What is Cupping on a Tire?

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Tire cupping (or scalloping) appears like a pattern of high and low points across a tire. Some say it looks like the tread has been scooped in 3- or 4-inch pieces along the middle, edge, or across the tire. Read on to learn how to identify cupped tires, common causes, and prevention methods.

What to Look For

If you can spot the signs of a cupped tire and have the issue remedied quickly, you can prevent further damage to tires and suspension. Here are a few warning signs:

  • Wobbling or vibrating when hitting an obstacle in the road
  • Any leaning to one side when the car turns
  • Tread that appears wavy along the surface
  • Growling or grinding sounds while driving (noise will increase with acceleration)
  • Common Causes of Cupped Tires
  • Worn out shocks or suspension parts – A car’s suspension system and shock absorbers ensure a smooth ride. When any part of these becomes worn out or broken, wheels can bounce and become cupped.
  • Imbalanced tires – If the weight across a tire’s circumference becomes irregular, it gets out of balance. This instability can cause vibrations at high speeds and wheel bouncing, both which lead to cupping.
  • Tire runout – Runout means a wheel, tire or rim loses its round shape. Lateral runout is a side-to-side defect that causes wobbling, and radial runout means the space between a tire’s high and low spots is imperfect. While some runout poses no threat, it can become a problem over time. With constant shaking or wobbling, tires lose grip on the road, causing cupping.
  • Misaligned wheels – Wheels that aren’t properly aligned do not parallel each other or run perpendicular to the road. With this issue, back tire cupping is common, especially if front tires don’t run parallel to each other.
  • Low-quality tires – Highly affected by any slight bounce or vibration while driving, cheap or low-quality tires can cup more easily.

How to Prevent Cupped Tires

As with most issues, regular maintenance keeps damage and repairs to a minimum. Don’t ignore shock absorbers; they should be replaced every 50,000 – 60,000 miles. Replace struts every 60,000 – 90,000 miles and suspension bushings every 100,000 – 150,000 miles.

Make sure to have tires balanced and rotated regularly and stay aware of tire pressure (adding air when needed). Don’t neglect wheel alignment and change out tires per manufacturer’s guidelines. When in doubt, have tires inspected by professionals.

For all your vehicle’s needs, call Mike’s Auto Service & Repair at 413-737-7806 and schedule an appointment today!

Call Mike's Auto Service & Repair at 413-737-7806 for an appointment today!

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