What Is Tire Cupping & How Do I Avoid It?

Tire Cupping diagram

What Does Cupping Look Like?
No, we’re not talking about the new skin therapy that Michael Phelps swears by. When it comes to your tires, cupping is a bad sign and typically means you have other problems with your car that are affecting your tires.

The term “tire cupping” is unfamiliar to many drivers, but it’s a problem that happens more frequently than you’d think. Cupping, also known as tire scalloping, refers to when a car or truck’s tire tread moves from high to low in random spots. And, typically, not like it does when the tire alignment is off or when tire rotations have been skipped.

In the image above, which is exaggerated for affect, you can see how a cupped tire might appear when looked at straight on, as well as how the wear appears when looking at a tire from the side, where you can fully see the tread. The orange arrow represents the type of wear you’re probably used to seeing, while the hollow areas represent how cupped tires appear to have holes or dips.

Why Are My Tires Cupping?
It’s most likely due to a bad suspension. If your car is bouncing up and down excessively because of bad shocks or struts, the tread on your tire will tear out and wear in certain spots faster than others. Your car literally loses contact with the road for short periods, and over time, this action creates noticeable “cups” that look like dips or craters in the rubber. The problem is made worse if you often drive over bumpy roads or speed bumps.

In some cases, tire cupping can also be caused by cheap tires that don’t offer as much tread or durability, as well as by damage from underinflated tires.

How to Prevent Tire Cupping
Pay attention to your car’s suspension system and have it repaired when recommended by your mechanic. If you notice your car bouncing more than usual, have it inspected sooner than later. Also, choose quality tires for your car, truck or SUV that will hold up throughout the years. Check tire inflation every month, along with checking your tire tread to look for signs of strange wear and tear.

If you notice that your tires are cupping, bring your car to us for service immediately. Also, to learn more about tire care, check out our tire maintenance page, which includes information about signs of tire failure as well as when to align and rotate tires.

Categories: Service, Parts