Tire Maintenance

What Causes Tread Separation (and How to Avoid It)


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Tire tread separation is a dangerous condition wherein the tread of the tire separates itself from the casing or body of the tire. Tread separation is most commonly found in tires used by large cargo trucks because many owners and operators use retreads or recaps, since new tires for trailers and big rigs are so expensive. A retread tire is a tire carcass that has been reconditioned, and has new tread bonded to the old carcass. Some states outlaw this practice because this type of tire is very prone to failure caused by catastrophic tread separation. Usually, in passenger cars the tread separation can be detected and remedied by replacement before a tire failure or tire blowout can occur. The following paragraphs will list some of the most common causes of tread separation in passenger and light truck applications.

Manufacturer’s Defect

Even though the numbers are quite low, this is actually one of the most common causes of tread separation. Something went wrong in the chemical processes during manufacture and the tread and steel belting section didn’t properly bond to the tire casing properly. Over a period of time, usually not very long, a defective tire will begin to exhibit signs of an extreme out of balance condition. Then a bump will form in the tread area. This bump is the first visual indicator that the tread is going to separate. The expansion of this bubble will increase until tire failure occurs. As soon as you notice an abnormal vibration you should inspect your tires both visually. Looking for deformations, and by touch, feeling for deformations.

Tire Abuse

Tire abuse encompasses a number of items of neglect and commission. Two of these items are listed below:

  • Over inflation of the tire, especially on rough roads. Excessive air pressures can cause excessive heat generation, accelerated wear and also doesn’t allow the tire to absorb road shocks. Especially from potholes.
  • Careless driving habits-Potholes are the worst enemies a car’s suspension and tires have. Tires are designed to absorb the shock derived from impact, with smaller potholes at driving speeds and larger ones at slower speeds. However, if you hit a good sized pothole at or just below freeway speeds, you can generate enough force to cause a tread separation. This is also one of the most common causes.

Incorrect Flat Repair

The new method of repairing punctures is by using a combination of patch and plug. If the wound is not properly prepared prior to plug patch placement, the tip of the plug portion can cause a tread separation to begin. Once begun, there is no correcting it. It will spread until the tire is replaced.

Excessive Tire Wear

Tires are designed to deliver a set number of miles and then be changed. When those mileage limits are reached, tire blowouts, tread separation and loss of traction can occur. Once you reach the rated mileage for your tires, they should be replaced to prevent serious problems.

The preceding paragraphs describe the most common causes of tread separation in car tires and how to avoid it happening to you.

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