Tire maintenance & safety

How to inspect tire sidewall & tread

Last updated 10/17/2022 - Originally published 9/23/2020
Written by SimpleTire

A tire's mileage capacity is the number of miles it can safely go before needing to be replaced. To help reach their maximum mileage capacity, tires should be routinely inspected. Visually inspecting the sidewalls and treads is easy to do.

Sidewall Inspection

A tire's sidewall supports the weight of the vehicle and helps absorb shock from bumps in the road. The air inside the tire holds the sidewall securely against the rim. The sidewall is layered with sturdy rubber in order to hold its form and keep air inside the tire.

When inspecting the sidewall, it's important to look for warning signs such as cracks, blisters, bulges, and rubber compromises such as oxidation and dry rot. Sidewall problems are most often the result of an underinflated tire, which puts undue stress on the actual sidewall material. Sidewalls can also degrade over time. If you discover issues such as cracks, splits, blisters, or warped bulges, it's more than likely that the tire needs to be replaced. For the best service, consult a technician at an automotive dealership.

Tread Inspection

The tread is a little trickier to inspect on most cars because only small areas can easily be seen at one time. You'll need to move your vehicle so that you can see every part of the tread.

As you inspect the tread, you want to look for some of the same issues that you can see in sidewalls: cracks, blisters, and splits. Also be on the lookout for hazards such as nails, screws, and glass that may be stuck in the tread. If a puncture is found on the tread, you should remove the tire from the vehicle, apply the spare, and take the punctured tire to a professional for immediate service.

Most tread wear issues occur on the front tires due to improper inflation, poor wheel alignment, or tires being out of balance. These problems can be avoided in many cases. To avoid sidewall and tread problems, check inflation and tread depth regularly. You can buy affordable inflation and tread-depth gauges at automotive supply stores, large retail stores, or your dealership. You should also have your tires routinely inspected and rotated according to your automaker's recommendations.

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