Buying super-cheap tires that weren't properly developed and tested can be dangerous for all traffic participants. Hence, I always recommend purchasing a set from a reputable manufacturer which spent the time to test its product in various conditions before sending it on the market.
But you know what's worse? Tires that were worn out past their due date. They are a very serious safety hazard – around 11,000 traffic accidents occur every year due to bad tires in the USA alone (according to the NHTSA), which is considered a developed market.
Despite that, I see too many cars driving on tires with almost no tread, and sometimes I even notice wires showing on tires. It's an issue that, sadly, some owners don't take seriously and endanger their lives, but also the lives of other traffic participants.
Tires that were worn out past their due date won't provide you with safe traction, but more importantly, they can also blow out and seriously destabilize your vehicle. But why cords showing on tires is so risky? And what should you do about it? Here is everything you need to know and what you need to do if you see a wire showing on one of your tires.
What is Inside a Tire?
When it comes to the internal components of a modern radial tire, many people assume that it's just a simple rubber donut that attaches to the rim. However, the reality is much more complex than that. In fact, every modern tire is made up of several critical components that work together to provide strength, stability, and grip on the road.
At the innermost part of the tire, you'll find two beads that run across the tire and help it attach to the rim. These beads are made of high-strength steel wires coated in rubber, and they help the tire maintain its shape and pressure.
Beneath the tread of the tire, there are two belts made from steel or synthetic materials that give the tire structural rigidity and help it maintain its shape when loaded. These belts also help to resist punctures and provide better handling on the road.
In addition to the belts, modern tires also have plies located beneath them. These plies are typically made from polyester, nylon, or rayon and provide further strength and stability to the tire. The plies run radially across the tire, which is where the term "radial" comes from. Depending on the type of tire, there may be a minimum of two plies for touring and performance tires or three or four plies for truck and off-road tires.
While radial tires are the most common type used today, bias-ply tires are also still used to a lesser degree. In these tires, the plies are positioned at an angle for higher rigidity.
Underneath the belts and plies, there is an inner liner made from rubber that helps to prevent air from escaping and maintain an airtight seal. Finally, the sidewalls of the tire are also made from rubber, and while they aren't very stiff, the pressurized air inside the tire helps them carry the load.
However, in run-flat tires, the sidewalls are strengthened to allow for driving at zero pressure for a limited distance and speed.
Each of these components is critical to the overall function of the tire. If even one of them is damaged or worn out, it can result in a serious loss of stability and potential blowouts. Therefore, it is essential to regularly inspect your tires for any visible signs of damage or wear to ensure that they are safe and performing optimally on the road.
What is the Minimum Legal Tread Depth?
Tire tread depth is a critical aspect of tire safety and performance. The tread is part of the tire that comes into contact with the road surface and provides traction and grip. The minimum legal tread depth for spring, summer, and fall tires is 2/32 inches (1.6 mm) in most countries. This is the minimum required for safe traction in rainy conditions, which is when most accidents happen.
However, it's important to note that a tire with less than 2/32 inches (1.6 mm) of tread depth won't provide good hydroplaning resistance, especially in heavy rain. This can cause a loss of traction and instability on the road. As an experienced tire professional, I would recommend replacing tires when they reach 4/32-inch (3.2 mm) of tread depth to ensure optimal safety and performance. Most tire manufacturers also suggest the same.
The minimum legal tread depth for winter tires varies depending on the country/state/province, but it's typically higher than for all-season or summer tires. In most places, the minimum legal tread depth for winter tires is 5/32 inches (4 mm). This is because in winter, drivers often encounter snow-covered roads and slush, and the tire needs as much tread depth as possible to provide optimal stability and grip.
However, in my experience, I wouldn't use all-season tires with less than 6/32-inch (4.8 mm) tread depth during the winter. If you have a set of winter tires from a reputable manufacturer, you can go down to 5/32 inches, provided you only encounter light snow.
It's also essential to understand that as the tire tread wears down, it begins to expose the internal components, particularly the belts and plies, to more wear and tear. When the tread is significantly worn-out, the wires and cords that help the tire maintain its structural integrity become exposed.
When the belts begin to touch the abrasive tarmac, they start to tear apart. Unlike rubber, the materials that belts and plies are made from are stiff and not very elastic, making them unable to endure grinding against the ground.
Cords Showing on Tires – What Does it Mean?
If you notice wires showing on one of your tires, it means they are worn out past their due date. The cords you see are usually made from steel (sometimes other materials) and are crucial in providing the tire with structural integrity.
However, they can't provide any meaningful traction – that's what the tread is for. Moreover, they can be damaged by the road and its debris, like rocks or other sharp objects, which will significantly weaken the whole tire.
Driving with such tires that have visible wires can be immensely dangerous, as you'll experience a severe loss of traction, instability, and an increased risk of a blowout. And if that doesn't happen, the tire will almost certainly lose pressure over time.
Therefore, it's crucial to frequently inspect for wires showing on your car's tires, as it's a significant safety hazard.
What Causes Wire Showing on Tire?
1. Using the Tires Past Their Recommended Lifespan
The main cause of wires showing on a tire is overuse, i.e., using the tires over their recommended lifespan. Continuing to drive a worn-out tire will leave the tread completely bald and then expose internal components, like the belts and plies. Therefore, it's crucial to purchase a new set of tires when they reach the end of their lifespan.
2. Underinflated Tires
Underinflation can also cause cords to show on your tires. For starters, the pressurized air inside the tire is the one that carries most of the load. So, when there is not enough air, all other components will experience higher loads, which could expose the wires.
However, underinflated tires also don't wear evenly. Even if they are relatively new, one side of the tire might have a completely depleted tread, which could expose the steel belts.
Hence, it's crucial to check your tire's pressure once every month and more often if the outside temperature drops or you need to go on a longer trip.
3. Improperly Stored Tires
Tires should be stored in close areas with regulated temperatures. Changes in temperature can significantly degrade the rubber compound of the tire and lead to cracks, which could then expose the internal belts. Thus, make sure you store your tires in your garage while making sure the temperature doesn't fluctuate wildly.
However, the UV rays from the sun can also damage the tires, even when they are mounted on your vehicle. Like changes in temperature, they can make the rubber harder and lead to serious cracks. Therefore, if you leave your vehicle in an open area for longer, I strongly recommend putting some sort of protection over the tires – even simple cardboard will do the trick.
4. Tires That Are Too Old
Even if you store your tires properly and they still have enough tread depth, they won't last forever. The rubber compound will degrade over time, and there is nothing you can do about it. And when that happens, cracks or dry rot will appear on the tread and sidewalls, which could lead to a wire showing on a tire. On average, you shouldn't drive tires that are older than eight years.
5. Low-Quality Tires
Super-cheap tires are flooding the market lately, and people seem to be very interested in them. However, I would strongly advise against purchasing tires from manufacturers you've never heard of before, even if they claim their products are hi-tech.
Usually, these companies start a business with an as low budget as possible, source components from various suppliers (steel belts from one company, tread from another), quickly assemble them and do only some basic tests. Meanwhile, reputable manufacturers spend years developing and testing the tire to ensure it functions properly and safely.
Therefore, super-cheap tires will wear much faster, increasing the chance of wires being exposed and blowouts happening out of nowhere.
Can Wires Visible on Tire Case a Blowout?
Yes, cords showing on tires are the biggest reason for blowouts. This can be very dangerous, as the sudden loss of pressure can significantly destabilize the vehicle and lead to serious accidents.
Is There a Fix?
You can't fix a tire with visible belts, as it will already be past its due date. Repairing such a tire requires completely replacing the internal structure with a new one and then putting the tread on top of it, which in simple language, is what manufacturing a new tire looks like. So, make sure you immediately replace it with a new one!
How to Prevent it from Happening on Your Tires?
1. Proper Inflation
Properly inflating your tires will ensure they always provide you with the highest possible traction. It will also lower the fuel consumption of your vehicle and make it more comfortable. And on top of that, proper inflation will ensure they last longer and save you from replacing them.
2. Regular Inspection
Just a quick look at your tires can reveal irregular wear, i.e., some parts of the tread wear faster than others. In this case, I'd immediately look into alignment and suspension issues. Procrastinating would only increase the chance of cords showing on your tires.
3. Avoid Overloading the Tires
The tires on your car come with a load index, which specifies how much weight each tire can carry. There are numerous tables showing how each load index corresponds to weight but to make it easier, just don't exceed your vehicle's load rating, and you should be fine.
4. Regular Rotation
Rotating your tires regularly will ensure they wear evenly, which reduces the chances of wires being visible. I recommend rotating your tires each 5,000-8,000 miles or at each oil change.
5. Invest in High-Quality Tires
High-quality tires might be expensive, but they are worth it. Not only will they provide you with a safer ride, but they will last much longer. Not to mention, you'll enjoy driving them much more than cheap tires!
In summary, wire showing on tire can be a very serious and dangerous issue that should be immediately taken care of. Unlike a puncture, cords mean you should replace the old tire or risk a blowout and significant loss of traction.
And, guys and girls, please take this seriously. Traffic accidents are still a major cause of death worldwide, and a significant portion of that is because of bad tires. Therefore, inspect and inflate your tires regularly, and generally, be mindful of your car and its parts when driving.
I’m Ivo Gievski, the content writer for Tireer. We built our website with over 15 years of experience and extensive research in the automotive and technology sectors. My dedication to delivering high-quality content is unwavering, and I strive to continuously hone my skills to stay ahead of industry trends and provide readers with informative, engaging, and valuable insights.