What is the bubble on my tire?

Thursday, July 9, 2009 by Gary Stanley

A customer emailed me today about a bubble on the sidewall of one of his Bridgestone Blizzak Winter Tires. He thought it may have been a defect in the tire. What he actually has was a sidewall bubble.

What is a sidewall bubble?

A sidewall bubble is a bulge protruding from the sidewall of the tire. It is caused by air leaking from the inside of the tire into the carcass or body of the tire.

What causes a sidewall bubble?

The vast majority of bubbles are caused by impact damage. When a tire hits a sharp object in the road the force from the weight and speed of the vehicle is focused in the small area of contact. This compresses the tire enough that the inside of the sidewall is pinched and damaged causing a small hole in the inside tire liner layer. The impact can also damage the sidewall cords and significantly weaken the tire. The impact may not have been noticed by the driver.

 Some common types of impact are:

 

 

  • potholes
  • railroad crossings
  • speed bumps
  • curbs
  • heavily damaged roads
  • road construction areas
  • debris in the road

 

 

Occasionally a defect in the tire can cause the bubble. Determining the cause is fairly simple. Inspect the outside of the tire for obvious cuts or bruises.

When the tire is removed for replacement:

  •  Mark the area where the bubble is (it will deflate when the tire is deflated.)    
  • Inspect the bead area for cuts or abrasions
  • Inspect the inner liner for cuts or bruises. The technician will need to press inwards on the area of the bubble to find any breaks in the inner liner.

If no damage is found, a claim will need to be submitted by an authorized dealer to the tire manufacturer. The tire manufacturer may need to inspect the tire as well to make a warranty determination. Each tire manufacturer's procedures differ slightly.

Are winter tires prone to bubbles?

Any tire can fall victim to bubbles, but tires with shorter sidewalls (low profile) are more easily damaged. 

Can they be repaired?

No, unfortunately sidewall bubbles cannot be repaired. Because the area flexes while driving a patch will not stay in place. The bubble also indicates there is structural damage to the tire that cannot be repaired. A tire in this condition could fail without warning and should not be driven on. We recommend the spare tire be used until a replacement can be found. The tire must be replaced.

Comments on What is the bubble on my tire?

Monday, July 2, 2012 by naveen kumar:
can bulging can be avoided or decreased by reducing the sidewall height
Monday, July 2, 2012 by Gary:
Unfortunately, we have not found that bulging damage can be reduced by decreasing the sidewall height.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012 by Shaz:
I am driving Dunlop D9000's and unfortunately two of them have bubbles on the side walls. I have been driving them pretty fast for the past 6 months. However after reading this I am having second thoughts. Just a question, does the bubble mean that the rubber has separated from the inner threads/wires. Or have the threads/wires broken inside the tire? Additionally would putting the bubbled tires at the rear end decrease the chances of them bursting? Since my car is a front wheel I am guessing there is less stress on the rear tires.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012 by Gary:
A bubble may indicate either separation, sidewall damage, or both. We have not found that changing the position of a tire with a bubble prolongs its life, sorry.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 by pat:
I have had a large bubble on my sidewall for 2 weeks. I work 1 mile from home and have not fixed it yet. But today the bubble is gone. It's a miracle! Will it comeback?
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 by Gary:
Pat,

A bubble may indicate either separation, sidewall damage, or both. To check to see if the tire is truly not damaged, have the tire dismounted and inspected for tears.
Friday, March 29, 2013 by Henry:
Could running tires at night tire pressure increase the chances of bulges forming?

I've gotten 2 bulges in 2 years both front running continental dws tires. Bad luck or is it due slightly higher than car manufacturer recommended tire pressure I normally use. Recommended is 32psi, normally I run them at 36-38psi which is still well below the max tire pressure of 51psi.
Friday, May 24, 2013 by Bill:
Does load rating index affect the likelihood of getting a bulge from road impact?
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 by Gary:
Bill,

We have not found a link between tire load rating and bulges from road impact (assuming the tires meet the the vehicles gross axle weight rating).
Friday, June 14, 2013 by Aris:
after removing my wheel from the car(plastidipping), i noticed a bulge on the tire. is the car still safe to drive?
Monday, June 17, 2013 by Gary:
Aris,

The tire should be immediately inspected locally and likely needs replaced.
Monday, June 2, 2014 by Karen:
I have a bubble on both right and left side front of my car. Is that unusually to have it on both sides at the same time?
Monday, June 2, 2014 by Gary:
Karen,

While this is not common, it is not completely unheard of.
Friday, July 11, 2014 by taylor:
I have a nail in my new tire and it had caused a bubble on rear passenger tire..I don't know how long I have been driving with that nail in my tire.. my tore haven't went flat.. what's your advice about this? THANKS IN ADVANCE
Friday, July 11, 2014 by Gary:
Taylor,

Have the tire inspected by a local shop, but be prepared to hear that it should be replaced.
Thursday, July 24, 2014 by Anup:
I got a puncture in tyre after 2000 km and I got it rectified. After 8000 km, the same tyre got a bubble in its sidewall. Does this case mean that the bubble is produced due to puncture?

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