There aren’t many parts of your vehicle that take more abuse than your tires, so it’s no surprise that they can suffer from all kinds of problems.
In this article, we’re going to look at what a tire malfunction might be, and what you may need to do about it.
A tire malfunction could be over/underinflation, or it could be wear or damage which means the tires need replacing, and this can be an indicator of other problems with the vehicle. You may also get a warning message if there is something wrong with your Tire Pressure Management System.
How Do Tires Fail?
Your tires are something that you should be keeping a pretty close eye on, and one of the areas of your car that require the most maintenance.
They will naturally wear down over time, they need to have the right amount of air in them to function properly, and they can cause serious problems when they fail.
But what kind of tire malfunction might you notice? Well, there are a few common problems to look out for.
Underinflation or Overinflation
One of the basic things that can cause issues with your tires is when they are not inflated properly, so the amount of air inside the tire is too high or too low. Your Tire Pressure Management System (TPMS) should help to monitor this – and we’ll talk more about the problems that can happen with that later!
Underinflated tires can be pretty dangerous as the tire will flex, reducing stability and traction and putting uneven pressure on certain parts of the tire’s surface.
It can increase the risk of understeering and make collisions more likely, it can make handling a lot worse, and it can lead to more wear and a higher chance of a puncture.
Having too much air in your tires is less likely to be a problem, as modern tires can handle a lot of pressure.
However, overinflation will cause the tire to have less contact with the road and put more stress on them, which will affect their longevity.
Cracks or Bulges
If the tire takes a knock from something like a pothole, it can cause a crack to appear or weaken an area of the surface that will then start to bulge out. This usually means that the tire is getting old and needs replacing anyway.
The tread on your tires will wear over time and you will eventually need to put on a new one. How the tire wears down, however, can be a result of something else, such as misalignment or use of the emergency brake.
Cuts and Punctures
Perhaps one of the most dramatic issues that can occur with your tires is when the surface is penetrated by a foreign object or a complete break in the structure – causing a puncture.
Small objects may not cause any serious damage, but deep cuts and punctures will result in a steady loss of air pressure until the tire is no longer usable.
In extreme cases, you can even experience a full blowout, where the puncture is severe enough to cause the tire to explode and immediately become flat.
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How To Inflate Your Tires
Properly inflating your tires is really important to stop them from malfunctioning, as it ensures that they are properly connecting with the road surface, reducing overall wear and tear.
You should be checking the PSI in your tires every month as they tend to lose around 2 pounds of air within that time. When you need to top up again, it’s a pretty simple job.
- Insert the air pump into the tire valve.
- Squeeze the trigger in short bursts.
- Check the PSI reading on the gauge and keep inserting small amounts until you reach the optimum pressure.
- Once you are done, remove the pump. As the nozzle comes away, you will hear a hiss. This means air is escaping.
- If you want to let some air out of your tires, you can release it in short bursts by carefully removing and replacing the nozzle.
You will find inflation stations at most gas stations and service centers which will typically cost $1 or $2 to use, or you could choose to buy yourself an air pump to operate at home, which will work in much the same way.
How To Replace A Tire
If the issue that you have with your tires is not to do with the amount of air in them, then there is probably some degree of wear or damage – and this almost always means your tires need to be replaced.
You can take your car into an auto repair shop and have new ones fitted for around $100 to $200, or you can carry out the replacement yourself.
- Step 1: Engage the parking brake and remove all passengers.
- Step 2: Position chocks behind the other wheels, so the car cannot move.
- Step 3: Use a lug wrench to loosen the wheel nuts while the car is still on the ground, but don’t remove them completely.
- Step 4: Place a jack under the jacking point closest to the wheel you are replacing and use it to raise the car until the tire is around 6 inches off the floor (follow the manual for your jack to understand how to operate it).
- Step 5: Completely loosen the wheel nuts and pull the tire towards you to remove it.
- Step 6: Slide the new wheel onto the hub bolts and into place, then replace the wheel nuts and tighten them by hand.
- Step 7: Use the jack to gently lower the car until the new tire is just touching the ground, then use your lug wrench to fully tighten the wheel nuts.
- Step 8: Completely lower the car, remove the jack, and check the wheel nuts are secure.
- Step 9: Use a tire pressure gauge to make sure the new tire is ready to go.
Why Did Your Tire Fail?
When you are replacing your tires, it’s important to identify whether or not there is some kind of issue with the vehicle that caused them to fail in the first place.
Otherwise, you will find yourself replacing the same tire over and over again.
There are a number of things that can cause irregular or specific wear and/or damage to the tires on your vehicle, and you can usually tell what they are by the kind of wear that you’re noticing.
Regular, diagonal stripes being worn into your tires is known as “cupping” and it usually means that there is a problem with your suspension.
Either it is worn, bent, or damaged in some way – and it will need to be repaired.
Alternatively, this can also happen when the rear tires on a front-wheel drive car are out of alignment, which will also need to be addressed as soon as possible.
If your tires are not wearing down evenly, this can mean a number of issues. Individual patches may be the result of using the emergency brake, or that the car has not been driven for a long time and has been sitting in one place.
If the tires are wearing on one side but not the other, then this tends to mean that the wheels are misaligned and need to be corrected by a professional.
Center Tread Wear
If the central part of the tire is wearing down, but the edges are not, then this usually means that the tires have been overinflated.
Outer Tread Wear
If the left and right edges of your tires are wearing down, but not the center, then this almost always means that your tires have been underinflated.
What Does A Tire Malfunction Mean?
If your car gives you a warning about some kind of tire malfunction, then this is often in relation to the relatively complicated Tire Pressure Management System, or TPMS.
Your TPMS is responsible for tracking the air pressure in your tires to make sure that they are properly inflated for safe and efficient driving, and it will warn you if it thinks that something is wrong.
It may mean that the air pressure in your tires is wrong, or it may be malfunctioning.
How To Fix Tire Pressure Malfunction
If your TPMS is telling you there is a problem with your tire pressure, then you should check them manually with a pressure gauge.
You can then inflate or deflate your tires if you need to. You might, however, find that they are fine and it is the TPMS itself that is faulty.
To fix it, there are a few things you can try. You can reset the system in a number of ways, and you can check the sensors to see if they are faulty or dirty.
- Method 1: If your tires are fine, then give the system a chance to recalibrate. This takes about 30 minutes of driving at between 30 and 65 mpg.
- Method 2: Reset the TPMS system by turning it off, waiting for 10 to 20 minutes, then turning it on again.
- Method 3: Slightly overinflate the tires by around 3 PSI, then let all of the air out before topping them back up to the recommended amount.
- Method 4: Switch off the vehicle and disconnect the battery for around 10 minutes. Then, reconnect it and turn everything back on.
- Method 5: If none of the resetting methods work, then it may be that you have a faulty, dirty, or obstructed sensor. They are usually located between the tire and the wheel trim, and they can wear over time, become damaged, or be covered by dirt and debris.
- Method 6: If nothing else does the job, then it’s time to call in a professional to help you out. Your TPMS may need fully re-initializing, or it may be damaged. It typically costs $30-$40 for a professional reset, and repairing and replacing parts in the TPMS will usually be less than $100.
So, how can your tire malfunction and what might you need to do about it? Tires naturally wear over time and can become damaged, meaning they will need replacing.
Certain types of wear may mean that something else is wrong as well, such as underinflation, overinflation, or misalignment.
Your TPMS may also malfunction, telling you that the air pressure is wrong when it isn’t. You can try resetting the system, you can check the sensors for damage or any obstruction, or you can call in the professionals to solve it for you.