Broken Belt in Tire: What to Do? Is it Safe to Drive?

People today see tires as a simple and straightforward technology. However, it actually took us a very long to arrive at the modern-day, state-of-the-art radial tires that provide us with exceptional high-speed stability and comfort.

See, tires aren’t only rubber attached to a wheel – there is a lot more happening inside. If the casing of the tire was only made from rubber, it would’ve warped at very low loads, leading to instability.

Hence, the modern tire employs steel belts in the construction, which greatly increases the rigidity of the tire and leads to a much safer ride, even at very high speeds.

These steel cords, arranged as belts, are crucial in any modern tire, but what happens if one of them is damaged or breaks? You probably heard that from your tire technician, together with a recommendation for a new tire, but surely, one broken cord is not a big issue, right? Well, the issue is more serious than you would imagine, and here is everything you need to know about a broken belt in a tire!

Main Components of a Modern Radial Tire


Main Components of a Modern Radial Tire

Radial tires are by far the most common tire type worldwide right now. Apart from some industry and farming vehicles (which use bias-ply tires), every automobile drives on radial tires.

The main reason is much higher traction – radial tires are safer, especially at higher speeds. Besides, they are much more comfortable, not very susceptible to high-temperature variations, and last much longer.

The main part behind the qualities of these tires is the radial belts, or cord plies, which run at 90 degrees to the direction of travel. That’s in contrast to bias-ply tires, which were the most common type before the 1960s, which run the belts at a 30-degree angle. Thus, the radial design also includes a nylon (or sometimes steel) reinforcement on top of the belts, which stabilizes the whole tire.

Therefore, having a damaged belt or nylon reinforcement can significantly destabilize the tire, which can lead to many issues. Let’s have a closer look at what’s at stake if you have a broken belt in a tire.

Main Causes of a Broken Tire Belt

1. Bad manufacturing

There are a few culprits, but the most common one is a manufacturing defect. Having a tire with damaged belts isn’t uncommon in very cheap tires, as budget manufacturers cut corners wherever possible.

Moreover, it often happens that the manufacturer hasn’t attached the tread to the rest of the casing well, or simply the rubber compound wasn’t cured well. All of these issues can lead to a broken belt after you use your tires for a while.

And I’m not talking about some budget-oriented brands like General Tire – I’m talking about Chinese copycats. These brands source their parts from various shady suppliers who only care about making profits – not making your ride safer.

Thus, I strongly recommend purchasing tires from reputable manufacturers; these companies use state-of-the-art manufacturing practices that put safety as the number one priority.

2. Careless driving, like burnouts or drifting

Although very cheap tires are more likely to lead to a broken steel belt, any tire will succumb to enough pressure. Driving practices like burnouts or drifting can quickly separate the tread from the tire, which then leads to a broken steel belt.

To mitigate this, always choose tires that are suitable for your scenario. For instance, touring tires aren’t suited for drifting – for that, you’ll need stiffer, high-performance tires.

3. Hitting a large pothole


Hitting a large pothole can also break the belt in a tire

Potholes are a nightmare for tires and rims. If you hit one at high enough speed, it could break a cord inside your tire or damage the rim. Sometimes, you can’t foresee these situations, but anyway, always be focused on the road ahead. Also, always drive more slowly on bad roads.

4. Challenging off-road terrains

Driving over sharp rocks (like rock crawling) can easily damage or break the steel belts inside radial tires. The good thing here is that the tire will probably be punctured, so you’ll know what you are dealing with. However, sometimes you might not spot the broken belt.

As previously, I strongly recommend off-road tires for these scenarios, as they have more steel belts (three vs. two) in the casing and an even stiffer nylon/steel reinforcement.

5. Deep punctures


Deep punctures

Sealing a puncture on a tire seems straightforward and problem-free. However, deeper punctures damage the steel cords inside the tire. Most of the time, these damages aren’t troublesome, but too many of them could lead to a broken belt. Thus, always ask your tire technician to inspect the tire after a puncture and, if needed, replace it with a new one.

6. Your tires are too old and/or worn-out


You should check the tire tread depth regularly

Very old tires – even those that still have enough tread on them – can exhibit tread separation, which could lead to damaged or broken cords. Moreover, tires that were stationary for long periods could also warp the steel belts, which is equally problematic. Thus, always change your tires after 5-6 years, even if you didn’t use them at all.

Likewise, tires with a completely worn-out tread could leave the steel belts in contact with the road, which could easily damage them. Hence, always change your tires when they reach the minimum recommended 2/32-inch tread depth.

7. Irregular wear

Bad suspension components lead to irregular wear on your tires, even after a few thousand miles. This can lead to tread separation and broken belts and is a very common issue. Therefore, regularly check your tires for irregular wear, and align the wheels on your vehicle if necessary.

8. Incorrect tire pressure

Although the steel belts and nylon reinforcement help stabilize the tire, it’s the air inside that carries the bulk of the load. Therefore, driving at low pressure could put more load on the belts, leading to breakage. Likewise, very high pressures can also overstress the steel belts and lead to damage.

How to Spot a Broken Belt in Tire


How to Spot a Broken Belt in Tire

Most people think a broken belt would be visible and protrude from the tire, but most of the time, that’s not the case. Instead, you should look for warping – your tires should always have a perfectly round shape.

Moreover, look for bumps and protrusions on the tread and sidewalls of the tire, which can also be a sign of a broken belt.

However, you can also spot a broken belt inside your tires from behind the wheel. Your tires should always provide you with a vibration-free drive up to the top speed of your vehicle. If you feel any vibrations through the steering wheel or your vehicle’s construction, you should pay close attention to your tires. Most of the time, vibrations happen because your tires weren’t balanced well, but it’s still good to check.

Still, loud rumbling sounds coming from the tires, accompanied by a very jerky ride on smooth roads, are almost always because of a broken belt. In some situations, you could even hear a squealing sound. Regardless, I highly recommend checking your tires for warping or bumps.

What to Do? Is It Safe to Continue Driving?

A broken belt will significantly reduce the tire’s stiffness and could lead to tread separation. These are nightmare scenarios as far as safety is concerned, which is why I strongly recommend replacing the tire immediately or stopping driving altogether.

In other words, owners of cars with spare tires will be luckier because they will be able to continue driving to the nearest tire store. However, tire sealants are not helpful, and you shouldn’t use them to repair a broken belt! Instead, you should stop driving your vehicle and look for a replacement tire.

Can You Replace a Broken Belt in Tire?

You should never try to repair a broken belt in a tire, as it’s not possible to do! It would require a complete remanufacturing of the tire, which requires advanced machinery that only tire makers have. Instead, you should immediately replace your tire with a new one, preferably the same make, so that your vehicle retains the handling characteristics.

Last words

Looking after your vehicle is paramount for safety but also for keeping you on the road. And that’s especially true for tires – there is a reason why every car comes with means to deal with a puncture – without tires, you are going nowhere! Therefore, broken belts or any damage on the steel cords that make them is a significant issue that you should take care of immediately!

I’ve seen too many people continue using their tires for years when there is a clear bump on the sidewall, visible even from a few feet away. And more often than not, they experience a blowout, which can be very problematic if it happens at higher speeds.

Don’t trust me? According to research by the National Transportation Safety Board, of 33,000 accidents annually that happen because of tires, 2,000 happen because of blowouts.

That’s not insignificant and is a number that we can easily reduce by checking our tires regularly and replacing them on time. Let’s do that – road safety is important for all of us!

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