Inside most tires, if not all, are steel wires responsible for maintaining structural integrity. If your tires are at a point where this inner steel belt is showing, it is definitely time to take it to the nearest tire shop.
The type of damage will determine whether you need to get new tires or not. Uneven wear patterns of the tire tread are usually fixable.
However, in most cases, if the steel belts are exposed, the tire tread has already disintegrated. At highway speeds, tire failure is a real possibility in such cases. Getting your tire replaced is the only safe way out.
However, before we look at fixing a tire with a wire showing, let us answer a few questions first.
Why is there steel wire underneath tires?
The concept of reinforcing a tire tread is an easy one to understand. Just like we put steel rebar to support concrete constructions, the same thing is done to tires to withstand the forces involved with driving.
As vehicle and road safety standards have increased over the last couple of decades, tire manufacturers have also kept up with the progress. Nowadays, tires must have high-carbon steel wire layered between the rubber compounds.
These wires are usually brass-plated to ensure a good bond between the rubber and steel. The copper in brass makes a high-strength chemical bond with the sulfur in rubber.
Simply put, steel wires increase the strength of the contact patch with the road. Compared to other tires, a reinforced tire can withstand high braking loads, reduce fatigue failures, and increase the overall life and safety of the tire.
What causes bald tires?
There are various ways to damage tires to the point where these steel wires start showing.
It takes place when the rubber from the contract patch somehow gets stripped off exposing the wires inside. These are often referred to as bald or flat spots.
Accidents, puncture holes, weather conditions, and hard braking on already worn-out tires are all reasons for causing flat spots.
But mostly bald tires are due to a lack of maintenance and regular wear and tear.
If you over-inflate your tires regularly, the contact patch shrinks increasing the load on the center of the tire. This might lead to poor traction events and flat sporting of tires.
Conversely, if you regularly put a lot of stress on the sidewall of your tire by not maintaining the correct tire pressure.
It will damage the sides of the tire first, exposing the wires on that part of the tire.
How long will tires last with wires showing?
This can be anyone’s guess. It is not recommended that you find out the answer to this question either.
If the tread depth on your tire is getting worn out, it is a good indicator to get that tire replaced immediately.
For such tires, don’t wait till the wire starts showing.
There are various cases of tires disintegrating on the way to the tire shop. So do not take the risk, put on the spare tire on your way to getting a new tire.
What happens if you drive on a tire with wires showing?
Generally speaking, driving on tires with cords showing is very dangerous.
Such tires will lead to poor handling and potential loss of control, especially at highway speeds. Even if the damage is only on one tire, the entire car can suffer as a result.
Once the tread depth of regular tires is compromised, water can get into the inner layers causing corrosion of the steel belt.
This may lead to a sudden loss of air pressure, and it is the primary reason why tires pop.
For a tire to be safe to drive, it must have a minimum tread depth of 4/32 of an inch.
How to fix such tires?
As you can see, there is no easy fix for a tire with wires showing. Be it the front tire or the rear, it is best to replace them. In fact, in many states, it is simply illegal to repair such a tire.
However, if you have very minor damage, a tire repair shop can use tire patch plugs.
They will usually sand down the surface, apply the patch plug, and shave off the excess leaving behind a new treaded surface.
But this method of repair usually works for slight wear and puncture holes. If significant chunks of wires are visible, there is no way to repair that tire.
What checks to perform after getting your tires replaced?
Driving around on damaged and flat-spotted tires can mess up your wheel alignment, and poor alignment can lead to big problems.
After getting your new tires, it is always a good idea to get your wheel alignment checked.
Also, check the tire pressure and tread depth of the other tires. Make sure your spare tire is in great shape as well.
Ask your mechanic to give your vehicle a once-over making sure it is highway-ready.
Tips for car care and tire maintenance
Some of these tips are common sense, but most people ignore them at their own peril.
- First and foremost, don’t buy a discount tire. Invest in a good tire. It is your first line of defense against accidents.
- Regularly check your tires for any uneven wear patterns, condition of the rubber, and other signs of wear and tear. If you spot something, get it fixed quickly. This way, you will increase the life of your tire.
- The air pressure requirements of the front tires are different from the rear tires. Make sure you are correctly filled.
- Regularly check your wheel rotation, balance, and alignment.
- Before long highway driving, check the weather conditions and choose the right tire according to the season and terrain.
- If you feel a loss of traction while driving, pull to the slow lane immediately. Stop, and get your tires checked even if you can’t see any damage.
- Before taking the handover of a rental car, check the state of its tires, spark plugs, engine oil, and radiator coolant level. If you find anything out of place, ask them to replace it.
Tires play a crucial role in comfort and safety, so taking good care of them is extremely important. Lack of tire care is usually the number one reason for the loss of car control on the roads.
As you can see, if your tire has cords showing there is really no good way to fix it, and you can never be too careful.
So, even if one edge of your tire tread is showing signs of damage, it is time to get a new one so that your car is safe to drive.