If your car is about to become faulty, there are a number of things you will likely notice.
For instance, you could start to hear strange sounds from different parts of your vehicle but most especially the tire.
The cupping sound of tires is one of the few things you could hear and different things could be responsible.
In this article, you are about to find out what cupped tires are, the various causes, and how to prevent tire cupping.
What Is Tire Cupping?
Tire cupping is the constant bouncing of your tires while driving on the road. It happens when your tire encounters bumps, potholes, or road hazards.
And as your tire bounces, bump-like wear becomes obvious, which ultimately creates tire noise.
Now, the sound may vary at different speeds. If you drive at higher speeds, a cupped tire creates a rumbling or roaring noise.
On the other hand, at an average speed, it produces a humming sound.
The reason why this happens is that the cupped tire prevents the tire surface from coming in contact with the road surface, thus, causing a bounce and an uneven tire wear pattern.
How to Diagnose Cupped Tires?
The symptom of a cupped tire isn’t so different from a worn wheel bearing.
The reason is that there is the production of a humming or roaring noise from the rear or front tires while driving.
So, how do you tell them apart?
For Tire Cupping
If you want to confirm if you have cupped tires, you need to inspect your tires.
Check Your Tire Tread
The tire tread is the most obvious feature and helps you know if your tires are cupped or not.
You should see bumpy treads or dips in your car tire. If you don’t, you should run your hands along with the tire tread and see whether there are irregularities – feels bumpy.
These bumps are constant on the sidewall – even if they may not be so obvious.
But before you do this, ensure to check the manufacturing time for your tires and measure the tread depth. They will give you more insight into the current quality of your tires.
If you have cupped tires, the only solution is to get a new set of tires because the old ones are now useless.
For Hub Wheel Bearing
Finding out if you have tire cupping isn’t enough; you should check out the wheel bearings. They also produce similar sounds (but a loud noise when turning).
If the wheel bearings are bad, there is a good chance that they will affect the tires eventually. To diagnose the wheel bearing, you can try any of the tests below.
The Wiggle Test
The first one is the Wiggle Test and it mainly involves finding out if there is a “Play” in the hub bearing.
If there is, that means a worn wheel bearing.
To find out if there is “Play,” position your hands at 12:00 and 6:00; then, shake the tire on each wheel.
The Jacked Up Test
The second is the Jacked Up Test. It is mostly performed on cars with their wheels off the ground.
For this test, you have to press on the gas pedal and listen carefully for a roaring sound on each wheel.
However, while getting the wheels up to speed, you should ensure the traction control is off.
The Two Persons Test
The Two Persons Test is pretty straightforward. It basically involves one person spinning the tire and the other person holding the shock absorbers (or springs) to feel vibrations.
If you have bad shocks, the springs vibrate, which automatically means bad hub bearing.
A Cupping Tire Leads To?
Tire cupping (or Tire scalloping) is never great for a vehicle because there are so many risks involved.
And as it is, not many drivers exactly know what it is or how dangerous it can be.
If you leave the worn bits (i.e., uneven wear) coupled with the tire noise for long periods, you may have under-inflated tires that can cause accidents.
Do cupping tires make noise?
Yes, they do.
If you are experiencing tire cupping, you will know almost immediately because as the tires bounce on the road due to the irregular movement of the tread, a rumbling or humming noise is produced.
Unfortunately, this sound is sometimes confused with a worn wheel bearing – you should look out for uneven wear to distinguish them.
This wear is often between 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
Is it safe to drive on cupped front or rear tires?
No, it isn’t.
There are some risks you shouldn’t take if you are driving a car, especially if the tires are bad.
One of such risks never to take is driving on the cupped front or rear tires.
The irregular wear pattern is dangerous because the tires aren’t exactly in contact with the road while driving.
And as you keep driving, tire cupping causes tire noise and increased vibration levels. In turn, it may reduce traction.
Eventually, you could get into an accident.
What causes cupping on a tire?
As you experience tire wear like tire cupping, the only question that may come to mind is: “what exactly caused it?“
Below is a list of factors responsible for tire cupping.
Tire Balance Issue
One of the causes of tire cupping is misaligned tires.
If you have unbalanced tires, it won’t take time before you start to notice strange responses when driving.
First, your steering wheel becomes shaky or you feel a vibration through the car seat. Secondly, you have uneven wear – your tire’s life automatically diminishes.
And if you have had your tires balanced, factors such as dirt, snow, debris, and mud may jeopardize what you’ve done.
When these substances build up, they cause problems with balancing.
What you should know is: that no matter how little the imbalance is, tire cupping is inevitable.
Another factor responsible for tire cupping is the rim.
The rims are expected to hold the tires firmly and ensure mobility on the road. However, if they are in bad conditions, there is an automatic effect on the tires.
If you encounter potholes, curbs, or road hazards, there is a good chance you could end up with bent rims.
And if you keep driving with these wheels, the tires may lose pressure or start to wear out, leading to tire cupping.
That being said, if you notice you have bent wheels, you should replace them immediately so you don’t spend more than necessary.
Worn Suspension Parts
If your steering wheel is vibrating, a poor tire balance isn’t the only problem; sometimes, it could be the vehicle’s suspension parts.
Worn suspension parts often make your car bounce up and down excessively. And as you have bad shocks or bad struts, your tire tread wears out irregularly – they are not evenly distributed.
If you face suspension issues and don’t fix them immediately, your car starts losing contact with the road within a short time – and then for longer periods.
Eventually, you start to notice some cups or dips around the rubber.
When these cups or dips hit bumpy roads, you experience tire cupping.
One more reason why tire cupping could happen is if you purchase cheap tires from unknown brands.
Your choice of tire manufacturer is important for the ultimate usability and performance. You need to choose the best brands in the industry that provide specifically what is appropriate for your vehicle.
If you choose from just any brand, you could start to experience quick tire wear, constant road-noise, and wheel alignment issues. You should choose good ones that prevent tire cupping.
Can You Repair Tire Cupping?
No, you cannot.
Tire cupping may be severe or mild. If it is mild, you can keep the tires rotated to even out the treadwear.
On the other hand, if it is severe, you should consider getting new tires.
But before you have any of the four tires mounted, have the tires checked thoroughly.
Not all tires may experience tire cupping issues but for those that do, you should pay close attention to them.
When you start noticing problems with the steering wheel, suspension parts, and rims, you should consider observing and changing the tires (if necessary).
Tire cupping causes a whole lot of other things that you don’t want to deal with; hence, you should do everything possible to prevent it.