Tire Tread Separation Causes and Prevention

In the past years, tire failure has contributed to deadly car accidents. In 2020, there were 664 fatalities involving tire-related crashes. 

CBS also reported the death of a nine-year-old girl and a 31-year-old driver because of a rollover collision. The Florida Highway Patrol stated that tire tread separation suddenly caused the vehicle to change direction.

Separation occurs when the steel belts detach from the body ply. The tread may also disconnect from the steel belts.

Some drivers need help understanding a tire tread’s importance to a vehicle. The rubber material and pattern provide grip and traction for better handling. A local tire shop urges drivers to check their tires regularly to spot defective tires and prevent fatal crashes.

Contact a personal injury attorney immediately if you have been in a tire tread separation accident. A lawyer will help you pursue compensation against liable parties and ensure that you understand your legal rights. 

Key Takeaways
  • Tire tread separation accidents can cause emotional stress, physical injury, fatality, and property destruction.
  • Liability for tire tread separation accidents may include the driver, manufacturer, vehicle owner, auto manufacturer, repair company, and government entity.
  • Victims of a tread separation incident may receive two types of damages: economic and non-economic.

Causes and Prevention of Tire Tread Separation

The most common causes of tire separation include manufacturer defects, underinflation, improper tire repair, rough driving, and prolonged driving. Knowing them can help you take preventive measures.

Manufacturing defects

Tire manufacturers sometimes make mistakes or use faulty materials when producing tires. It can result in defects, which may affect different parts of the tire.

For instance, belt wedge flaws can result in premature tire failure because the belt provides stability to the tread. Cap ply defects also increase tire separation risk because the cap ply sits between the tread and the top of the belt. Moreover, skim stock flaws affect tread and belt adhesion. Inner liner defects allow air to escape and moisture to enter the tire.

Aside from design defects, the manufacturing process can also play a part in tire tread separation. Trapped air or water degrades the tire’s strength and increases the chance of tread separation. Moreover, contamination from foreign objects, such as nuts and bolts, prevents proper bonding.

It helps to be aware of tire recall verdicts to ensure that you use quality auto parts. You can check your Tire Identification Number (TIN) using the US Tire Manufacturers Association’s (USTMA) search tool.

Improper inflation 

Underinflated tires have less than the recommended tire pressure. The recommended pressure varies per vehicle, so check the manufacturer’s suggested pounds per square inch (PSI).

It would help if you could recognize the common signs of underinflation. These include the following indicators:

  • Through the dashboard, cars with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) will warn you about low tire pressure.
  • You will experience reduced steering and handling abilities.
  • You will hear flapping noises due to the abnormal contact between the underinflated tire and the road surface.
  • You will notice increased fuel consumption.

Improper tire repair

Service technicians can puncture your tire during repair, so bring your vehicle to professionals. 

The USTMA provides guidelines for the proper repair of punctured tires. For one, drivers must only repair tires when the damage affects only the tread and not other parts. For another, the puncture must not be greater than 6mm in diameter. Other pointers include the following:

  • Remove the tires from the wheel assembly and inspect them thoroughly for potential issues.
  • Fill the puncture and apply a seal to the inner liner. Technicians usually use a stem and patch to fix tires.
  • Never repair tires that have undergone a previous improper repair.

Tire repairs can result in accidents due to tread separation accidents if done incorrectly.

Rough driving

Driving at high speeds contributes to tire abuse. When going too fast, you subject your tires to increased friction. As a result, they can wear out quickly.

However, there are instances when rough driving is not imputable to the driver. Sometimes, drivers need to step on the brakes suddenly to avoid a collision with someone driving aggressively.

Statutory speed limits vary per state. For instance, Alabama imposes a 70 mph limit on rural interstates, while New York recommends a 65 mph limit. In urban intestates, Arizona has a 65 mph limit in urban intestates, while Georgia observes a 70 mph speed limit. Following these regulations can help you prevent tire abuse.

Excessive wear

Excessive tire wear may also happen if you drive for extended periods. You should only use your tires for a specific number of years, usually contained in the owner’s manual. It is also best to consult a professional when changing your tires.

According to the USTMA, you should inspect your tires once a month. Examine the tread depth to check for high and low areas and uneven wear. You can check the tread height by placing a penny into a groove. If the tread covers a part of the head, the tire is still safe to use. However, if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, you should replace the tire as soon as possible.

Signs of Tire Tread Separation

Wavy patterns on the tread lines or uneven tread wear may indicate imminent tread separation. Tires typically have symmetric or asymmetric patterns. In a symmetric design, the outer and inner sides of the tread look like mirror images of one another. On the other hand, asymmetric tire tread shows a V-shaped pattern. 

You may also notice high spots or bumps on the tires that usually appear as sidewall bubbles or bulges. It is easy to spot these sidewall irregularities since they cause a bumping sensation when driving. These issues are irreparable. 

When your car vibrates or violently shakes at a certain speed, consult a tire professional to find out what’s wrong. Tire defects may be causing these vibrations, affecting your control of the vehicle. It may also be a sign of potential tread issues.  In some cases, the shakes may be due to loose lug nuts. In any case, bring your vehicle to a pro to inspect your tires.

Dangerous Effects of Tire Tread Separation

Since tread separation usually leads to high-impact accidents, it may cause physical injuries, mental trauma, property destruction, and, worst, fatalities. Hence, tire defects can be deadly.

Vehicular and structural damage

A tire tread separation accident can involve damage to vehicles and other property. Some vehicular damage that may result from a car crash include the following:

  • Engine trouble
  • Damaged battery
  • Vehicle misalignment
  • Broken lights
  • Cosmetic flaws

Aside from vehicles, some crashes may also affect residential homes and buildings. For instance, when two vehicles collided in San Francisco, the second car bumped into a residential building, causing property destruction

When a motor vehicle experiences loss of control, deadly explosions may also occur. In Gloucester Township, a driver hit the main gas line of a house. As a result, the home sustained severe damage, forcing the people living there to leave.

In these cases, the liable party or insurer may need to pay for the repair costs. They may also compensate the victims for the house’s total value if the accident destroyed it beyond repair. 


The common injuries due to tread separation accidents are:

  • Head and neck injuries
  • Back injuries
  • Internal injuries
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Loss of limbs
  • Burns
  • Emotional stress and anxiety

Victims may also suffer from hidden injuries, such as whiplash, brain injuries, and herniated discs. Whiplash occurs when a sudden movement strains your neck and spine. Unfortunately, some whiplash-related symptoms only appear several days after the crash. Victims may also suffer from headaches and numbness for several months or years.

Some mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) symptoms can be hard to detect. As a result, victims may disregard headaches that happen months after a car accident. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other medical organizations published guidelines on diagnosing TBIs correctly.

Tread separation accidents can also cause herniated discs, resulting in neck, leg, and back pain. However, ruptured discs can be misdiagnosed as simple pains from the crash impact.


Tread separation increases the risk of tire blowouts. Moreover, blown tires can cause a vehicle to roll over, which can be deadly. For instance, an 11-year-old girl died due to a tire blowout accident. The truck went out of control and collided with a 2021 Kia Forte, where one of the passengers was an 11-year-old girl.

Iftikhar Jalil, a 37-year-old man, also died from a tire-related accident. A tire from a light truck came off, went airborne, then hit the windshield of the victim’s car. Jalil was trapped, and the medics had to cut the roof off his vehicle.

Possible Liable Parties in a Tire Tread Separation Lawsuit

The liable parties in tread separation cases may include the driver, tire manufacturer, vehicle owner, auto manufacturer, repair company, and government entities. Generally, there is a connection between the causes of tread separation and the possible liable parties.


The driver may be liable if proven that he was driving negligently. Negligence happens when an individual fails to perform at the level of care required. It has four elements:

  1. The defendant has a legal duty to the plaintiff;
  2. There is a breach of duty;
  3. The plaintiff suffered because of the negligence; and
  4. The breach caused the injury.

To prevent an auto accident, a driver must drive at a reasonable speed and keep the vehicle in good condition. State laws also impose on drivers the proper conduct while on the road. For instance, driving on the wrong side of the road and driving under the influence (DUI) are unlawful.

When Passengers A and B sustained injuries due to Driver C’s reckless driving, the driver can be liable for the victim’s injuries. However, A and B’s lawyer must prove the connection between the driver’s careless driving and A and B’s injuries.

Tire manufacturer

Since manufacturers sometimes produce defective tires, the court may find them liable for damages. Your lawyer can base the product liability claim on negligence or strict liability. 

Design, manufacturing process, and marketing flaws create liability for suppliers and manufacturers. In a case based on negligence, your lawyer must establish that the defects caused the injury.

On the other hand, strict liability occurs when the victims prove the product is defective, regardless of the manufacturer’s intention. The only thing that victims must prove is the defect that caused the injury. It is immaterial that the manufacturer acted with great care.

Regulators may also order tire recalls. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received complaints that Goodyear tires have defects that cause car crashes. The manufacturing flaws allegedly caused 98 deaths and injuries. As a result, the NHTSA instructed Goodyear to recall 173,000 G159 tires

The largest tire recall in history prompted the merger of Firestone and Bridgestone USA, Inc. In 1978, Firestone recalled 14.5 million tires because the excess adhesive caused 500 tread separations and blowouts. The company paid a $500,000 fine for hiding safety issues.

However, in 2000, authorities again ordered the recall of Firestone tires. Bridgestone Corp. recalled 6.5 million Firestone tires. The order was due to complaints that the tires caused 46 deaths. According to the NHTSA’s reports, Firestone treads peel off at high speeds.

In 2007, federal officials ordered the recall of 450,000 radial tires imported by Foreign Tire Sales of Union, N.J. The New Jersey importer revealed that Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber, its Chinese manufacturer, stopped putting gum strips into the tires. These gum strips prevent tire separation, so excluding them from manufacturing poses driving hazards.

Vehicle owner

The driver and owner of a vehicle may be different persons, especially in the case of a commercial vehicle. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) orders motor carriers to inspect, repair, and maintain their cars. Motor carriers include bus and truck companies that transport passengers and cargo.

The owners shall keep a record of the following:

  • Identification of vehicles, including make, serial number, and tire size
  • Nature and due date of inspections and maintenance operations
  • Tests conducted on different auto parts

These guidelines help prevent accidents or vehicle breakdowns. Hence, if the carriers fail to follow FMCSA’s instructions, it can amount to negligence on their part. 

Auto manufacturer

Federal law states that new vehicles must have tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) to alert drivers in case of underinflated tires. The TPMS must:

  • Show a low tire pressure warning signal within 20 minutes after the tire’s inflation pressure becomes 25 percent below the recommended pressure.
  • Continue to show the warning sign until the ignition locking system is in the “Run” position.

The law also requires that auto manufacturers place the warning signal in front of the driver. The TPMS should show all the tires’ inflation pressure so drivers can exercise caution once the warning light goes on.

It is unlawful for an automaker to ignore these requirements. Failure to comply with the regulations entails civil and criminal penalties.

Repair company

The courts may hold repair companies liable since improper repair can cause tread separation and accidents. Failure to follow the USTMA and other government agencies’ guidelines can increase the likelihood of injuries due to car crashes.

Repair companies should know industry standards regarding auto parts to educate their customers about tire defects. They should also inspect whether tires are repairable or not.

Common negligent acts imputed on a repair company include the following:

  • Conducting faulty or inadequate repairs
  • Repairing used tires without considering the manufacturing flaws
  • Keeping used tires in storage with extreme temperature conditions
  •  Selling defective tires 

Government entities

You can also sue cities or states if your legal counsel can prove that the road hazards or deep potholes caused the tread separation. Unfortunately, 40 percent of major US roads are in poor condition. The AAA reported that in 2021, one in 10 drivers needed to repair their car after hitting a pothole.

Although the government generally enjoys immunity from suit, some states provide exceptions, which include negligence in maintaining roads. For instance, Pennsylvania allows claims against the Commonwealth for pothole damage to cars.

What to Do After a Tire Tread Separation Accident

Suppose you or a loved one suffered due to a tread separation accident. In that case, you can seek compensation for your losses.

Contact a lawyer immediately

Your lawyer can provide options regarding the appropriate legal actions to take. They can assess the circumstances of your case to determine liability for the accident. For instance, they can help prove the connection between your injury and manufacturing defects. Your attorney can also expose a city or state’s negligence in maintaining roadways.

A lawyer can help you get the rightful compensation for any vehicular or property destruction and injury you suffered.  They know the legal processes and relevant periods for submitting documents. Hence, you should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer to protect your rights.

Gather evidence

Many tire tread separation accidents involve a single vehicle, although they can also affect other vehicles on the road. For instance, a driver hits your car because a tire blowout causes them to lose control of their vehicle.

Take pictures and videos of the accident scene and ask for CCTV footage from nearby buildings. Visual proof can help show what happened and determine liability.

You can also exchange information with other drivers and obtain witnesses’ contact details. Some witnesses take some time before deciding to testify. If you saved their phone numbers, you could contact them later on. This step will help strengthen your case, so you can receive the compensation you deserve.

File a lawsuit or negotiate

You can go to trial or negotiate a settlement in a tread separation lawsuit. In case of a trial, your lawyer will gather evidence, present facts, and refer to the relevant laws. Your attorney will also examine witnesses while observing proper legal procedures.

On the other hand, if you settle, your lawyer will examine if the other party presents a reasonable offer. An experienced attorney will conduct a case review to know when to go into a full-blown trial or enter into a settlement.

Pursue damages

In a civil case, damages refer to the compensation a victim may receive due to a breach of duty or violation of a right. You can get economic and non-economic damages in a tread separation lawsuit or settlement.Economic damages pertain to the payment for monetary losses. It may include medical expenses, repair costs, loss of income, and loss of use of the property. You can also sue for non-economic damages, which refers to the compensation for subjective losses. These include inconvenience, loss of companionship, pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Did you know?

The Arizona Department of Transportation reported that excessive heat could lead to tire failure. Due to the hot pavement, tires can be subjected to extreme pressure, causing them to overheat.

Work With Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys

Tire tread separation accidents can have serious consequences, especially at high speeds. It can result in serious injuries to you, your passengers, and other people in your vicinity. Knowing the causes can help prevent tire tread separation and its devastating effects.

Manufacturing defects, underinflation, improper tire repair, and rough driving can cause tire tread separation. Signs of tread separation include uneven tread wear, sidewall bubbles, and vibrations at a certain speed. Unfortunately, tread separation can lead to injuries, property destruction, and fatalities.

The possible liable parties are the driver, tire manufacturer, vehicle owner, auto manufacturer, and repair company. Moreover, if your lawyer can prove cities’ and states’ negligent road maintenance, you can receive compensation from the government.

Visit The Personal Injury Center to know more about your rights in a tire tread separation accident. We have resources that tire tread separation victims can use to obtain the best possible outcome for their case. 

Need help in navigating the legal system in a tire tread separation lawsuit? Book a free consultation today! The Personal Injury Center has the resources to help you find an experienced personal injury attorney in your area.

FAQs on Tire Tread Separation

If you have separated tires or tires that are about to separate, do not repair them anymore. It is safer to replace them.

Tire separation happens when the tread detaches from the body of the tire. On the other hand, a blowout occurs when a tire bursts due to pressure. Tread separation increases the risk of a blowout.

Maintain the recommended tire pressure, rotate your tires regularly, and brake smoothly. You can also have your tires aligned. Misaligned tires tend to wear out more quickly.