To perform a visual inspection, look for signs of cracking, bulging, or cuts on the sidewall’s surface. Check for any irregularities or deformities in the tire’s shape, such as bulges or bubbles, which can indicate structural damage. Inspect your tires regularly, especially before long trips or extreme weather conditions, to ensure they’re in good condition.
When to replace tires with cracked sidewalls
If you notice cracks on your tire sidewalls, it’s essential to take action promptly to avoid compromising your safety. The severity and location of the cracks will determine whether the tire needs to be repaired or replaced. If the cracks are shallow and limited to the surface, they may be repaired with a patch or plug. However, if the cracks are deep or extend across the sidewall, the tire should be replaced immediately to prevent the risk of blowouts or other safety hazards.
Best practices for tire maintenance to avoid cracks
Proper tire maintenance can help prevent sidewall cracks from forming in the first place. Here are some of the best practices for tire maintenance:
- Keep your tires properly inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure levels
- Avoid overloading your vehicle or carrying heavy loads for extended periods
- Avoid parking your vehicle in direct sunlight or extreme weather conditions for extended periods
- Regularly rotate your tires to ensure even wear patterns
- Inspect your tires regularly for signs of damage, including cuts, punctures, or bulges.
By following these best practices and performing regular inspections, you can help ensure your tires remain in good condition and reduce the risk of sidewall cracks.
Tire sidewalls ensure vehicle safety and reliability. Tire sidewall cracks reduce tire life, increase blowout risk, and endanger driver safety. Regular visual inspections and proper maintenance, including keeping tires properly inflated, avoiding overloading, and parking in appropriate conditions, can prevent these issues. If you see cracks or other damage, repair or replace the tire immediately. Following these best practices and maintaining your tire sidewalls can help you and your passengers stay safe on the road.