Not all tire wounds are fatal. Today’s technology allows qualified tire professionals to repair small punctures in the tread of your tire with a patch that seals the inner layer of rubber in conjunction with a plug that seals up the diameter of the wound. But this ONLY works for small punctures in the tread of the tire. Unfortunately, all other tire punctures require that the tire be scrapped. Here’s a rundown of different fatal tire wounds and why they cannot be fixed.
Punctures in the shoulder of the tire
Most people assume that tires are just one single chunk of rubber. In fact, tires literally have hundreds of components inside them including several layers of different types of rubber, steel and/or fabric belts and steel rings in the area where the tire meets the rim. These components aren’t evenly distributed in the tire and the shoulder (the place where the sidewall meets the tread area) is a very critical area. This is where the tread belts bond to the sidewall belts. Any disturbance in this area can cause the tread to separate from the inner layers of rubber, which can cause complete tire failure. Tires with shoulder punctures should be replaced immediately.
Punctures in the sidewall of the tire
Sidewalls need to be flexible to absorb shock and provide a comfortable ride. This means the materials in them aren’t as thick as the tread and they’re more soft. Any puncture in the sidewall, no matter how small, will grow. If you have a sidewall wound, the tire must be replaced.
Tires that have been ridden-on while flat
Driving on a tire that has no air in it will quickly destroy it. If you have driven on a tire that has little or no air in it, the tire MUST be dismounted from the rim and inspected. If ANY of the inner or outer layers of rubber has been eroded, the tire must be replaced. Erosion of rubber can significantly compromise the structural integrity of the tire and driving on it is extremely dangerous.
Pinch shock or “bubbles”
Sometimes, when you scrub a curb or hit a pothole, a “bubble” or raised area can appear on the sidewall. These are called “pinch shocks” and they mean that the inner layers of rubber have been separated from the outer layers of rubber. This means that the tire is much weaker in that area and more prone to flex. It should be replaced right away.
Protruding belts or tread separation
Things can go wrong inside the layers of the tire. If you see that the tread looks “warped,” “knotted,” or “bubbled” have a professional look at the tire immediately. The same goes for steel belts protruding out from the tread, shoulder or sidewall. All of these problems mean that the tire should be replaced.
A “repairable” tire that goes unrepaired
Even if it’s a small hole in the tread, if you don’t fix it right away, the tire could be destroyed. Some people just keep adding air for weeks, putting off a visit to their auto service center. Procrastinating can lead to moisture building up in the tire wound and that can cause corrosion. It only takes a little dirt or rust to begin a domino effect that can lead to tread separation. The best rule of thumb is to have any tire injury looked at and repaired immediately. Once you’ve let a problem sit, you’ll need to have a professional examine your tire to determine if the tire needs to be replaced.
Not all cases are so clear-cut. Sometimes things can go wrong that aren’t punctures or have varying degrees of severity. Here are a few you could encounter:
The “bead” is the part of the tire that touches the rim. Sometimes debris can lodge between the rim and the tire and allow air to leak out. A beat lip on a wheel can also cause a bead leak, while aluminum wheel corrosion from the elements can cause air to seep between the bead and the wheel. Any of these scenarios require a professional inspection of the tire AND the wheel. If the wheel is damaged, then it will have to be repaired or replaced. There are a few things that can happen to the bead in this case. The debris can damage or cause indentations in the bead. If there is any damage or indentation whatsoever, then the tire must be replaced. But, if after cleaning, the bead has no damage, then it can be remounted on the rim.
Depending on where you live and where you park your vehicle, tires can be prone to dry rot. Dry rot can be caused by age, lack of movement (if the vehicle sits unused for long periods of time), heat and exposure to certain materials and chemicals. Frequent vehicle use and cleaning with rubber dressing can slow the dry rot process. Minor cases are nothing to worry about. Major cases can cause catastrophic failure. But it’s hard to tell sometimes, so if you see any kind of weather checking or cracks have it looked at by a professional.