If you have ever noticed that one of your car tires seems to be a little bit flatter than the others, you may have wondered what was wrong. Chances are, you were experiencing a problem known as a tire flat spot.
Tire Flat spots are points on a tire which are no longer round and are flat instead. This is usually caused by excessive sharp braking which causes the tire to wear at one particular point.
In this article, we will discuss what tire flat spots are, what causes them, and how you can prevent them from happening.
What are tire flat spots?
Tire flat spots are defined by a tire on a vehicle that is no longer perfectly round. Tires that are no longer perfectly round will have a flatter area on the tire and these areas are what are know as flat spots.
This can happen for a variety of reasons, some of which are caused by driving and some of which are caused by lack of use. However, all flat spots pose the same risks and should never be left untreated as they will have an impact on the performance and the drivability of the vehicle.
What causes tire flat spots?
Sitting in a single place for too long
There are several things that can cause tire flat spots. The most common cause is when a tire is stored in one place for too long without being moved.
When a vehicle sits in the same spot for an extended period of time, the weight of the vehicle pressing down on the tire can cause the tire to become misshapen and no longer perfectly round. This usually happens around the tires contact patch, the area where the tire is in contact with the ground.
Cold weather and flat spots
Another common cause of tire flat spots is cold weather. When the temperature drops, the tire can become hard and brittle. This can cause the tire to develop flat spots when it is driven on, especially if the tire is already low on air.
If you live in an area with cold winters, it is important to check your tire pressure regularly and fill up your tires as needed. This is especially important in cold climates as the colder temperatures causes the air to become denser and shrink in volume.
This means the the pressure inside your tires will also decrease. Ensuring that your tires are topped up and at the correct pressure will help to prevent a tire flat spot.
Driving over a pothole
Driving over a pothole or other object can also cause this problem. If you hit a pothole hard enough, it can cause the tire to lose its shape and develop a flat spot. This is more likely to happen if the tire is already low on air pressure.
Locking up the wheels under harsh braking
If you find yourself in a position where you need to brake hard, your vehicle may lock up the wheels and skid along the road. Most modern vehicle are fitted with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) which are designed to prevent the wheels from locking up under harsh braking.
This is because locking up the wheels and skidding along the pavement is not the most efficient way to come to a quick stop.
However, if the ABS system fails or is not working properly, it can cause the tire to skid along the road. This skidding will cause the tire to scrape away at the tires contact patch with the road and is very likely to cause a tire flat spot.
It also means that the driver is not fully in control of the vehicle. The ABS system is designed to keep the wheels turning under harsh braking, allowing the tires to continuously grip with the road, not lose traction and bring the vehicle to a stop in the quickest and safest way possible.
Dry turning is the name given when you turn the steering wheel of your vehicle while the vehicle is stationary. This will turn the front wheels of the car and cause the contact patch of the tire with the road to cause excessive and uneven wear to the tire, and cause a tire flat spot.
How do I know if I have a tire flat spot?
Visual inspection of the tire
There are several ways to tell if you have a tire flat spot. The most obvious way is by looking at the tire. If you see that the tire is no longer perfectly round, chances are you have a flat spot or at the very least your tire pressure is low and needs topping up.
Measuring the tread depth at different points around the tire is another good way to check for tire flat spots.
Another way to tell is if you notice or feel an unusual vibration in the vehicle or in your seat when driving. This can be an indication that the tire is no longer round and is causing the vehicle to vibrate.
It can also be the cause of other serious issues and we recommend having your vehicle inspected by a shop as soon as possible.
Changes in steering feel
If you feel that the steering of your vehicle is different to how it usually behaves, this could also be a sign that you have tire flat spot. This is because the tire is not rolling smoothly and evenly along the ground, usually caused by an imbalance at the wheels which will travel through the vehicle and up to the steering wheel.
Bumping noise while driving
A tire that is suffering with tire flat spot will make a bumping noise as it rotates. This is because the tire is no longer uniform and round, and the tread is hitting the ground unevenly as it rolls. This can also be the cause of other issues, so we recommend having your vehicle checked out if you hear any strange noises while driving.
If you suspect that you have a tire flat spot, it is important to get it checked out by a professional as soon as possible.
How are tire flat spots repaired?
The best way to repair a tire flat spot is by using a tire balancer or tire truing.
A tire balancer is a machine that is designed to spin the tire and identify where the flat spot is. Once the flat spot has been identified, the tire balancer will add weights to the tire in order to balance it out. This will help to ensure that the tire spins evenly and does not cause vibration when driving.
It is important to note that tire flat spots cannot be completely removed. However, using a tire balancer can help to minimize the effects of a tire flat spot and help to extend the life of your tire. If your tire is particularly old or damaged, it may not be able to be repaired and you may need to replace the tire.
Tire truing may be an option as it is the process of removing excess rubber to try and make the tire round again.
How can tire flat spots be prevented?
The best way to prevent tire flat spots is to avoid leaving your vehicle parked in the same spot for too long. If you are going to be leaving your vehicle parked for an extended period of time, it is best to move it around every few days. This will help to keep the tire from staying in the same spot for too long and developing a flat spot.
Another way to prevent tire flat spots is to check your tire pressure regularly and fill up your tires as needed. This will help to keep the tire from becoming low on air pressure and developing a flat spot.
Alternatively, if you know you will not be using your vehicle for an extended period of time, increasing the air pressure in your tires by 3-5 PSI will help to prevent tire flat spots.
Finally, driving safely and avoiding potholes will help to keep your tires in good condition and prevent tire flat spots. Always leave a safe distance to the car in front and avoid harsh breaking unless necessary.
By following these tips, you can help to prevent tire flat spots and keep your tires in good condition for many miles to come.
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