Why Tire Tread Separations Happen

Tire tread separation can result from excessive wear and tear, improper tire repair, neglect and abuse of the tire, and most commonly, defective manufacturing.


A black and white photo of a car that has suffered a rollover accident

The first day of summer is just around the corner. As the weather heats up, from mid-May through October, people are driving farther distances at greater speeds in vehicles loaded with suitcases, kids and maybe the family pet. All of this is a recipe for disaster if your car or truck’s tires have been neglected and need to be replaced. In fact, tire companies grimly refer to May through October as “tire-blowout season.” While a blowout is different than tire tread separation, both can result from worn, damaged or factory-defective tires. And just like a blowout, tire tread separation can cause life-threatening accidents, including rollovers.

In order to understand why tread separations occur and how to prevent them, it is helpful to know the basic construction of motor vehicle tires.

How Tires are Made

Tire tread separation is the separation of a tire’s rubber treads (the outer grooves that actually touch and grip the road as the tire spins) from its steel belt. The steel belt covers an inner lining of cords (called the carcass) that reinforce and create the shape of the tire. Since the 1960s, the vast majority of tires have been constructed with a carcass of fabric and steel covered with layers of rubber.

The rubber in the treads is attached to the steel belt through a chemical process called calendaring. Calendaring requires a heavy-duty piece of machinery equipped with three or more rollers, each revolving in opposite directions, their temperature regulated with a combination of steam and water. This process, when done correctly, adheres the rubber compound of the treads to the carcass of the tire.

Diagram of the parts of a tire tread

Tire tread separation can result from excessive wear and tear, improper tire repair, and neglect and abuse of the tire. However, the most common cause of tread separation is defective manufacturing.

Tire Tread Separation Due to Defective Manufacturing

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports more than 8,000 crashes, 400 deaths and 10,000 injuries annually are the result of defective tires. Since the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act passed in 1996, over 24 million tires, including tires made by major manufacturers such as Firestone, have been recalled due to defective manufacturing and design.

Defective manufacturing can include:

  • Faulty inspection of tires
  • Flawed design of the tire
  • Debris mixed in with the raw materials used in the production of tires

Fortunately, knowing the signs of a worn, damaged or possibly defective tire can help prevent an accident or worse due to tire tread separation.

Protecting Yourself Against Tire Tread Separation

Signs of a defective tire can include:

  • A bump, bubble or other deformation in the tread area
  • Out of balance vibrations, thumping or other unusual noises when driving
  • Cracks in the tire’s sidewall
  • Uneven treads or treads that have worn thin

Drivers can do “the penny test” to determine if the treads are worn down. Insert a penny into the tread groove of a tire with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, the tire tread depth is less than 2/32 of an inch, and you should replace the tire.

If while inspecting your tires or driving you notice any of the above, bring your vehicle to a trusted tire and wheel retailer as soon as possible!

Houston Legal Help with Injury from Defective Tires

Willis Law Firm provides legal help for individuals or families who have suffered injury or worse as the result of defective tires. In addition to litigation, our services include gathering evidence and leading investigations into the causes of an accident. If you have been in an accident you believe was caused by a defective tire, contact us today at 1-800-883-9859 or use our online form to schedule a consultation.

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