Tire Sidewall Damage: Causes & How to Fix

Did your vehicle just sustain tire sidewall damage? If so, it would be necessary to learn about the cause and the proper steps to take to fix it, depending on how serious the fault is.

This guide describes what sidewall tire damage is as well as the possible reasons for it. There is also a section that discusses what to do about the damage.

You will find out whether or not such a fault can be fixed once you are done with this article. Keep in mind that there are other related subheadings you can benefit from.

What Is Tire Sidewall Damage?

Tire sidewall damage could simply be a puncture or swelling on a tire’s sidewall (not the tread). It can appear as a bubble or scratch. Such a fault isn’t covered by warranty in nearly all cases.

This is because it is regarded as the damage that is “caused” by the owner/driver and not a manufacturer issue. Read your vehicle’s warranty information or ask your dealer to confirm.

What Causes Tire Sidewall Damage?

Tire sidewall damage can happen because of an accident or if you hit a curb while driving. The impact could cause scraping or a deep hole in the rubber. A thorough inspection of your tires should be done after any collision. There are other forms of impact which I mentioned in this section.

Sharp objects can also pierce your tires. It could be an object (or objects) on the road or deliberate action. Other possible reasons for sidewall tire damage are discussed below.

1. Manufacturing Defects

The tires that came with the vehicle could have been made poorly, although it isn’t common. Avoid such issues when shopping for new tires by not buying cheap ones from low-quality brands.

You may be trying to save money by purchasing the most affordable tires you find in the market, but such products are liable to fail in a short time.

2. Under-Inflated or Over-Inflated tires

Your tires have a high risk of experiencing sidewall damage or blowouts if they are improperly inflated.

Underinflated tires don’t possess the right air pressure to handle your car or truck’s weight. Over-inflated tires have too much pressure on their sidewalls.

Information about the proper air pressure for your tires can be found on a label inside the door jamb on the driver-side. Other ways to get the information include the vehicle owner’s manual, VIN decoders, and asking your dealer.

Your vehicle’s tire pressure light will let you know if the air pressure in one of the tires is too low. This is why your TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) should always be in good working condition.

Tire pressure monitoring system tools are utilized in diagnosing and fixing the defective TPMS of cars or trucks. Assess the situation ASAP after seeing the TPMS alert to prevent tire failure.

3. Potholes

Hitting a pothole too hard while driving can harm a tire’s sidewalls in a minor or major way. Always remember to park and check your tires if you feel that there was too much force during the impact.

4. Tire Age

The more a tire ages, the more it degrades. You may want to consider swapping out your tires if they have been used for up to a decade or past their expiry date. This is to avoid facing the risk of sidewall damage induced by tire dry rot, which involves rubber decay.

Tire dry rot can still occur when a tire is unused—from exposure to adverse contaminants and moisture. But it doesn’t usually happen to tires that are used regularly, except aging ones. It will manifest faster if direct sunlight touches the tires for long periods over a time frame.

5. Vehicle Overload

Vehicle tires are made to withstand a stipulated weight limit. Such information can be seen on the door jamb of the driver-side or in the owner’s manual.

Exceeding the limit will put excessive pressure on the tires, leading to a destructive strain on their sidewalls and treads.

How Much Tire Sidewall Damage Is Too Much?

There are principles to follow in determining how much damage you should take seriously. Carefully check if the threads are impacted by the damage. It could be a swelling (bubble) or a deep cut.

Perform a replacement immediately in case any of the two happens. The appearance of bubbles on a sidewall means a blowout can occur at any moment. Tire threads can be 3-4.5 millimeters (1/8-3/16 inches) deep.

You can only truly be sure about the extent of the damage when a professional examines the affected tire. It is advisable to take the vehicle to an auto repairer that doesn’t have tires available for sale.

This is because the one that is selling them might unnecessarily recommend that you purchase new tires.

Is It Safe To Drive on a Tire With Sidewall Damage?

It isn’t safe to drive your vehicle after a tire’s sidewall has been punctured. You will have to exercise caution for good reasons. Firstly, tire sidewalls are far more sensitive than treads. The puncture may affect the whole tire, leading to a blowout sooner or later.

The timeliness of the blowout depends on the severity of the damage. Small and very shallow scratches shouldn’t be a cause for much worry as long as they aren’t reaching the threads.

How to Fix Tire Sidewall Damage

It can be frustrating to get a tire puncture. Thankfully, most punctures are repairable, and the processes usually take minutes, especially with a repair kit. But some damages are difficult to fix or may require a replacement tire.

One of such not-easily fixable faults is tire sidewall damage. Most of them aren’t repairable. Nearly all experts won’t attempt to mend such faults, especially if they are critical.

Don’t try to fix a sidewall tire damage that is thread-deep because the whole tire has been negatively affected. The tire’s integrity will be degraded by a fix, putting you at risk of a road accident.

A repair will most likely fail due to the normal flexing of the sidewall. You will be more prone to a mishap at high temperatures and speeds. Bubbles or small punctures aren’t repairable either. Remember I stated that bubbles could make a tire burst.

Using a Patch or Plug

Only very shallow scratches (that aren’t affecting the threads) can be patched. Minor sidewall damage can be fixed using a tire patch or plug. A tire patch is made of rubber, and it has an adhesive side that is stuck to the affected area.

This creates a seal around the scratch. On the other hand, a tire plug is a strip of material that is rubber-coated before being used as a seal.

Tire patches are usually more effective and durable than tire plugs. But the former is more time-consuming to apply. A tire plug can last for 7-10 years, depending on how well it is applied. You can go for the hybrid patch-plug seals, which are better than the patches and plugs.

Note: There is actually no need to seal minor scratches.

Swapping out the Tire

Replace both tires on the drive wheels if you have to change one tire. This is so that the difference in diameters won’t stress your vehicle’s transmission. You can swap out only one tire on the rear as long as it is front-wheel drive.

4WDs (European vehicles in particular) need all four wheels to be swapped out to avoid stressing the transmission or differential. Ask an expert such as your local dealership to be sure about what should be done or to put you through those rules.


Ensure that there is always a spare tire available in case sidewall damage happens. It is more expensive to change the old tire to a new one, but it is the safest decision you will make.

Call a tow service to take the car or truck to an auto repair shop if you don’t have a replacement tire at the time of the incident (or accident).

It is best to swap out the damaged tire before continuing the trip, no matter how unserious the puncture may look. Never be too confident to continue driving in such a situation to avoid regrets. And maybe now would be a good time to learn to perform a DIY tire replacement.

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