You may have heard the term and asked yourself, “What is tire separation, exactly?” Let’s clear that up, along with a little discussion of proper tire maintenance.
Tires are built with a cord body of overlapping plies of fabric and/or fiberglass, then a layer of crisscrossing steel belts laid over the cord body. The tread is then bonded to the steel belt plies and heat-cured. Tire separation happens when the tread is no longer affixed to the layers of plies, or when the steel belts come loose from the cord body. Either way, it can quickly lead to a catastrophic tire failure on the highway!
So what is tire separation’s cause?
In many cases, tire separation results from a defective run of tires from the factory. However, things like overinflation or lack of regular tire rotation can also contribute. An overinflated tire is already stressed from trying to contain too much air pressure, leading to heat buildup and uneven wear. That stress can destroy a tire when you hit an object or a pothole!
Tire rotation is essential to maintain even tire wear, prolonging the life of the tires and improving your car’s ride, handling and drivability. Worn suspension parts or improper alignment can also contribute to tire separation, by imprinting uneven wear patterns onto the tread and shortening tire life. Using a plug to repair a flat can also start a tire separation problem, right around the plug.
So what are tire separation’s warning signs?
- “Mole holes,” a bulge on the sidewall that comes from the tire’s cord body or belts separating.
- Uneven tread surfaces. Run your hand over the surface of the tread and see if there are any raised areas.
- Protruding pieces of steel belt (a sign that failure is imminent and the tire should be replaced immediately).
- Roughness that’s noticeable at all speeds, as the tire starts to go out of round.
If your tire separation problem occurs as a result of a manufacturing defect, your tire dealer should replace the tire (maybe with a prorated amount for mileage already accrued on the tire). Tire recalls are usually issued when a batch of tires leaves the factory with a tread separation problem.
If you’ve been wondering what is tire separation, we hope this clears that up for you!