How Long Can You Drive On A Separated Tire?

Thanks to advancements in technology, car tires have been vastly improved. Most cars are equipped with high-end tires that can easily resist blowouts, abrupt changes in air pressure, and more. 

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll never experience a tire defect (s).

The key is familiarizing yourself with common tire issues so you know what to do when they happen. 

One common problem is a split tire. So can you drive on a split tire? And if you can, just how long can you drive on a separated tire?  As you’ll learn in this post, separated tires are extreme cases of tire damage.

And as such, they cannot be repaired. Read on to learn more. 

Can You Drive with a Separated Tire?

Tread separation can happen in one of two ways. Firstly, the steel belts -that make up the tire- can detach from the cord body.

Secondly, the rubber tread can loosen from the steel belts and; hence, detach from the tire casing. 

Unfortunately, you cannot drive with a separated tire regardless of how much rubber tread is left. This is because the treads are responsible for the traction that keeps the wheel in contact with the road. 

Without this traction, you’re likely to end up with a flat tire or worse, a tire blowout that causes you to lose control. 

This situation poses an even higher risk if you’re driving at highway speeds. You may find yourself swerving and driving into oncoming traffic.  

What Does a Separated Tire Feel Like?

If tread separation occurs, there’s a high chance that you’ll notice it right away. You will hear a heavy thumping noise as you drive. The noise stems from the fact that the tire is out of balance.

You may also experience a squirming sensation from your car. 

If the issue isn’t severe, the tire may look completely normal. But this doesn’t mean that you should neglect the problem and continue driving. If you remove the tire, you’ll notice serious tire defects. 

More specifically, the tire won’t have its usual round shape.

Instead, it may have a large bubble either on the tread or sidewall. The bump, which is usually referred to as a “mole hole” is evidence of damaged cords or steel belts.  

How Long Can You Drive on a Split Tire?

A split tire is another name for a separated tire. So the same rules apply. Essentially, you can’t and shouldn’t drive on a split tire. 

As explained later in the article, the safest thing to do is to keep steering straight until you’re able to slow down and stop the car.

You can then replace the split tire with a spare one and take your car to an auto shop for repairs.

How Do You Fix a Separated Tire?

A tire separation is not an issue that can be fixed. Rather, you’ll want to replace the tire immediately to avoid worse issues like a tire blowout. 

To avoid this problem altogether, watch out for signs of tire separation.

This way, you can replace them with new tires in time; hence, preventing the separation from happening altogether. 

More importantly, you’ll be able to guarantee your safety and avoid car accidents that would result from driving on a separate tire. Common signs of tread separation include:

Shaking of the steering wheel when driving at low speeds of just 10 to 40 miles per hour

Under normal conditions, the steering wheel shouldn’t shake when you’re driving. So if you notice vibration effects – whether minor or severe – it’s crucial that you stop and check the tread area for wear or separation. 

Formation of bubbles along the sidewall or the tire tread 

You may also notice that your tire has an odd shape like its surface is bulging out. This phenomenon is referred to as a tire bubble, and it indicates a potential tire blowout. 

If the bubble is fairly small, it could have been caused by high-impact situations, such as hitting potholes or driving over a bump at high speeds. 

However, if there’s a big and long bubble inside the tire treads, this represents a more serious condition. The bubble(s) usually form when you constantly drive on worn or underinflated tires.

A large wavy pattern on the tire tread 

Another sign that your tire is about to separate is a wavy pattern on the tread. Ideally, the treads ought to be parallel and aligned straight. So any deviation from this means that you’re likely to experience tread separation.

If you encounter any of these signs, ensure you stop driving and remove the faulty tire. Don’t have a brand new tire to replace it on the spot? Then consider installing your spare tire and driving to the nearest auto repair shop. 

What Should You Do If Your Tire Separates?

If you experience a tire separation when you’re driving, you may panic and start driving recklessly. However, it’s important that you stay calm. Here are some of the things you can do to enhance your safety during a tire separation:

Avoid slamming on the brakes

During a tire separation, the greatest risk is that the tire blows out. And when that happens, the first thing you’ll probably think of doing is slamming on the brakes. 

But doing this is not only wrong but also puts you in danger. Braking that hard and suddenly can cause the wheels to lock up, which then causes you to lose control of the car. 

What you should do instead is to allow the vehicle to stop gradually and naturally. Press the gas pedal lightly so that you can maintain momentum. Keep doing so until you’re able to exit the highway or pull over at a convenient location. 

Switch on the hazards

One other thing you should do is to turn on the hazards. If possible, send three subsequent blasts on the horn. This signals to other drivers that you need a bit more space. 

Tire separation can happen when it’s least expected. Taking these measures enhances your safety by preventing you from being hit by another driver. 

Keep steering straight

There are mixed views on how you should steer when a tire separation happens. Some recommend steering aggressively in the direction opposite to where the split tire is pulling you.

For instance, if the split tire is pulling you to the right, then you should steer more toward the left. 

However, this isn’t the right way to go about this. Instead, you should place your hands on the steering wheel in the 2 and 10 o’clock positions and steer in a straight direction. 

The split tire will likely pull you in one direction. But don’t attempt to overcorrect the problem as this can send you to the other lane and lead to a collision. As long as you’re steering straight ahead, you’ll be safe. 

Then, once your car starts to slow down, you can safely step on the brake pedal and bring the car to a complete stop. 


If you were wondering exactly how long you can drive on a split tire, the answer is you can’t. This kind of tire damage damages the wheel’s internal structure; making it impossible to fix.

The only solution is to buy new tires for replacement. 

Depending on the cause though, you may be able to use the tire’s warranty to cover the replacement. 

This is because some tires separate because of errors made during the production process.

If the tire manufacturer made a mistake or used faulty materials, then they can be held liable for the tire separation.


Dean Alvarez, TireForge Head Author

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