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Everything You Need to Know About Cupping in Tires

BY: Andrew Giorgi
A mechanic checking a car's tires.

While tires are certainly durable, the intense friction and pressure put on them when driving can cause damage—especially if not properly maintained. Inspecting your vehicles often is one way to avoid cupping in tires, but the first step to diagnosing this issue is knowing what it looks like. 

Cupping happens so often that you may have heard your mechanic refer to this as scalloped tires at some point in owning your vehicle. Keep reading to learn more about tire cupping, what causes them, and what to do if your tires need to be replaced.

What is Tire Cupping?

Ideally, tires should be even on the road surface with the combined pressure of the road and your vehicle spread across the whole tire. Getting tire rotations annually and checking your tire’s air pressure helps keep tire wear even, but failing to do either can result in irreversible damage and drastically decrease the tire life, like dealing with cupped tires.

Tire cupping, or “tire scalloping,” is when your car’s tire tread appears to have small parts scooped out every few inches or so. And while most of these dips or “scoops” may be large, running your hand along the tire may allow you to feel any smaller depressions beginning to form. 

Causes and Signs of Cupping in Tires

Suspension issues are known to be the biggest cause of tire cupping, as your suspension and shock systems ensure your vehicle drives smoothly. After a while, like many essential components, suspension systems experience part failure. This results in your vehicle slightly bouncing when in use. As your car comes back down, your tire becomes extra worn in the specific spot it lands in due to the added weight. This results in rubber being “scooped” and causes cupping.

Before visiting your mechanic, here are a few common signs to watch out for:

  • Excessive bouncing or vibrations
  • Car veers to one side
  • Abnormally loud noises
  • Physically spotting depressions in your tires

Tires firmly planted on the ground shouldn’t result in vibrations, so feeling an extra bumpy ride is a major sign that something is wrong. Additionally, if your car feels like it pulls to one side rather than moving in a straight line, you may have a tire misalignment.

Cupped tire noise is difficult to miss. As you drive, your tires will be switching between touching the ground and not many times per second. Higher rates of speed can cause this to turn into a distinct noise that has been likened to the sound of helicopter blades turning.

How to Prevent Cupped Tires

When it comes to preventing tire cupping, you can do a few things. Mainly though, they all involve staying up to date on your car’s maintenance schedule.

Regardless of the vehicle you have, it will almost always come with a manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule, which you can often find in your car’s owner’s manual. With this schedule, you’ll be able to find specifics on just how often you should be performing vital and routine maintenance. And when it comes to preventing cupping tires, the best thing you can do is to avoid an uneven wear pattern with tire maintenance, like getting wheel alignments, tire rotations or even brand new tires if needed.

The answer depends on the severity of the issue. If the wear on your tires has gotten to the point that the indents can physically be seen, it is likely too late to save the tire, and you will need a replacement. However, if the issue is spotted earlier, a mechanic may be able to adjust tire alignment or check the suspension to resolve the issue and save the tire. Therefore, preventative maintenance can stop cupped tires before they ever occur.

It is generally advisable to inspect your shocks and struts every 50,000 miles. Tires should be rotated roughly every six months to ensure even wearing, and most recommend full wheel realignments every couple of years.

If listed, check your vehicle’s owner manual for specific manufacturer recommendations.

Protect Your Vehicle with an Endurance Warranty

Whether it be solving problems with repairs or taking preemptive action to avoid uneven tread wear through preventative maintenance, taking care of your vehicle can be costly, especially when dealing with some high-quality tires. But when you’ve got the Advantage auto protection plan from endurance, you can get comprehensive breakdown coverage AND up to $3,500 in saving towards your car’s maintenance needs, including alignment checks, tire pressure checks and more, including other special, one-time services.

Plus, as an Endurance customer, you’ll also have access to other great perks and benefits, like complimentary 24/7 roadside assistance and towing, rental car reimbursements and trip interruption coverage. You’ll even have a 30-day money-back guarantee to help ensure you’re getting the right plan for you.

Don’t wait until it’s too late and protect your car and your wallet with an Endurance auto protection plan by requesting a free quote or calling the Endurance team at (800) 253-8203. And don’t forget to check out even more great and insightful articles on all things automotive, including more maintenance tips, vehicle buying guides, warranty coverage comparisons and more at the Endurance blog.

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