When Are Cracks in Tire Treading Unsafe? (Explained)

When Are Cracks in Tire Treading Unsafe? (Explained)

What Causes Cracks in Tire Treading?

Cracks in tire treading can occur due to a variety of reasons, including age, weather conditions, improper maintenance, and driving habits. As tires age, the rubber compounds used in their construction begin to deteriorate, leading to cracks. Additionally, exposure to extreme temperatures, sunlight, and harsh chemicals can accelerate the aging process and cause the treading to crack. Poor maintenance practices, such as underinflating or overinflating the tires, can also contribute to developing cracks. Finally, aggressive driving, such as hard braking and accelerating, can put excessive stress on the tires, leading to cracks.

When Do Cracks in Tire Treading Become Unsafe?

While not all cracks in tire treading are immediately unsafe, certain conditions and characteristics indicate a need for immediate attention or replacement. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Depth of the Cracks: Shallow surface cracks, often called “weather checking,” are generally considered cosmetic and do not pose a significant risk. However, deep cracks that extend into the treading can compromise the tire’s structural integrity and should be addressed promptly.
  • Length and Number of Cracks: Multiple long cracks or a large number of cracks in the same area can indicate excessive wear and potential weakness in the tire. This can make the tire more susceptible to blowouts or tread separation, making it unsafe to drive on.
  • Location of the Cracks: Cracks that appear on the sidewall of the tire are particularly concerning as they can lead to sidewall bulges or blowouts. These types of cracks are often caused by hitting curbs or potholes and should be evaluated by a professional.
  • Tire Age: As tires age, they become more prone to cracking. Most tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires that are over six years old, regardless of their overall condition. This is because the rubber compounds used in tire manufacturing degrade over time, even if the tire has not been used extensively.

How to Check for Cracks in Tire Treading?

Regularly inspecting your tires for cracks is an essential part of tire maintenance. Here’s how you can check for cracks in the tire treading:

  1. Start by visually examining each tire, paying close attention to the treading and sidewalls.
  2. Look for any visible cracks or signs of damage, such as bulges or cuts.
  3. If you notice any cracks, gently run your hand over the surface to feel for depth and severity.
  4. If you are unsure about the condition of your tires or have concerns about any cracks you find, it is best to consult a professional tire technician or mechanic.

Why Are Cracks in Tire Treading Unsafe?

Tire treading cracks can compromise the tire’s overall performance and safety. Here are some reasons why they are considered unsafe:

  • Reduced Traction: Cracks in the treading can reduce the tire’s ability to grip the road surface, especially in wet or slippery conditions. This can increase the risk of skidding or hydroplaning.
  • Potential Blowouts: Deep cracks in the treading can weaken the tire’s structure, making it more susceptible to blowouts. A blowout can lead to a loss of control of the vehicle and potentially cause accidents.
  • Tread Separation: In some cases, cracks in the treading can lead to tread separation, where the treading separates from the rest of the tire. This can result in sudden loss of control and pose a serious safety hazard.
  • Uneven Wear: Cracks can cause the tire to wear unevenly, leading to an imbalanced ride and potential damage to other components of the vehicle, such as the suspension system.

When Should You Replace Tires with Cracks in Treading?

If you notice any cracks in the treading of your tires, it is recommended to have them inspected by a professional. They can assess the severity of the cracks and determine whether the tires need to be replaced. In general, if the cracks are deep, extensive, or located on the sidewall, it is best to err on caution and replace the tires. Additionally, if the tires are old or have reached their recommended lifespan, it is advisable to replace them, even if the cracks appear minor.

Proper Tire Maintenance to Prevent Cracks

Regular tire maintenance can help prevent the development of cracks in the treading. Here are some tips to keep your tires in good condition:

  • Check Tire Pressure: Maintain the recommended tire pressure as specified by the vehicle manufacturer. This can help prevent uneven wear and stress on the tires.
  • Rotate Tires: Regularly rotate your tires to ensure even wear and extend their lifespan.
  • Inspect for Damage: Routinely inspect your tires for any signs of damage, such as cuts, bulges, or cracks. Address any issues promptly.
  • Store Tires Properly: If you are storing tires for an extended period, keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and chemicals.
  • Replace Old Tires: Even if your tires appear to be in good condition, it is recommended to replace them after six years or as recommended by the manufacturer.


Cracks in tire treading can be indicative of potential safety hazards and should not be ignored. Regularly inspecting your tires for cracks and addressing any issues promptly can help ensure your safety on the road. If you are unsure about the condition of your tires or have concerns about any cracks you find, it is best to consult a professional tire technician or mechanic.

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