Tire cupping, otherwise known as scalloped tires, is a type of tire wear that occurs often on mud tires. It can make tires unsafe to drive on and shorten the life of your tires. But why does it happen?
Why Do Mud Tires Cup?
Mud tires cup because of different types of suspension issues such as misalignment, worn shocks, unbalance, and cheap tires. To avoid cupping, it is necessary to rotate the tires regularly. This guarantees that no single part of the tire will be worn down more than another.
What is cupping on your mud tires and how do we avoid it? Keep reading to learn about this common tire problem.
What is Cupping?
Cupping is when the tire of your car shows unusual wear patterns. Often it presents as dips in your tire and looks like someone scooped part of the rubber out with a spoon every couple of inches.
This means the tire has been worn down unevenly, often due to an up-and-down motion that typically results from the bouncing of the tires.
This bouncing can occur because of tires with low air pressure, or when your car is offroading and going over rocks, through mud, or over uneven terrain.
It is important to remember that if you know you are going to or have been on uneven terrain that might cause your tires to bounce, you check your tires regularly for those signs of wear and tear.
It is not safe to drive on cupped tires as it causes parts of the tire to lift from the road and not make contact with the surface.
This causes the car to make more sound as well as cause more vibrations.
This could result in ruined traction of the tires which makes it unsafe to drive in – especially for mud tires that need extra traction.
Why does Cupping Occur?
There are multiple different factors that can cause a tire to start cupping. Shock absorption, struts, brushing, and more can wear your tires out and eventually cause cupping.
Part of a tire’s job is to absorb the shock of hitting the road for the rest of the car. The rubber makes it easy to do so, however, if it isn’t absorbing the shock correctly and evenly, it will result in worn tread and cupping.
Shock absorbers, struts, and bushings wear out slowly and naturally, however, if even the slightest thing is off, they can wear down unevenly and make it impossible for the wheel to roll smoothly.
This can cause the wheel to bounce slightly. This bouncing motion is the most common way cupping on a tire can form.
Due to the never pressure points, the bouncing will cause odd places to absorb the shock of the car hitting the road and form divets or ‘cups’ in the tire.
A cheap tire will wear down faster than a more expensive tire as its material is cheaper and not as resilient.
Add cheap tires to an unaligned or unbalanced tire setup, and cupping or other tread wear is bound to occur.
Unbalanced tires can cause the same problems and lead to cupping because more pressure will be on different parts of the wheel as the weight is not evenly distributed. When parts of the tire take on more weight or pressure than the other, it wears down faster resulting in cupping or other odd tread wear patterns.
It’s good to have your tires balanced often, not just to avoid cupping, but because a well-balanced tire can live up to 20% longer than an unbalanced one.
When your tires are misaligned, their contact with the road will be uneven. They will not roll straight and the uneven pressure on different parts of the tire will start to wear down the tread in odd places, resulting in cupping.
It can also result in a sawtooth-like pattern on the edges of the tire.
How to Fix and Avoid it
There are many ways to try to fix or avoid cupping. First and foremost you must know how to avoid it in the first place.
If you know what causes cupping, you can understand what needs to be changed in order to avoid it.
The first signs of tire cupping are unusual vibrating or shaking from your car. If you feel a vibrating from your steering wheel or your seat, your tires may be bouncing too much and need to be looked at or taken in more a check-up. It’s also important to notice is your tires are making more noise than usual.
Cupped tires are loud, especially at high speeds, so make sure you listen for that as well.
Your car may also veer on its own when your tires start cupping. This drift can be especially dangerous.
This is why it is important to visually check your tires often, as well as take them to a professional if you have any concerns or doubts about your tires.
Many forums and other sites recommend rotating your tires often. Some recommend rotating your tires every 3000 to 4000 miles. Also, it is important to change the direction of the rotation when you rotate your tires.
It is important not just to rotate the front tires to the rear, but also to flip them so they are running in the opposite direction from their previous position. This will help even out wear and tear and keep your tires flat and steady on the road.
Keeping your alignment and suspension perfect is a way to avoid cupping as well, same with making sure the air pressure in your tires is high enough so that it absorbs shock, but does not bounce.
Checking the air pressure of your tires monthly can help you prepare and stay ready for when it might be time to get a new pair for safety it might be time to get a new pair for safety reasons.
There is no way to reverse tire cupping. Once your tire has started to show signs of cupping the easiest way to fix it is by getting new tires.
All other ways to avoid tire cupping must happen before it starts, otherwise, it can be used as a way to elongate the life of your dying tire.
Make sure to be aware of the state your tires are in and never drive on a severely cupped tire, as it could result in any number of problems for you and your car.