There’s nothing more frustrating than when you run out the door for work, only to discover that your tire is flat. While below zero temperatures can account for some tire deflations, and fortunately, only requires a quick fill-up to get back on the road, some flat tires cannot be as easily solved. Some flat tires are a result of punctures to the tread or sidewall.
Tires can be an expensive purchase, so the prospect of having to buy a new one in the event of a flat tire is undesirable. Your dreams of saving money and your tire will depend on the size of the puncture and where it’s located on the tire. Having a damaged sidewall is a particularly difficult problem to deal with. But can it be repaired? Let’s take a look.
Where is the sidewall?
The sidewall is the smooth area on the side of your car that surrounds the rims. There is no tread on it and it is where you can read your tire size, type, section width, and other details. It also protects the cord plies. Simply put, it is the part of the tire you can easily see when you are looking at the side of your car.
How can you damage a sidewall?
There are several ways you can damage the sidewall of your tire. The most common are:
1. Sharp objects
This is generally the most popular way of experiencing sidewall damage, and perhaps the most obvious explanation for how it can hurt the sidewall of your tire. Interacting with sharp objects can result in punctures in your sidewall, resulting in a flat tire and a replacement.
2. Hitting a curb
The sidewall is the most vulnerable part of your tire when it comes to interacting with curbs. Rubbing up against one could create scrapes or even bulging in the sidewall, which is cause for immediate inspection.
Underinflated tires, their sidewalls included, may begin to flex under the pressure of the vehicle and passengers inside, which is incredibly dangerous.
Potholes can be rough on our tires in the best of times. A particularly nasty one can scrape up or create unnecessary pressure on the sidewalls, which can build up over time.
On average, tires are good for about 8-10 years from the date they were manufactured. After such time, the rubber on the tire will begin to deteriorate, thus losing its flexibility and becoming brittle. As the tire’s vulnerability increases and as it becomes more susceptible to heat, the integrity of the tire will degenerate
Naturally, the heavier your vehicle’s load, the more strain your tires will have to endure. If you push that limit too far, your tires could flatten or even explode. At the very least, your vehicle becomes incredibly unstable, which is particularly unsafe when driving at higher speeds.
7. Manufacturing defects
This often refers to a failure of proper testing before its release, particularly in regards to its speed rating. This, unfortunately, is a cause of sidewall damage that is completely out of your control.
You can easily identify sidewall damage by the presence of a deep scratch or a bubble.
Are the effects of sidewall damage immediate?
While there may be signs of sidewall damage, your tire may still be functioning properly. However, it’s important to get your tire looked at as soon as you notice any indication of damage. The damage often impacts the integrity of the entire tire’s structure, so it’s best not to leave anything to chance. Bubbles on the tire, for example, can be present for several days without anything happening, however, they could explode at any moment. This could be particularly dangerous if you are driving at the time, for both you and the people around you.
Can you repair a sidewall tire?
Unfortunately, no, you cannot repair a sidewall tire. Puncture repairs are limited to the centre of the tread area. If there are punctures or damage in the shoulder or sidewall of the tire, these are not repairable. Since damage to the sidewall compromises the structure of the entire tire, it is not practical nor safe to attempt a repair, particularly if the damage has reached the threads. The sidewall of the tire is comprised of steel rings for more balance and power while also being fairly thin to allow for flexibility. Aside from the structure of your tire being unsound, it is incredibly difficult to repair a sidewall, even if it was appropriate to.
Can you get away with just replacing the damaged tire?
The type of vehicle you have will largely dictate whether it’s best for you to replace just the one tire or if more need to be considered. If your damaged tire is a rear tire on a front-wheel drive, you should be fine simply replacing the one with sidewall damaged. However, if you have a four-wheel drive, it is often recommended that you replace all four tires for consistency in tire diameter, as different diameters can cause stress on the transmission.
That said, it’s easy to acknowledge that tires are expensive and not everyone can afford to replace all of them in an effort to solve the one issue. Speaking with a professional at your local tire shop may allow you to determine all your options. If they carry the tire you currently have, it may be as simple as switching out the damaged one for a new one.
Is there a way to avoid sidewall damage?
Admittedly, a lot of the damage that happens to our tires is caused by circumstances beyond our control. A few small steps to help minimize the risk to your sidewalls are taking care that you’re not overloading your vehicle and planning your routes in advance to avoid any construction zones. While the unforeseeable can happen, it never hurts to take those extra precautions. As well, having your tires inspected on a regular basis can help catch any irregularities before you run into trouble on the road.