What is the bubble on my tire?

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.


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


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


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


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


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


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?
Friday, August 29, 2014 by Mary

Is there a tire out there that is less likely to get a side wall bubble? I live in N.H. roads are full of pot holes. I have never had a side wall bubble in all my 35 years of driving. I thought these Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max at $125 each were a good rated tire. I have less than 1,000 miles on tire. Any recommendations?
Saturday, August 30, 2014 by Gary


We have not found that any particular tire is more resistant to getting sidewall bubbles than any other tire.
Monday, September 1, 2014 by James Helm

I have a bubble in one of my tires. Does it need to be replaced emidently? Or can It wait a week or two?
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 by Gary


There is no way to tell how long a bubble will remain in place before a tire will fail, so we advise having the tire inspected as soon as possible.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014 by tim

We have a bubble caused by impact. There are about 18,000 miles on the tires. Do I need to replace all 4?
Wednesday, September 10, 2014 by Gary


We advise having the tire inspected as soon as possible to confirm whether or not the tire or tires need replaced.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014 by Jack

I had a good high quality brand tire that got a bubble in the side that wasn't that old. I moved it to the back in case it went. Sure enough after driving on it for a while longer, I think a few weeks more the tire did go. I was going about 30-40 mph and it sounded loud like an airplane was flying over but didn't lose control as I was driving straight at the time with the tire on the rear of a front wheel drive car. I pulled over and sure enough the tire was completely flat. Put on the spare and drove home and got the tire replaced. So, from my experience should replace the tire asap. Put on the spare or move to the rear if you are going to keep going for a while before replacing. I only replaced the one with the same tire as the tread life wasn't that much different than the other 3 tires still had.
Monday, October 13, 2014 by James Allen

I actually have a tire that has several bubbles in the sidewall in a consecutive pattern. Think there are 6 or 7 in a row. I personally have never seen anything like it before. I have only had these tires for about 5 months, and I can honestly say that I have not hit a pothole or curb with these tires. What are the chances that this tire is defective?
Tuesday, February 3, 2015 by Jacqueline Needham

I have replaced the tire on the passenger front tire 5 times. Two new tires and 3 used tires have developed bubbles. This ususally occurs 2-3 month after putting the tire on. Is it possible that there is something wrong with rim (or other part) that could be causing this to happen?
Thursday, June 4, 2015 by Kim

Had new tires mounted--on for 15 months, developed a large bulge in front left tire. When I had it replaced, they showed me the ripped bead. Said it was damage from mounting the tire. Can you tell if it is mounting or impact damage from looking?The manager who mounted them said too long from date of service to be their responsibility. Can bulge develop long after bad mount job?
Monday, June 8, 2015 by Gary


I would suggest having the tire inspected locally to determine the cause of and extent of damage to the tire. I am not aware of bulges developing from bead mounting damage.
Monday, June 22, 2015 by silvia

I purchased a car a few months ago and about a month ago one of the tires got a bubble like the picture above. I replaced the tire then one after the other all 4 ended up with the same problem so I had them all replaced. Thinking the problem is solved, a couple days ago it happened to one of my tires AGAIN. Whats going on?
Thursday, September 3, 2015 by Jake

I have 2013 Veloster running on the low profile performance tires. 20k miles into them I just noticed the bubble on the sidewall. Getting new tires today... So that comment up there about side wall height is false :) I have like an inch of sidewall max and it bubbled out like the rest of them.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016 by jenny sanderson

is it safe to drive onn a tire that has a bulge and a small crack in the tire?
Thursday, June 23, 2016 by Tire Rack Team

Jenny Sanderson, No. We would not recommend driving on a tire with a sidewall bubble as it could blow out at any time.
Thursday, July 28, 2016 by Gabriel

Would a tire with a bubble on its side cause the front end to shake at speeds of 55-70 mph?

Leave a comment