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Tire Cupping: What is It & How to Avoid It?

Jul 26th 2021

Tire Cupping: What is It & How to Avoid It?

Have you ever wondered what is tire cupping? What causes tires to wear in such a manner? What can you do to center your tires and prevent tire cupping?

These and additional questions are answered in today's blog post!

We will explain what part your vehicle's suspension and alignment, the tire's balance, the rim's health, and the tire quality have to do in preventing and correcting the cupping of your tires.

Improve the service life of your tires, minimize the vibration that ruins your comfort, enhance the control of the steering wheel over your vehicle and ensure your vehicle's secure performance by keeping an eye on your tires and avoid tire cupping at the root.

What is Tire Cupping?

Tire cupping, sometimes referred to as tire scalloping, is a form of uneven wear along the tread area. However, the tread wear is not the same as when the alignment of the vehicle is incorrect.

When the imbalance of the vehicle's alignment or skipping the tires' rotation is at fault, the tread features irregular wear from one shoulder to the other. This means that the uneven wear is, in a sense, even, as it gradually shortens the tread depth between the two shoulders since the driving pressure cannot be evenly distributed.

On the other hand, tire cupping causes different spots on the tire tread to wear out prematurely. The wear pattern is irregular, but not like with the messed-up alignment. Instead, spots along the tread wear away independently to other parts. This makes the tire tread look like some areas are cut out and shaved off the footprint. This wear pattern will cause the bouncing of the tire, which can lead to road vibrations and eventually other vehicle-related issues as well.

This issue occurs when the tire is unable to constantly maintain contact with the road for some reason, which causes the tire tread to wear away in patches across the footprint. Such wear patterns lead to further issues that ruin the quality of the tires and the drive.

A Cupping Tire Leads to:

  • Uneven tread wear manner
  • Ruined driving comfort
  • Weaker driving traction
  • Irregular steering

First of all, the most noticeable difference is the tire wear and the tire tread life. Tire cupping causes uneven tire wear, which greatly shortens the service life. Furthermore, as this tread damage is technically caused by the vehicle's incorrect alignment or some related issues, it is NOT covered by the tire's treadwear warranty.

Secondly, the irregular wear causes the tire's bouncing while the vehicle is in motion. This ruins the tire's shock absorbers and allows road disturbances to reach the vehicle's cabin. In other words, road noise and vibrations can easily ruin the passengers' driving enjoyment.

The disrupted contact with the road also ruins the tire's weather traction. As some parts of the tread do not touch the road, they automatically are unable to provide the necessary traction. This will cause the tire to improve the performing safety and strength, in the tire's intended weather conditions.

Lastly, cupped tires and their unsteady surface contact causes the vehicle's steering to suffer. This minimizes the control of the steering wheel over the vehicle, as the tires will move to the right or left (depending on which tread side the tire is more cupped) on their own. This makes the vehicle harder to steer in, otherwise normal, situations.

These four aftermaths are also considered to be the signs to search for when you are driving. These signs or symptoms will help identify whether your tires are cupped or not, and possibly will help you minimize the issues and the repair costs. So, if you notice such symptoms, be sure to take a trip to your mechanic for them to accurately diagnose the signs.

Is it Safe to Drive on Cupped Tires?

No, it is not safe to drive on cupped tires. Due to this irregular wear pattern, some parts of the tires are not touching the road surface while the vehicle is in motion. Not only does this cause higher road noise and vibration levels, but it also ruins the tire's traction and driving safety.

What Causes Tire Cupping?

Tire cupping could be caused by different issues. However, it is of the utmost importance for you to get your vehicle and tires checked out as soon as you notice the aforementioned signs.

So you now know the signs of tire cupping, but what actually causes them? Well, the main culprits are:

  • Misalignment of the tires
  • Worn suspension and driving shock
  • Unbalanced tires
  • Damaged, but functional rims
  • Bad quality tires

Misalignment of the Tires

Misaligned tires have an uneven surface contact, which will disturb the balance of the driving pressure across the tire tread. Instead of the tires optimizing their road contact to the tread center and ensuring the pressure circulation, they allow the driving pressure to cause uneven wear on one side of the tread. Therefore, the misalignment of the tires easily leads to tire cupping.

Worn Suspension Parts

The vehicle's suspension ensures the tires' constant surface contact. However, if the suspension parts, like the shock absorbers, bushing, struts, and other parts are worn out, they will lead to the tires bouncing during their performance. These vehicle parts need to be changed before the tires develop an uneven wear due to the constant bouncing.

Unbalanced Tires

Tire cupping also occurs when the four tires are not correctly balanced. In such instances, the imbalance of the tires will cause the driving pressure to not be evenly distributed throughout the tread pattern. If the issue is severe enough, the incorrect balance will place more weight on some areas of the tread, which will cause cupping and premature wear to appear.

Damaged Rims

Potholes and other road issues can damage the rims in a blink of an eye. When the issue happens on the rim's outer flange, it is easier to notice. However, when the damage causes the problem to appear on the inner flange, it is only visible on a lift. A damaged or bent rim will place excess weight on one side of the tire, which will lead to tire cupping.

Bad Quality Tires

Another issue that needs to be considered when trying to prevent tire cupping is the quality of the four tires mounted on the vehicle. Not all tires are equal, and tire scalloping can easily ruin a new set of tires, if they are manufactured for weaker materials. Therefore, it is important to purchase good quality tires, even if they are on the cheaper side. Check out our tire selection, here at Priority Tire to find your next set of tires at the best prices available online.

Rear Tires Cupping

When it comes to the cupping of rear tires on a vehicle, the process and causes are generally the same. Shock absorbers, suspension parts, the imbalance of the tires, the misalignment of the vehicle, the quality of the tires, and bent rims are to blame.

Everything which applies to the front tires could be the cause of tire cupping on the rear wheels. Therefore, if you wish to prevent the rear tires from cupping, the problems mentioned above should be diagnosed and corrected.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is tire cupping covered under warranty?

No, tire cupping is not covered by the tire manufacturer's warranty. As tire cupping is the result of the bad suspension, alignment issues, imbalance of the tires, and other non-tire-related causes, cupped tires will not fall under the tire wear warranty.

Can you fix cupped tires?

While the vehicle issues resulting in tire cupping could be corrected, cupped tires cannot be fixed. Tires with cupping need to be replaced in order for the vehicle to correctly function. To diagnose and fix the issue is unfortunately not enough, as cupped tires will continue to create problems if they are not replaced.

Do cupped tires need to be replaced?

Yes, sadly tire cupping renders the tire unsafe to be used. Whether the issue is the result of the vehicle's suspension or the wheel alignment does not matter. Tire cupping ruins the tire's traction and controllability, which will leads to bigger and more dangerous issues down the road.

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