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What causes bubbles in tyres?

Checking your tyre on a regular basis is a must for every car owner. It will help you identify issues like uneven wear or tyre damage. Once you identify the critical issues, you can fix the problem immediately.


Some common tyre issues include uneven wear and tear, and cracks which can prove extremely fatal if they aren’t fixed on time. Another dangerous tyre problem is bubbles in the sidewalk of a radial tyre.


What are Bubbles in a Tyre? 

Bubbles in a tyre’s sidewall refer to the bulges that appear when a radial’s inner liner is damaged from an impact. That impact can cause a tear or small holes and affect the strength of its sidewalk plies.


In simple words, a bubble is caused by air leaking from the inside of the tyre into the body of the tyre.


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What Causes Tyre Bubbles?


  • Damage to a radial caused by hitting speedbumps or potholes


At a basic level, tyres are made of multiple layers of ply and rubber. The ply gives it a rigid structure and strength. The rubber, on the other hand, is bonded to plies with glue.


Other components that make a tyre and sidewall plies include polyester and different fabrics. All these are coated with rubber, which cements it with other components. This helps in holding air and the plies give the radial a proper shape, strength, and structure.


Now, the strength between different component layers also helps in increasing the tyre’s durability. If there is a separation of plies, then there will be a loss of bonding strength between them. This will allow the air to escape.


Also, when the adhesive used to fix the ply layers, rubber beds and steel wires is compromised, bubbles may be formed.


  • Over- or under-inflation of tyres.


Poorly inflated tyres are at a higher risk of bubbling. When the tyres are not inflated properly, excess heat will be developed in the tyres. As a result, the intermediate bonding adhesive collapses. This will give way to tyre bubbles.


  • Defect in the manufacturing process


The likelihood of manufacturing defects forming a tyre bubble is very little. Generally, when a manufacturing issue arises, then in most cases the glue fails to hold the layers together. This will create a gap for bubbles to form.


However, robust manufacturing processes along with better materials reduce these kinds of defects.


  • Overburdening


If the car is carrying a heavy burden, it can cause the tyres to elongate. Overburdening damages the plies and steel wires within the tyres. They will then fall out of alignment and the sidewall will show bubbles.


  • Wearing out of rubber cover


When the rubber cover of the tyre wears out, it will become more prone to impact fracture. This means the metal skeleton of the tyre will have chances of dislocating. This dislocation can result in bubbling. It is imperative that you change the tyre if you notice that the rubber cover of the tyre is wearing out.


In most cases, too much load, road conditions and lack of tyre pressure are the reasons behind bubbles forming in the tyres.


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What Happens When There is a Tyre Sidewall Bubble?


When a bubble appears in the sidewall of a radial, it indicates that there is internal damage in the tyre. A bubble is trying to say that the inside structure of the tyre is failing. Once a bubble occurs, it can continue to get worse and increase in size. Using such tyres will surely weaken the overstrained cords. Such radials are not capable of dealing with road conditions like potholes.

What Happens When There is a Tyre Sidewall Bubble

If you hit a speed bump, it can cause further damage or an accident. It could even lead to a complete tyre blowout in some cases.


Can Tyre Bubble be Repaired?


It is not possible to repair tyres that have bulges in them. The very presence of a bubble in the sidewall indicates that the internal structure of a radial is damaged, and ultimately, it will lead to failure.


As time passes, the bubble will just get larger as the air pressure delaminates the inner plies. The problem would get worse if you use the radials even in this condition. Continuous usage will cause eventual failure and hitting potholes or any kind of impact will worsen the condition. Therefore, tyres with bubbles are not safe to use.


If you see a tyre bubble, it is imperative that you change the tyre immediately. You will be putting your safety at risk by not replacing it with a new tyre. Choose an experienced professional to change the tyre.


How Can I Prevent Tyre Bubbles?


Hitting the potholes or speedbumps are the most common culprits of getting a tyre bubble. While you cannot avoid them, you can still prevent the bubbles from forming.


Inspect your tyres often and look for changes in tyre pressure and structure. Use a pressure gauge to check the tyre pressure. This is especially important when seasons change. Apart from visual inspection, you must also feel the tyres and check for bubbles on the sidewalls.


A lot of new models of cars have a tyre pressure monitoring system that will notify you when the tyre pressure is low. Do not ignore those warnings; immediately fill your tyres with air. If the warning disappears, you can continue driving for a while. However, if the warning reappears or remains, that means you have to take it to the shop and get the tyre inspected and accordingly repair or replace it.


How Can I Inspect a Tyre for a Bubble?


Every once in a while you need to inspect your tyres for a bubble. Follow these steps to check for the bubble:


  • Walk around the car when it is bright so that you can easily spot damages to the tyre. Avoid doing this at night as you won’t be able to do a thorough and clear inspection.
  • Check for uneven surfaces on your tyres. Bubbles might be small in the initial stages and they might not be very visible. Place your hand on the tyre and slide over. This way you can easily identify the presence of uneven surfaces on the tyres.
  • Bubble or bulge might be a cause of an uneven tyre tread. However, not every uneven tread would be a result of a bubble. Minimum or excess air can also result in unevenness in the tyre. Even balancing issues or steering issues can cause an uneven tyre tread. So, figure out if the unevenness is due to a bubble or some other reason.
  • Check if there is any damage in the tyre due to unwanted sharp objects.


If you find any bubble or damage to the tyre, get it replaced immediately. It barely takes any time and will save you from potentially dangerous situations.


What to do When I Have a Tyre Bubble?


Unfortunately, you cannot do anything yourself when you see a tyre bubble. You will have to take the car to the auto shop immediately. A bubble is a sign of a major problem and if you don’t address it quickly, you will be putting your safety at risk.

What to do When I Have a Tyre Bubble

Driving on different road conditions and speeds may increase the size of the bubble. If you wait longer, the bubble will just get bigger. Eventually, that layer of the tyre will burst, resulting in a flat tyre.


Do Bubbles Occur When the Car is Not Used Often?


Yes, it is possible that bubbles may occur even when you do not use your car frequently or if it is idle for a long time. When the car is left idle, the tyre will start ‘rotting’ and creates bubbles easily. If you are using a car after a really long time, make sure you check the tyres before driving.


Does Temperature Have Any Effect on Bubbles?


One of the many factors causing a tyre bubble is a drop in temperature. If you live in colder parts of the country like the northern parts of India, you may encounter this problem. The drastic temperature drops directly affect the pressure of the tyres. And it may eventually lead to a bubble forming.


Addressing the issue, in the beginning, will prevent the bubble from forming. Keep checking the tyre pressure throughout the colder seasons and make sure that the tyre is at the right pressure at all times.


Is Tyre With a Bubble More Dangerous Than a Flat Tyre?


If you are wondering if a bubble tyre is more dangerous than a flat tyre, then you should know that it indeed is more dangerous than a flat tyre. Moreover, when you are driving with a flat tyre, it will cause bubbles as well.


Bubbles or bulges in the tyres lie amongst the primary reasons for a car accident. Make it a priority to check the tyres for bubbles. Give importance to the health of the tyres along with that of the car.


If you see any changes to the tyre that suggests the presence of a bubble, take it to a tyre shop immediately and get it inspected.


Final Words


If you find a sidewall bubble in your tyre, do not panic. It is normal to get a bubble once in a while. If you do find a bubble, do not neglect it or drive the car for long until you get it fixed. Get to the nearest auto shop and get the tyres replaced.

Also Read – Tyre Care – Why Over-inflation Is Bad For Tyres?

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