Are You Driving On Damaged Tires Without Knowing It?

Your car's tires are more than just another component of your vehicle. These innocent-looking rubber cylinders are the only connection between your car and the road. When you steer, brake, or accelerate, you're relying entirely on the traction provided by your tires to make those actions happen. A problem with your tires isn't just an inconvenience; it's a genuine threat to your safety on the road.

Unfortunately, tire problems aren't always obvious. A severe puncture or blowout is hard to ignore (at least for long), but what about less dramatic damage? These smaller problems can reduce your tire's performance, lifespan, and safety, all without you ever knowing that anything is wrong. If you want to stay on top of potential tire issues, watch out for these three subtle warning signs.

1. Reduced Fuel Economy

Proper tire pressure and balance are essential for your car to maintain its maximum fuel economy. Overinflating or underinflating your tires can cause you to burn more gas, but other tire problems may also cause issues. Damage to your tires can substantially impact fuel consumption, easily knocking a few miles per gallon from your overall average.

While all modern cars come with tire pressure monitoring systems, these systems won't necessarily alert you to a problem until your tire pressure falls below a minimum. However, you may notice your fuel economy dropping off before this occurs. If you see a sudden drop in fuel economy, check your tire pressure and consider visiting a repair shop if one tire seems lower than the others.

2. Visible Sidewall Damage

Sidewall and shoulder (the area between the sidewall and the tread) damage is often unrepairable, but that doesn't mean any damage in this area is a death sentence. In many cases, your tires can pick up minor cosmetic damage, such as scrapes and scratches, that don't affect the overall integrity of the sidewall.

However, these visible signs of damage can sometimes result from a hard pothole hit or another event that may have caused additional damage. If you notice substantial damage on one of your tires, have a tire shop thoroughly inspect your tire. You may discover additional tread damage requiring repair, allowing you to fix the problem before the tire becomes unusable.

3. Strange Sounds

Most roads in the US are anything but well-maintained, so it's often hard to separate typical road noises from concerning tire noises. However, rhythmic thumping or other sounds that seem to hit in time with your car's speed can sometimes be an early warning sign of tire trouble. While loud thumping is usually something serious (like a flat tire), softer sounds may indicate an object stuck in your tread.

In general, you should have a local tire repair shop investigate anything that sounds tire-related — and the sooner, the better. Tire damage can progress quickly, so inspecting your tire as soon as possible is often the best way to ensure you can repair the damage instead of purchasing an entirely new tire.