Tire maintenance & safety

Tire shoulder: Overview & maintenance

Last updated 10/17/2022 - Originally published 9/22/2020
Written by SimpleTire

Of everything that goes into a tire, the tire shoulder is one of the more complex parts. Don't worry, we'll walk you through the explanation. The tire shoulder provides stability while you drive around corners and aids in traction. This area of the tire makes the design more durable. The tire shoulder is also important because its wear patterns can show you potential problems with your suspension.

Lucky for us, the tire shoulder is one of the easiest areas of a tire to see. Like the rest of your tire, it should be routinely inspected and maintained. Keeping an eye on this part of your tire helps you safely use your tires for as long as possible. Because it's so easy to find, you shouldn't have much trouble giving the tire shoulder a quick inspection now and then.

What Is the Tire Shoulder?

The tire shoulder is the portion of the tread between the tread center and the tire sidewall. Depending on the tire design, the tire shoulder may look like the rest of the tread, or it may have a different tread type altogether. This is especially true for tires that are manufactured for off-road use.

Off-road tires tend to boast tire shoulders that have a knobby tread allowing them to gain traction by grabbing onto rough terrain. The tire shoulder construction on bias tires may have a plain, angular, or rounded shoulder without any tread markings. Such a design is more common in older automobiles. Many owners of classic cars prefer to keep the original look of their vehicle by choosing this type of tire. No matter what it looks like, every tire has a tire shoulder.

The Importance of the Tire Shoulder

The tire shoulder offers support and protection to both the sidewall and the tread. The shoulder is one of the thickest parts of the tire, enabling the tire to more easily hold its form during cornering maneuvers. Certain tire shoulder designs also help tires maneuver more easily through turns. Because the tire shoulder supports two of the tire's integral parts, it is important that you take care of it.

Maintaining the Tire Shoulder

Proper tire shoulder maintenance is really up to you. Avoid hitting curbs as you drive, and make sure that your tires are properly inflated. These two steps help keep the tire shoulder in good shape, prolonging the life of the tire.

Inflating tires above the measurement recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer can cause the center of your treads to wear out before the tread on the tire shoulder. If your tires don't have enough air in them, you put more stress on the tire shoulder.

Under-inflation causes heat to build up inside your tires. This heat can cause weakened shoulders to rip apart, leading to a dangerous accident. As the tire shoulder breaks down because of under-inflation, leaks may develop, or the sidewall may blow out. If you notice that your tire shoulder is wearing down before the center, then we highly encourage you to inflate your tires more.

Tire and Suspension Issues

Service professionals at your dealership can diagnose problems with your tire shoulders. The best way to keep an eye on your tires is with routine rotations of the tires every 5,000 - 6,000 miles.

The expert technicians at your dealership can find clues from the tire shoulder about issues with over-inflation or under-inflation. They can also find problems with wheel balancing and alignment. For example, if the tires are inflated to vehicle specification and the tire shoulder still possesses uneven wear, there may be an alignment issue that should be addressed by a dealership professional.

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