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Summary
  • When a tire starts to show its wire bead, it’s either been damaged or driven past its expected lifespan. In either case, it’s unsafe to drive your tire any further because it can fail anytime.
  • A tire’s steel belt can be exposed because of natural wear and tear or because of suspension issues, such as worn-out tie rod ends, ball joints, or wheel bearings.
  • When a tire’s metal bead or cords are exposed, they can’t be repaired anymore. You must get a new tire. That said, you should also resolve your vehicle’s wheel alignment or suspension issues.

If you’ve noticed that the metal in your vehicle’s tires are showing, then you should be concerned. Should you continue to drive your vehicle? Is your vehicle still safe to drive? Can you fix this issue? We’ll answer these frequently asked questions in this article.

Are Tires With Visible Beads Safe?

No. When a tire starts to show its wire bead, the tire has either been damaged or driven past its expected lifespan. How long can you drive with cords on tires showing? As much as possible, you shouldn’t continue driving. It’s unsafe to drive your tire any further because it can fail anytime.

Driving on a tire with an exposed belt risks having a blowout because the tire’s structure could be weakened. Driving with the tire’s steel wire bead exposed also means that it likely has little or no tread left. This means that your tire has a greater risk of getting punctured or hydroplaning when traversing wet roads. Less tire tread also means that your tires will accumulate heat faster. During the summer, the heat can weaken tires to the point of failure.

If your tire’s metal belt is exposed because of excessive wear, then there’s a high likelihood that it also won’t meet the minimum tread depth in many states. In other words, it’s illegal to drive with a worn-out tire. Drivers can face fines if they’re caught operating a vehicle with unsafe tires. They can also be held liable for physical injuries or damaged property if their bald tires cause an accident.

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Why Does This Happen?

There are two possible reasons why a tire’s metal belt is exposed:

Natural Wear and Tear

Tires slowly shed their rubber surface as they constantly make contact with the abrasive asphalt and concrete roads. The rubber is either incorporated onto roads as telltale black marks or as rubber dust. Throughout its lifespan, a tire will shed several pounds of its weight. This is just how tires naturally wear out. 

As the tire’s tread becomes thinner, the surface will eventually reach the metal belt under the tire’s tread. This metal belt is composed of steel cords that make the tire’s tread stiff. You can think of them as the tire’s bones. Without them, the tire won’t be able to hold its cylindrical shape. There are around 1,400 cords in a tire. The metal belt also protects the tire’s carcass, which is the thin texture fiber that’s bonded with rubber located under the belt.

Excessive Wear Caused By Suspension Issues

If your tires are bald on one edge where the steel belt is exposed, then your vehicle likely has bad toe alignment. Toe alignment is the direction where the tire is pointed. A tire with bad toe alignment can mean your tires might not be properly facing forward. Bad camber can also expose your tire’s steel belt. Camber is the tire’s inward or outward angle when viewed from the vehicle’s front.

Several issues can cause bad toe alignment or bad camber. These issues include worn-out tie rod ends, ball joints, or wheel bearings.

Overinflation or Underinflation

Running your tires when they’re overinflated or underinflated can cause uneven wear. If run frequently in these states, the steel cords can eventually be exposed. Overinflated tires typically cause the middle of the tire’s tread to bulge, which will cause the center of the tire to wear out faster than the edges. On the other hand, underinflated tires will cause the tire’s edges to wear out faster.

Can the Tire Be Fixed?

No. When a tire’s metal bead or cords are exposed, the tire can’t be repaired anymore. You must get a new tire. In addition, you should also resolve your vehicle’s wheel alignment or suspension issues. Installing a new tire when your vehicle has existing issues can damage your new tire.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Wheels and Tires , DIY
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