What Causes A Scalloped Tire?


Your car’s tires experience some of the most intense wear that any car part ever will. That’s because it grips the road while sustaining the total weight of your vehicle. As a result, uneven wear can damage those tires and cause scalloping on their surfaces.

Scalloped tires can be caused directly and indirectly. For example, misaligned tires or those that aren’t rotated regularly can experience uneven wear resulting in scalloping. Besides that, damaged rims and suspension parts can also lead to the same outcome. Unfortunately, you can’t fix scalloped tires, so you must replace them immediately to keep your car safe on the road.

Scalloping or ‘cupping’ is dangerous, and you should understand everything about it. This article will help you do that by showing you why this problem happens and what you can do to prevent it from happening.

Why Do Tires Become Scalloped?

As you’d expect, your car’s tires can become scalloped because of tire-related problems. However, that’s not always the case. As you’ll learn below, problems elsewhere can lead to the same result.

Here are the most likely reasons your tires are experiencing cupping or scalloping:

1. Lack Of Tire Rotation

One of the most common reasons for tire scalloping is a lack of tire rotation.

Here’s a quick reminder: tire rotation is a crucial maintenance task to keep your tires in optimum condition. It involves switching the position of your car’s tires with each other (i.e. rotating their positions) periodically to ensure that your tires wear out evenly.

You must rotate your tires at regular intervals (e.g. every 5,000 miles) to avoid them wearing out unevenly. When combined with suspension problems like the ones you’ll read about below, you will experience tire cupping or scalloping.

How to prevent this: Unfortunately, the scalloping on your tires means the damage is already done, and you’ll have to replace your tires quickly. However, you can prevent this problem from happening to your new set of tires by rotating them regularly.

As you read earlier, a rule of thumb that’s excellent to follow is rotating them every 5,000 miles. You can perform this task yourself at home in your garage or get your preferred mechanic to do it for you.

Read: Why Do Factory OEM Tires Not Last Long?

2. Tire Misalignment

Correctly-aligned tires are crucial to maximize your vehicle’s performance and lengthen the tires’ lifespans. That’s why incorrectly aligned, or misaligned tires can cause scalloping.

A misaligned tire will never make complete contact with the road underneath. Instead, your car’s weight presses down unevenly on each tire, leading to uneven wear.

More specifically, your tire will have random parts that are higher or lower than others as a result, which is precisely what scalloping is.

How to prevent this: You can prevent this from happening by ensuring that your tires are correctly aligned whenever possible. Naturally, it’s not practical to measure alignment changes every single day.

Instead, stick to the rule of thumb of getting your tires aligned every 2-3 years. More importantly, you must also align your tires after hitting obstacles like a pothole or a curb. 

That’s because the impact of hitting something can damage your suspension or at least cause it to become misaligned.

Read: Does Changing Tires Affect Wheel Alignment?

3. Damaged Rims

As you saw earlier, the root cause behind a scalloped tire might not be the result of a tire problem per se. Instead, it could be indirectly caused by something else, such as the rims that hold that tire to the car.

Your tires wrap around each rim, making it very challenging to notice signs of damage. Using the earlier example, hitting a pothole or a curb could cause enough impact to damage your rims.

Despite rotating and realigning your tires, it’s unlikely that you’ll notice any damage caused directly to the rims.

However, those damaged rims will cause your tires to press down on the ground unevenly. Over an extended period, that will lead to tire cupping.

How to prevent this: You’ll have to maintain a certain degree of vigilance to prevent this from happening. Again, that’s because rim damage can be very challenging to notice with your eyes.

So, if your tires hit something like a big pothole, you should have someone inspect your rims closely. Then, you can have them do it simultaneously when you take your car in to get your wheels realigned.

Read: Why Low Tire Pressure Negatively Affects Your Driving

4. Suspension Parts

Aside from the rims, the secret cause of a scalloped tire could also be the suspension system and its many components.

The suspension system is designed to keep your tires pressed against the road at all times. Doing so maximizes the tire surface that meets the road, thereby maximizing the car’s handling.

Unfortunately, a problematic suspension can also cause your tires to experience uneven wear, leading to scalloping.

For example, the suspension system might have weak springs or faulty struts that lead to the condition described above.

How to prevent this: You can avoid this by inspecting your car’s suspension system regularly. Not only does that help to prevent tire scalloping, but it also enables you to catch minor suspension problems before they become more severe and expensive to repair.

Replace any affected suspension component quickly to minimize any problems it might create with your tires, especially scalloping.

Read: Faulty Tire Pressure Sensor (Signs & Causes & Fixes)

Can Scalloped Tires Be Fixed?

No, unfortunately, you cannot fix tires that have developed scalloping or cupping. Once you notice the uneven wear on your tires, the damage is already done. At that point, the most practical solution is to replace the affected tire as soon as possible.

However, you must find and resolve the root cause first. Whether that’s a suspension issue, a damaged rim, or anything else, fixing it ensures that your new set of tires won’t suffer scalloping the same way.

Otherwise, your new tires are as good as scalloped from the moment you attach them to your vehicle.

Read: How Many Miles Should Tires Last?

Is It Safe To Drive With Scalloped Tires?

No, you should not continue driving with scalloped tires unless you’re heading straight to your mechanic or automotive technician to replace them.

Remember that scalloping or cupping means that your tires are worn out unevenly. Some parts are higher while others are lower, and that condition is spread throughout the tire’s surface randomly.

The affected tires do not have an optimal grip on the road. That will undermine your car’s handling and could put you in risky conditions.

For example, your car could skid and lead you into a collision. Not only does that put you, your vehicle, and your passengers in harm’s way, but you also become a danger to all other road users around you.

So, if you know that you have scalloped tires, drive straight to your preferred workshop to have it sorted out.

Final Thoughts

Your car’s tires are some of the most critical parts of the vehicle. That’s because it transmits the engine’s power to the road while maintaining a strong grip on it. So, any deformities on your car’s tires will undermine not only its handling but also its safety.

Scalloping creates an uneven tire surface where random parts are higher or lower than others. Damaged rims, faulty suspension components, misalignment and a lack of rotation can all cause this condition. The scalloped tire can’t maintain an optimal grip on the road and must therefore be replaced immediately

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