What is a Tire Sidewall Damage (& When to Replace the Tire?)

A damaged sidewall can be dangerous and costly. Learn what sidewall damage is, how to prevent it, and when you should replace your tires.

Tire Sidewall Damage

If you’re like most drivers, you probably don’t give much thought to your car’s tires until there’s a problem.

And while a tire blowout or flat may be the most obvious indication that it’s time for a new set of rubber, other types of damage can also signal the need for a replacement.

One such type of damage is sidewall wear or damage. So, what is sidewall damage, and when should you replace a tire because of it? Read on to find out.

What is a Sidewall Tire Damage?

A sidewall tire damage is what it sounds like; damage to the tire’s sidewall, meaning the damage is on the side of the tire and not the tire tread. Damage to the tire’s sidewall is not repairable in most cases.

You can often spot one by seeing a deep scratch or a bubble on the tire’s sidewall. This can come from a small accident or if you drove too close to the road’s curb.

It can also happen because of sticks or other sharp things along the road. A sidewall tire damage is really bad to drive around with, and now we will explain why.

Is it safe to drive on a tire with sidewall damage?

Deep Sidewall Tire Damage

A sidewall tire damage is not safe to drive around with. The sidewalls of the tires are much more sensitive than the tread area. In many cases, the damage is damaging the whole structure of the tire, and it can cause it to blow at any moment.

This does also depend a little bit on how big the scratch or damage is. If the scratch is small and super-shallow and does not reach the threads, it is probably not something you should worry too much about.

How much tire sidewall damage is too much?

Sidewall Tire Damage

A rule of thumb for determining how much sidewall tire damage is too much is that if you can see the threads in the damage, it is definitely time to replace the tire.

The threads are often located 1/8″ to 3/16″ (3mm to 4.5mm) into the tire, but to determine exactly if you need to replace the tire or not, you need to look at the damage itself.

If there is an air-bubble on the tire’s sidewall, you need to replace it straight away because there is a big risk that it will blow at any moment.

To be sure that nothing serious will happen to the tire, you should let an expert look at the damage.

Find a repair shop that is not selling tires and ask them. If you go to a repair shop that is selling tires, it is a big chance that they will want you to buy new tires.

Can You Repair a Sidewall Tire Damage?

Swelling Tire Bulge

A sidewall tire damage that reaches the threads should never be repaired because it damages the tire’s whole structure.

If the tire’s sidewall has a bubble, it is not fixable either, and small punctures should either not be repaired.

The only time you can glue together a sidewall tire damage if it is a super shallow scratch that is not reaching the threads.

However, if the scratch or damage is this shallow, there is no point in gluing it either, so I would say that you should never repair a sidewall tire damage.

RELATED: Can You Patch a Hole in the Sidewall of a Tire?

Causes of a Tire Sidewall Damage

Sidewall Tire Bulge

There are a lot of things that could cause tire sidewall damage. Mostly it is because of sharp objects you were hitting with the sidewall of the tire by accident. It can also be caused by age or driving around with too little air pressure in the tires.

Here are the common causes of tire sidewall damage:

  1. Hitting a curb
  2. Under-Inflation
  3. Potholes
  4. Sharp objects
  5. Age 
  6. Overload 
  7. Manufacturing defects 


Can you replace just one tire?

If you change the tires on the drive wheels, you should change both tires because the different tire diameters will stress the transmission.

If you replace the tires on the rear of a front-wheel drive car, for example, you can replace just one tire.

If you have a 4wd car, it is always recommended to replace all four wheels because different tires’ diameters can cause stress to the differential or transmission. The best way to find out is to ask your authorized dealer if you can replace just one tire on your specific car model.

Is sidewall tire damage covered under warranty?

No, sidewall tire damage is usually considered self-inflicted damage and not a manufacturer problem, and therefore not covered under warranty in most cases.

But if you want to be sure, you can always ask or read your warranty documents carefully because there are cases where you have a special car warranty.

How thick is the sidewall of a car tire?

A car tire typically has a sidewall that is between 1/4″ to 5/8″ (5 to 15 mm) thick. However, this can vary depending on the specific tires that are being used. Some tires may have thicker or thinner sidewalls, depending on their design and intended purpose.
For example, race car tires often have very thin sidewalls to help improve grip and handling. Likewise, some off-road tires may have thicker sidewalls to help protect against punctures from rocks or other debris.

How much tire sidewall damage is OK?

Tire sidewall damage is never OK. A bulge or tear in a tire’s sidewall means that the internal tire structure has been compromised, and the tire should be replaced immediately. Driving on a sidewall damaged tire can cause it to blow out, resulting in a serious accident.

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