Motorcycle Tire Failures

Motorcycle tires are just as susceptible to manufacturing defects and failures as passenger tires. However, in the event of a blowout or tread separation, drivers are more likely to lose control of their vehicle than those in cars, trucks or SUVs, which ups their risk of suffering a serious injury as well. It is imperative that motorcycle drivers keep on top of the latest news regarding motorcycle tire recalls.

If you have been injured because of a motorcycle tire failure or defect, please contact us as soon as possible.

Your Safety Rides On Your Motorcycle Tires

Notice what your tires are telling you while you're riding. If your steering response is slow or mushy, or if your cornering and braking response is heavy, there's a good chance your tires are underinflated. Vibrations or wobbling may signal that actual tire damage has occurred and failure is imminent.

Properly maintaining your motorcycle tires (and its body, of course) will help you stay as safe as possible and extend their lives for a bit longer. Also make sure to keep to the following guidelines in mind to minimize your chances of sustaining a serious injury in a motorcycle accident involving blowouts or tread separations.

Motorcycle Tire Pressure and Inflation Maintenance

Checking tire pressure is one of the simplest, most important actions you can take to keep your motorcycle safe. Underinflated tires can result in some of the following issues:

  • Imprecise cornering
  • Higher running temperatures
  • Irregular tread wear at the edge of the contact patch
  • Fatigue cracking
  • Overstressing
  • Eventual failure of the tire carcass.

Overinflating does not increase load carrying capacity, but will result in a hard ride and accelerated tire wear in the center of the contact patch. Keep in mind that hard cornering, passengers, heavy loads and sustained high speeds require higher pressures (up to that indicated on the sidewall).

Never exceed the loading and accessories restrictions found in your motorcycle owner's manual, or the maximum load displayed on the tire sidewalls. Know your loaded vehicle weight.

Check the air pressure in your motorcycle tires at frequent, regular intervals, especially before and during any long trips you have planned. Use an accurate tire gauge that holds a reading, and check pressures only when the tires are cold (we recommend waiting one hour after running).

Repeated loss of inflation pressure may be the result of undetected tire damage. Conduct visual inspections of tires, checking for the following faults:

Always heed warning signs such as vibration, handling instability, rubbing or tire noises that may occur during operation of the motorcycle. If in doubt, ask your motorcycle tire dealer to check your loading and inflation along with the tires themselves. Remove and replace any damaged tires immediately.

Never, under any circumstances, continue using tires with nonrepairable damage. Problems caused by impacts, penetrations or continued underinflated/overloaded use are progressive, and can result in sudden and complete tire failure at the worst possible times.

Always seek expert inspection of the dismounted tire following curb, chuckhole or other impacts, evidence of penetration beyond the tire surface, bulges or low pressure. Do not continue riding if damages of these types is detected.

Front and Rear Motorcycle Tire Matching

Correctly matching front and rear motorcycle tires is important when achieving optimum performance and handling. Mount motorcycle tires marked “front wheel” on front positions and tires marked “rear wheel” on rear positions. Mismatching tires may adversely affect handling and stability, increasing the chance of an injury. Avoiding mixing worn as well unworn tires (like adding a new front tire with a worn rear tire), because this can cause instability.

Motorcycle Tire Load-Carrying Capabilities

The load-carrying capability of all motorcycle tires is reduced by underinflation. Remember to check your tire pressure on a regular basis. It is possible to overload a tire, even if it’s the size specified by the manufacturer. Maximum motorcycle tire loads and corresponding pressures are indicated on the sidewall. Tires offering different load-carrying capacities are available, but carefully consider the weight of the motorcycle (and any optional equipment), as well as whether it will carry passengers, before committing to them.

Most tire manufacturers do not recommend the use of touring trailers or warrant tires on motorcycles pulling trailers. These measures may contribute to motorcycle instability because they can grossly exaggerate tire stresses and overload, leading to irreversible tire damage or outright failure.

Maintaining Motorcycle Tire Clearance

If you intend to mount tire sizes other than those specified in the owner's manual, consult with the motorcycle manufacturer first. A tire's physical dimensions are important, and adequate clearance of fenders and the swingarm must be maintained for the safest possible driving. Also keep in mind that increasing the tire size may require an increase in rim width. Make sure to rotate the wheel and inspect closely for sufficient clearance if this is the case.

Motorcycle Rim Size

Correct rim width is essential to motorcycle handling and stability. Tires installed on a rim wider than recommended will have a flattened profile, and a rider may easily reach the edge of the tread during cornering. Tires installed on a rim narrower than recommended will alter the tire profile, which concentrates tire wear in a very small area during cornering and creates a smaller contact patch during braking.

Motorcycle Tubes

The tubes involved in a tube-type wheel assembly should be treated with respect. When fitting a new tire on a rim requiring a tube, a new tube should be fitted at the same time. Old tubes become stretched, and if one is fitted within a new tire, it can crease and fail due to thinning of the tube rubber. Tubes should be repaired only by an expert, who will secure the tube valve assembly to rim with care.

Inspect rim band and consult motorcycle dealer for correct rim band replacement. Always check the size markings on the tube to assure that the tire size is indicated. Do not fit tubes in radial motorcycle tires, nor fit radials on rims requiring tubes, unless the tubes bear matching size and radial (R) markings.

Minimum Motorcycle Tire Tread Depth

Excessively worn tires are more susceptible to penetrations and punctures by foreign objects. Always remove tires from service before they reach the tread wear indicator bars. Consult with the manufacturer for more specific information on tire tread wear indicators for your specific motorcycle tire. Combining worn tires with unworn tires, or using worn tires in wet road conditions will result in reduced handling.

Motorcycle Tire Speed Ratings

Manufacturers mark their tires with speed ratings to indicate their high-performance capabilities. None of them recommend the use of any of their products in excess of legal speed limits. Do not mix motorcycle tire speed ratings front to rear. Damaged, altered, repaired, excessively worn, underinflated or overloaded tires will impact motorcycle handling and limit the rated capabilities. High-speed tire failure could result in catastrophic injury or death.

Motorcycle Tire Run-in Period

Mounting new or different tires on a motorcycle will affect its handling. Tire replacements for worn, differently-patterned or -constructed tires will not react the same. Motorcycle riders should be cautious, and not subject new tires to maximum power, abrupt lean-overs or hard cornering until a reasonable run-in distance of approximately 100 miles has been traveled. Breaking in a new tire or tire combination allows riders to grow accustomed to the feel of the unfamiliar. Run-ins give motorcyclists the opportunity to safely find the edge of the tire and achieve optimum road grip for a range of speeds, acceleration and handling.

Check and adjust the inflation pressure to manufacturer-recommended levels after the tire cools for at least three hours following the run-in. Remember, new tires will have a very different contact patch and lean-over edge. New tires, mixing a new tire with a worn older tire and mixing different pattern combinations all require careful ride evaluation.

Motorcycle Tire Repair

Some punctures in motorcycle tires may be repaired. Permanent plug-patch repairs of small tread area punctures from within the dismounted tire by a qualified tire repair shop or motorcycle dealer are acceptable fixes. Never perform an exterior repair, and never use an inner tube as a substitute for proper repair. Your speed should not exceed 50 mph for the first 24 hours after getting your tires fixed, and a repaired tire should never be used over at speeds of over 75 mph. Check inflation pressure after the repaired tire cools for at least three hours following run-in, or sooner if you suspect air loss.

Liquid sealants should never be used to repair a motorcycle tire. These only provide temporary repairs, and they may adversely affect your bike in the following ways:

Proper Motorcycle Maintenance

Regular motorcycle inspections, particularly of the wheels, are strongly recommended. Tire mileage and performance can be inversely affected otherwise. Make sure to take your ride to a motorcycle dealer, inclusive of tire inspections, for an expert perspective that helps maximize the life of your motorcycle tires.

Keep suspension settings in strict compliance with the vehicle owner's manual. Improperly-maintained components and incorrect or unbalanced front fork pressures will affect stability. Low suspension pressure will generate excessive tire stresses and shorten the life of your tire.

Motorcycle Tire Wheel Balance

It is vital that tire and wheel assemblies be balanced before use, and rebalanced each time the tire is removed or replaced. Unbalanced tire and wheel assemblies can vibrate at certain speeds, which will greatly accelerate tire wear and shorten the longevity of the tire.

Motorcycle Wheel Alignment

Align the wheels each time the rear wheel is removed or the chain or belt is adjusted. Each revolution of an incorrectly-aligned wheel can scuff off tread rubber, reduce tire mileage and impair steering and cornering.

Motorcycle Spokes

Immediately replace broken spokes and tighten any loose ones that you find, as these transfer additional tension to any adjoining spokes. The added tension increases the chances for more spoke failures. After tightening or replacing spokes, be sure that the wheel rims run true. Both broken and loose spokes may cause wheel wobble, thus accelerating tire wear, and could cause instability.

Inspect the rim, rim band and tube, and replace any of these components if they are damaged before refitting the tire.

Wheel and Rim Inspection

Bent wheel rims and bent or cracked cast wheels should be replaced immediately. These can cause wheel wobble, bead unseating and, in the case of tubeless tires, gradual air loss – if not outright tire failure.

Motorcycle Tire Sidewall Treatment

Use a mild soap solution to clean sidewalls, white striping or lettering, and rinse them off with plain water. Never apply any other material, cleaners or dressings to enhance sidewall appearance. These may degrade rubber and remove inherent ozone cracking or weather checking resistance.

Motorcycle Tire Storage Precautions

The treatment that tires receive during extended periods of inactivity may directly affect their mileage and performance.

Temperature

Try to avoid frequent and varied extremes of temperature during storage.

Do not keep tires next to radiators or other sources of heat. Tires subjected to these conditions will age more quickly than those stored in a cool, constant environment.

Sunlight

Tires stored in direct sunlight for long periods of time will harden and age more quickly than those kept in a dark or dimly-lit area.

Ozone

Do not store tires in the presence of electric motors. The high concentration of ozone will accelerate tire aging.

Oil and Gasoline

Prolonged contact with oil or gasoline causes contamination of the rubber compound, making the tire unsuitable for use. Wipe off any oil or gasoline that falls on your tire immediately with a clean rag.

Do not use any tire that has experienced prolonged exposure to oil, gasoline, corrosives or non-rubber compatible liquids.

Motorcycle Tire Mounting

Only specially-trained persons should mount tires. Improper mounting can cause tire explosion and serious injury.

SOURCES: Dunlop, NHTSA, Safercar.gov

Serious Accident and Injury Legal Help for Motorcycle Tire Defects

Please contact a personal injury attorney in the event a damaged or defective motorcycle tire has resulted in you or a loved one suffering from a serious injury. Willis Law Firm offers Martindale-Hubble-recognized, board-certified services backed by 30 years of experience and a Steven J. Sharp Award for its work in leading the 2001 Firestone and Ford Explorer recalls. We’re here to help at every stage of the litigation process, which includes evidence gathering and inspections. To schedule a consultation with us, please fill out the online form or place a toll-free call to 1-800-883-9858.

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