What Causes Tire Cupping And How To Prevent It

Brandon Trenton

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Tire Cupping And Its Prevention

Did you notice some uneven worn out spots throughout your car tires recently? Does that thread is heavier than the surrounding tread? If yes, then the tires are showing the signs of cupping.

What Is Tire Cupping?

Imagine if someone has scooped out part of tread around the circumference three to four inches apart. It will surely break the heart of a car enthusiast, but this is something anyone could experience anytime around the year. The shape of the worn-out scooped spots gives this phenomenon the name of tire cupping while some do call it scalloped tires as well.

Want to ease yourself form this unexpected tire wear and tear situation? Read further.

How Would I Know If My Tires Are Cupping?

If you are experiencing the following signs, then we would recommend you to go to a trusted professional and get the tires checked because it’s smelling tire cupping.

1. Visual Signs

Tire cupping is one of the car problems that are visible to naked eyes. Simply, kneel down and check the tire; if you find uneven scooped patches, then replace those tires. You will notice semicircular tread wear at least three to four inches apart across the tire right in between or around the edges. Your wheels will start bouncing as a sign that tires are not touching surface evenly.   

2. Noisy Tires

Cupped tires are easily noticed because of their noise. You will find them growling and grinding just as a bad wheel bearing. You can easily distinguish this sound as it increases with speed. The sound coming out of the wheel bearing will change along with its direction instead. If you experience such noises over time, get it checked by the nearest auto shop.

3. Visible Vibration

If you feel that the steering wheel and seat are shaking or vibrating while you are driving, then this is a sign of an unbalanced tire that hints on cupping potentially. If your steering is vibrating, then this means the front wheels are unbalanced, but if you feel it in the seats, then the issue is present in your back wheels. However, it really hints for cupping if you feel the vibration in steering as well as seats.   

4. Misaligned Vehicle

Veering wheels will make your vehicle drift on the roadside. Your vehicle will become unpredictable, and you might lose control. It can happen because of cupping. If you notice such changes, rush to a mechanic near you and get it checked.

Why My Car Tires Are Cupping?

1. Bent Rims, Worn Out And Lose Suspension Parts

The credit for a smooth ride goes to the suspension parts and shock absorbers. Drivers usually neglect shock absorbers. According to a survey, only one out of five drivers consider their maintenance for better handling, but let us shed some light on reality. A shock absorber decreases the dampening ability up to 50%, so your car will cover 23% more of the braking distance to stop.

In case of any bent or damaged, the wheel becomes loose and bounce. This results in tire cupping and bumpy rides. Such issues can arise from problems in other parts connected to the wheel, such as ball joints, bushings, springs, wheel bearings, etc.

The best way to avoid it is by inspecting every car part once in a year. Suspension parts and shock absorbers should be replaced after every 60K miles covered while you can change the struts after 90K miles. Suspension brushings have to be replaced after 100,000 to 150,000.

2. Low-Quality Tires

Fake or poor quality tires will start losing the road grip even with minor vibrations. These tires are made up of thinner rubber components, which makes them less resistant to temperature and stress. They lose their balance, run out, aging, and cracking sooner.

If you are running your wheels on such tires and you get across premature cracks, wear and tear and cupping, then replace them as soon as you can. Buy new tires from an authorized dealer and choose new tires wisely.

3. Tire Runout

Run out here defines that the wheels, tires or rims are not in round shape perfectly. It takes place in two ways:

Radial :

Rough spots between low and high spots (or average line)


Wobbling due to imperfections on the sideways

Run out is not something to worry about until the lateral rises up to 0.08.” Same is the case if the radial increases up to 0.06”. The continuous wobbling makes the tires lose grip and results in cupping.

4. Wheel Misalignment    

If the wheels are not parallel or perpendicular to the road, then this misalignment can cause tire cupping. The alignment can result in three different angles:


This angle aligns the wheel perpendicularly to the road. The ideal setting of the tire is zero. If your tire has a negative or positive value, then the suspension will fail prematurely and result in uneven wear outs.


This angle aligns the wheels parallel to each other at zero. In case if the set goes in or out, the rubber will start damaging more from one side leading to cupping.


This angle positions the steering axis according to the road. The ideal setting for the caster is zero as well.  The movement to negative or positive will make it difficult to drive on a straight path.

Misalignment can cause you serious issues, including tire cupping, especially if the rare tires don’t align with the front tires in a parallel manner. You should check it every time you install a new part or every six to seven months if you aren’t replacing any suspension part.

5. Tire Imbalance

The tire will lose its balance if the weight across its circumference is irregular. At 45 mph, your car would begin to vibrate, and this will increase the speed. The wheel will start bouncing, losing its grip on the road for short intervals resulting in scooping of the tire rubber. Some people call it patch wear as these scoops are present throughout the tire irregularly as compared to the regular ones caused by a failing suspension.

If you are experiencing tire imbalance, then neglecting this would increase handling problems. Even 0.25 ounce of the imbalance can create issues. Rush to your nearest tire shop to balance your tires. This way, you can not only save tires from cupping but prolong its life by at least 20%. By just giving $15, you can save yourself from large overheads.

How Can I Fix Tire Cupping?

The best thing to do to diagnose this issue is to drive your car to the repair shop. The technician will check the wheels for suspension. As per the diagnosis, the mechanic can rotate and rebalance the part replacements for you. It will help you to even out the existing cupping so you can avoid further cupping while balancing the weight properly.

If you have no chance to run your car on these wheels, change them and buy new ones. Go with what the mechanic suggested.  

Vehicle And Tire Maintenance Is The Solution

Here is what you can do to avoid cupping.

  • Pressure check.
  • Wheel alignment.
  • Rotating.
  • Balancing
  • Buying new tires in time.

Weight distribution can change with wear and tear over time. Check your tire balance on completing every 3000 miles. Rotate the tires upon completing every 5,000 miles to avoid uneven cupping and longer tire life. Get your car suspension condition checked every year following an alignment. For tire stability, also get your tire checked for pressure and make sure that none of it is losing air.   

Note: Tires running for more than 5 or 6 years need complete annual testing. If the tire has reached around 2/23” depth in cupping, then you have no other option but to replace it.

To close it, never ignore tire scalloping, shocks, and struts. The ultimate solution to cupping is maintenance.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tire Cupping

Q. Can We Drive A Car With Cupped Tires?

If the overall condition of your car is fine, then you can surely drive it. Higher patches will smooth out the lower patches with time. However, remember that 2/32” is the legal minimum tread depth for tires, and driving on this depth can be dangerous.

Q. Why Driving With Cupped Tires Is Dangerous?

Cupped tires don’t allow you to main proper grip with the surface of the road. It results in loss of control, and you will start experiencing noise and vibrations, which can damage some sensitive parts increasing the risk of unexpected accidents.

Q. How Do The Tire Cup From Outside?

If you notice that your tire is wearing out from the edges, then it could result due to damaged suspension. If these patches are between the middle and the outer edges, then the usual reason behind it is tire imbalance. Patches, which are appearing as hills and valley, result from issues in absorbers and struts.

Q. How Do The Tire Cup In The Middle?

Middle tire cupping most of the time takes place due to severe under inflation, tire imbalance, worn out suspension, shock absorbers, and wheel bearings. It is usually rare is quite noticeable. Patches are small and regular in this case.

Q. How Do The Tire Cup From Inside?

Suspension issues result in the inside cupping of the tire. You will find these patterns with bad wheel bearings, loose ball joints, damaged control arm, or steering linkage. Rush to the mechanic and get the suspension checked with other related wheel parts in the car.

Q. Why Back Tires Undergo Cupping?

Misalignment of wheels can result in scalloping of the rare tires. If you are driving a truck or trailer, then there would be more load on the tire escalating the issue.