Side Bubble in Tire: What It Means and Safety Concerns
If you have a gumball-shaped bulge sticking out from the side of your tire, don't ignore it. The nugget-like protrusion is actually an air bubble that could cause a blowout. Think of the bubble as a tire tumor that, if left untreated, could have devastating consequences.
What Causes Tire Bubbles?
Tire bubbles are most often caused by high-impact damage, such as hitting a pothole or piece of road debris; running into a curb; driving too fast over speed bumps or railroad crossings; overloading your tire; and driving, even for a short distance, with a flat tire.
The impact that your tire experiences from hitting the foreign object pinches the tire against the rim, which damages the inner liner, forcing air to leak into the body of the tire and causing the bubble to form.
That's not to say that tire bubbles are never caused by an internal defect in the tire. If an authorized dealer inspects your tire and finds that there's been no obvious damage due to impact, then there's a chance that the defect could be covered by your warranty. Every tire manufacturer's policies and procedures are different, but if you don't remember subjecting your tires to any high-impact damage, then it could be worth submitting a claim.
Bubbles in the side of your tire aren't to be confused with sometimes-hard-to-spot bubbles that crop up in your tire's tread — these tread bubbles usually indicate that your tire has a broken belt.
If I Have a Bubble, Are My Tires Safe?
That side tire bubble is a lot more dangerous than it looks. It can cause even more harm than a flat tire: To your wheels, to you personally and to others who are driving on the road around you. If you have a bubble on the side of your tire, it's a ticking time bomb that could quite literally explode at any time — such as if you're cruising at 80 miles per hour down the highway — causing a blowout that can put your life and others' lives at risk. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that 11,000 crashes each year are caused by tire failure.
Can Tire Bubbles be Repaired?
Do you have a bubble on the side of your tire? Don't delay. Address it immediately. Be sure to drive slowly and take your vehicle into your nearest tire repair shop or auto dealership. Unfortunately, addressing the tire bubble doesn't mean repairing it. Side tire bubbles aren't repairable — the entire tire must be replaced before a blowout occurs.
If you're replacing one tire, you might as well replace two tires. If you're routinely rotating your tires, it's best to replace tires in sets of two or four, to maintain even wear. It might sting initially, but replacing tires in sets will surely save you money in the long run.