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Everything You Need to Know About Cupping in Tires

BY: Andrew Giorgi
Cupping in Tires driving in snow

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 of 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?

Tire cupping is caused by irregular up-and-down bouncing motions of a wheel, causing an uneven wear pattern. The lack of proper contact results in rubber being scooped from the tires when driving, and often makes a rumbling noise. While most of these dips may be large, running your hand along the tire may allow you to feel any smaller depressions beginning to form.

Ideally, tires should be even on the ground with the combined pressure of the road and your vehicle spread across the whole tire. Getting tire rotations annually and checking tire pressure helps keep tires wear evenly, but failing to do either can result in irreversible damage.

Causes and Signs of Cupping in Tires

Worn suspension is known to be the biggest contributor to cupped tires. Your suspension and shock systems ensure your vehicle drives smooth when driving. After a while, like many essential components, suspension systems experience part failure which then 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 misaligned tires.

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 tire cupping, the most common question asked is can you fix cupped tires?  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 have your shocks and struts inspected 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 the specific manufacturer recommendations.

Protect Your Vehicle With an Endurance Warranty

Whether it be solving problems with repairs or taking preemptive action through preventative maintenance, taking care of your vehicle can be costly.

Choose to reduce some of those costs with a top-notch auto warranty. Endurance offers a vast number of protection plans to choose from, which means there is something for everyone. Their newest protection plan, EnduranceAdvantage, offers extensive breakdown protection plus routine maintenance. You can save on various expenses such as oil and filter changes, brake pad and wiper replacements, and more. Request a free, no-obligation quote for more information.

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