What Causes Tire Bubbles: Are They Dangerous?

What Causes Tire Bubbles

Have you recently looked at your tires and noticed what looks like a bulge or bubble protruding from them? If so, do not ignore this telltale sign of tire failure.

So what causes tire bubbles? The short answer is impact damage and it can be really dangerous to drive on.

Tire bubbles are a major problem and not one you can afford to ignore. Here’s everything you need to know about tire bubbles and what causes them.

What are tire bubbles?

Tire bubbles are pretty much exactly how they sound; they are bubbles that protrude out from the surface of the tire. These bubbles are formed by air that has leaked from within the tire into the outside body of the tire and can be fatal.

Tire bubbles can be various shapes and sizes. They may appear as a small flaw or a round bubble. If the impact was hard then multiple tire bubbles may appear on both the wall and tread.

What causes a bubble in a tire?

The most common cause of tire bubbles is high-impact damage. Whether it’s from hitting a sharp object, going too fast over a speed bump or unwittingly swiping the curb, these kinds of impact can lead to a bubble forming.

The impact can cause enough pressure on a localized part of the tire to to compress it and lead to the inner tire wall getting punctured.

Once there is a hole in the inner wall, air will leak out and get trapped in the main body of the tire. This leads to the tire bubbles that we hate so much.

Types of Tire Bubbles: Where you might find them

Typically there are two types of tire bubbles: bubbles that form on the sidewall and bubbles that form on the tread. 

Tread Bubbles

The bubbles that form on the tread may not appear as round and bulge-like, typically they appear as a spread in the tread of your tires. This can mean they are harder to spot. However on some older tires it can present as a small bubble between the tread.

Tread bubbles will be noticeable when driving, so if you are driving and hear a repetitive ‘bump’ coming from the road, it’s best to pull over and double check your tires.

Sidewall bubbles

Sidewall bubbles are the more common type as the sidewall is thinner than the tread of the tire. They can appear in three places on the side wall; top, middle and bottom (towards the hub). 

Top bubbles tend to be slightly less noticeable as they are closer to the tread whereas the middle and bottom bubbles will be very obvious.

Are they safe to drive on?

No. Tire bubbles of any kind are very dangerous to drive on as they can lead to a tire blowout!

A tire blowout can be dangerous and cost-worthy at even at low speeds, however a high speed tire blowout can potentially lead to serious injury or death to driver, passenger and other road users.

One in every 270 crashes (11,000) each year in the U.S. was caused by tire failure between 2000 and 2015, resulting in an average of 200 deaths a year. 

Can you repair a tire bubble?

Unfortunately, a tire bubble can’t be repaired. Due to the way the tire swells when driving, any patches made would be ineffective and fall out of place. On top of that, there is likely to be structural damage which would make any repairs pointless.

The only option is to buy a new tire or switch to your spare tire until you get a chance to get a new one.

How to prevent tire bubbles

As tire bubbles are caused by impact collisions, the reality is that not all bubbles will be your fault. However, there are some things you can do to prevent any potential bubbles.

Drive carefully

This probably seems pretty obvious but it’s still worth mentioning. Keeping an eye out for speed bumps and being measured when going around corners is the best thing you can do to protect yourself from tire bulges.

Watch out for potholes

Potholes and other road problems can be a nasty surprise and are exactly the kind of impact that can cause a bubble in your tires.

Avoid these roads if possible and if you can’t, be sure to slow down and be extra careful.

Maintain your tires

To ensure your tires go the distance, it’s important to maintain your tires properly. This involves things like checking your tires’ air pressure, rotating your tires every 3000-5000 miles and watching out for signs of damage.

How long can I drive with a bubble in my tire?

It depends on the size of the bubble. With large bubbles you really want to change the tire immediately. With a smaller, more subtle bubble, you may be able to carefully drive a mile or so (if you need to get your car to the shop), but there is still lots of inherent risk here. 

It’s best to avoid the risk and change it ASAP.


Are Low profile tires more at risk of sidewall bubbles?

Yes. Because they have a much shorter sidewall, low profile tires can be more at risk of bubbles as well as punctures.

Are tire bubbles covered by warranty?

This depends entirely on whether the manufacturer is at fault for the bubble. There will likely be an inspection and the incident needs to happen within the timeframe of your warranty, but yes, tire bubbles can be covered by warranty.

How to check for tire bubbles?

Inspect your tires regularly. As the bubble forms on the outside of the tire, it should be noticeable. If the bubble is on the tire tread, then you may notice a bumping sensation as you drive.

What to do next

Tire bubbles are a serious issue that you’ll want to address immediately. Bubbles are caused by impact damage from things like hitting sharp objects or speed bumps.

A tire bubble or bulge is unfortunately beyond repair and you’ll need to replace the tire ASAP as it can be very dangerous to drive on.

If you want more info before you pick up a new tire, don’t forget to check out our helpful guides.

We hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative. If you have any questions then please leave a comment below or get in touch via email or through social media and we will read and respond to every comment, email or question. Thanks for reading!

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