Were you inspecting your rear tire while cleaning and lubricating your chain and then noticing a piece of metal thread sticking out of the ridge between the rare tire threads?
You must have wondered what this means, its causes, and whether or not it is safe to ignore it.
Those metal threads you see sticking out of your tire are called steel belts. When they become visible, your tire is worn, and you can expect a flat anytime soon.
So, the next line of action would be to check your tire pressure, take your car to the tire shop, and have the wire taken out. In most cases that we’ve dealt with as tire experts, we’ve had to replace the tire with a new one.
But before that ultimate decision, let’s explore what a steel belt showing on a tire means, the danger it poses, and how you can control such a situation when you discover their appearances on your tires.
Steel belt showing on the tire – Meaning
I mentioned earlier that the steel belt is what many people refer to as metal “threads” sticking out of their car’s tires. These steel belts provide the tire with flexural strength, which is crucial in helping your tires turn corners without breaking apart.
Tire manufacturers also lay these high-carbon steel wires between the rubber compounds to strengthen the contact patch with the road.
These flexible bands are spiraled around your tire in several layers, essentially to keep the tire together. They are wired in winding loops to form a steel cord revolving around an arched mandrel. Meanwhile, a typical tire may have either steel circular belts or steel spirals.
These flexible metals are integrated into the tire’s rubber compound, so you don’t get to see them under normal circumstances.
When they begin to stick out, it means the tire is wearing out, either due to those emergency breaks you do in the parking lot or consistent cornering over time. From then on, the strength of the rubber around them begins to diminish, requiring you to drive as far as 50,000 miles before you get a fix.
What causes metal threads to stick out of tires?
Low tire pressure is the leading cause of metal thread sticking through your tire’s rubber tread. In other words, the metal threads show up when there is air escape, which a minor tear in your tire can cause.
However, factors like tire over-inflation, regular wear and tear, and poor maintenance can also strip the rubber from the patch, thereby exposing the wires inside. The damages that will lead to the point where these steel wires start showing are somehow inevitable but can be managed.
When the steel belt stretches and buckles under pressure, you can expect it to start showing through the tire’s rubber. When the metal belt snaps, it could eventually lead to tire wear and an untimely failure of the wheels.
But is there a need to panic when you notice these steel wires underneath the tire’s rubber? This leads us to the next section.
Is it safe to drive with metal threads showing on tires?
No. It is risky to drive with tires that have metal threads sticking out. If you take such a risk, then you can expect to experience poor handling and loss of control at highway speeds. How does this happen?
Now that the integrity of the tire’s tread depth has been compromised, water can get into the inner layer, which means the steel belts may suffer corrosion. To that effect, your tire loses air pressure.
So how long can I drive on tires with wires showing?
I mentioned earlier that those metal wires showing on your tires are a sign that they’re worn out and need an immediate replacement, so there is no industry-recommended duration for how long you can drive on obviously damaged tires because it is not safe.
However, if you absolutely must drive on tires with metal wires showing, you can go as far as 80 kilometers or 50 miles. But again, I would recommend you refrain from taking such a risk because some tires disintegrate faster than others.
Can I repair tires with metal threads showing?
In many places, it is illegal to repair damaged tires. And a tire with metal threads already sticking out is as good as dead. In other words, there is no easy fix for such damage.
However, some tire shops can help you fix this using tire patch plugs, usually when the damage is minor. You can also do this at home if you are sure your tire has a slight wear or minor puncture hole. Here’s how to do it:
First, sand down the tire’s surface, then apply the patch plug. Make sure to shave off the excesses so that the new treaded surface is finely applied.
Remember, if the metal threads visible are in chunks, it is best to have it replaced with a new one than to fix it.
Steel belts (or metal threads as you may call them) are integrated into the rubber compound of your tires during the manufacturing process, essentially to strengthen the contract patch of your tire, so they don’t fall apart while spinning.
They are not meant to be visible, and you can see them because your tires are extremely worn out. While it is possible to go as far as 50 miles on tires with wires showing, it is not safe to take such a risk. I recommend you get a new tire when you notice your tires have visible steel belt material.