Over the past several years we have had a LOT of questions concerning sidewall damage. There is even a tag for it: ... The thing about sidewall damage is, it depends on who you ask as to what kind of answer you'll get. Depending on who posts, the answers do not follow a logical continuance, meaning, or understanding from time to time. I believe, due to this, we are not giving consistent answers.

To that end, IMHO, in order for this subject to be considered non-opinion based, we need to find definitive advice from a tire manufacturer or some other credible source as to what is considered viable use case for sidewall damage.

If we cannot find definitive advice, I believe we need to place questions as opinion based because we are not providing consistent answers.

Secondarily, it is also my opinion if we can find definitive advice, we need to consider closing these types of questions with a link back to a completed answer as a duplicate. This is because there's no real need to keep repeating the same advice over and over again. It just doesn't make sense, because in effect, they should be considered duplicates.

I believe there is something we need to discuss, so I'm leaving it up to you, the community, to let everyone know your thoughts on this, as well as to help provide/find definitive advice in this area. Give us your thoughts and ideas, as this subject is open for discussion.

  • Must be construction season, funny enough I was just looking at a "sidewall damage" question (though mine was a puncture). I was mostly looking for a general "probably safer to replace it, it's not just somebody trying to sell you new tires" response, which I found. Maybe close all the questions as dupes of a post saying that, with cites from as reputable/unbiased of posts as possible showing the repairable area of the tire and explanations as to why it's a bad idea to repair damage on the shoulder / sidewall?
    – jrh
    Jun 25, 2019 at 23:17
  • Can we get a check mark below? It seems to be accepted.
    – Cullub
    Aug 1, 2019 at 19:46

5 Answers 5


Absolutely. Opinion Based.

Even when judged by a qualified professional (with insurance) in person, it's still "opinion based".

There's no way an external picture can truly reveal how much cord damage has been done. Some pictures of chips and small cuts are a lot less intimidating than others, but where to draw the line? Being a forum poster with an opinion (and perhaps lots of contribution) doesn't mean we are qualified to judge a tire carcass integrity. From a blurry cellphone pic?

Even the theory of "exposed cord or wire mandates replacement" is a bit lacking, because a large dull impact that breaks underlying structure without revealing cord would seem to fall into "okay to drive on until next year" category. Not!

Advice with a grain of salt aside, opinions based on an external picture or two are not worthy of consideration. I do see a trend from the contributors who are professionals, or at least have a lot of knowledge/experience, tend to lean toward the conservative side - especially the sporty/enthusiast types. They seem to be fully aware that a future failure could result in a stranding, body damage, rim damage, and perhaps an accident risk to themselves and others.

It simply isn't worth it. And I don't think any OEM tire manufacturer or national repair chain is going to publish and offer up a DIY "Is My Tire Still Safe?" pamphlet.

One could argue that a "professional" tire shop is in business to sell tires, which could contribute a "it's unsafe - replace immediately" bias. These are also businesses that remain in business because they do not get sued into oblivion as a result of negligent unsound advice.

Offering an opinion on this subject, based on a picture, is about as sane as importing a wife from a catalog - and probably less safe to boot! (But she looked fine in the picture??)

These questions appear as often as several times a week. I think the prudent thing is to point to an ultra-conservative "sticky" which explains why such judgements cannot be safely made, and recommend visiting a professional in person. This "non-answer" would be as definitive as it could possibly be - after all, no amount of "opinion" will overcome the lack of real forensic data pertinent to each unique case. Once the OP has been directed to this wiki entry, the question should be flagged as "opinion based" and removed.

And that folks, is my opinion...

  • 1
    ... and I'm a French Supermodel. Jul 10, 2019 at 20:30
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    @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Yes, yes, yes. WE KNOW! www.paulsterdropsboxterH6intoanythingsexy.com . . .
    – SteveRacer
    Jul 11, 2019 at 7:59
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    I agree with the intent above but I’d like to see something more concrete to help the OP other than “it’s all just opinion!” For example, could we come up with a summary answer that explains the best questions that they can ask when they get to a shop? A classic example would be why replacing all four tires on an AWD car can be important. Simply rejecting the question isn’t actually constructive for the asker and seems unfriendly unless they know the same backstory that we already do.
    – Bob Cross Mod
    Jul 21, 2019 at 20:09
  • @BobCross Absolutely agreed; perhaps I came off as too strident ... My point is that the "sticky" could have all sorts of useful information to help the OP, but also that none of it be any form of judgement answer.
    – SteveRacer
    Jul 22, 2019 at 22:49
  • The standard approach is that virtually all sidewall damage is more than cosmetic. Only if it is very superficial, like a few millimeters, would it be serviced by a safety minded shop.
    – user58368
    Oct 26, 2023 at 21:51

My gut feeling tells me that giving advice on tire sidewall damages is risk without reward. We have, at best, only a superficial photo to judge the safety of an critical item. The safest we could so is to scrape of every least suspicious damage as a total loss. I, personally, am inclined to turn away every question regarding sidewall damages

  • 3
    I agree. I'd add that it's not just about the mechanical situation. In real life, who the driver is influences my recommendation. A blowout may be a nerve-wracking few seconds for some people or the same blowout could be a catastrophic event for others. Jul 1, 2019 at 15:59

I agree with SteveRacer.

Many (perhaps most) of the matters answered here fall into the "opinion" category, but tire failures have a significantly higher potential to hurt someone. I think, therefore, that we should be conservative. (Of course, I'm an attorney, so my view may itself be biased.)

It'd be good to have a canonical that explains the dangers, and ends with an admonition to replace any damaged tire.

  • And tire issues are one of the easiest to get to a reputable shop. Most shops will investigate and even repair flats for free. Many will even put your spare on for you without charge when you say you can't afford a new tire right now.
    – user58368
    Oct 26, 2023 at 21:55

I think the picture from this answer says pretty much all that can be said objectively:

Tire repair zone

If the damage is outside of the repairable area, the tire can only be replaced. Whenever it has to be replaced is a matter of opinion and depends on a person's risk aversion.

  • 1
    I disagree with the objectivity, mainly because we are still getting opinionated answers. It really depends on who you talk to as to whether it can be patched or not. The second part of what you stated (after the image) pretty much sums it up, as well as there being the liability factor. We are not there to personally examine a tire. Besides, for the most part, the questions we are talking about are not about punctures (like the nail is shown above), but primarily to do with sidewall damage which is more like a scrub or something which did not cause immediate deflation. Oct 21, 2019 at 16:29
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 I'm not arguing that each case of sidewall damage can be objectively deemed serious / minor. I'm saying that if the sidewall damage is deemed serious, the only option is to replace. This reduces the answer space from "leave as is / patch / replace" to "leave as is / replace". Oct 22, 2019 at 9:45
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    No worries. I definitely hear what you're saying and don't strongly disagree. I just hate seeing the litany of answers we seem to be getting on these questions, where 99%+ of them are still opinion based. Also, I am speaking directly about sidewall damage and not thread/shoulder damage. I see what the image is trying to represent and agree with it. I just believe depending on who looks at it, one could say damage occurred in either the "shoulder" or the "tread" area ... so still somewhat subjective. I'm of the opinion to let someone who can touch/feel it give the opinion and we leave it alone. Oct 22, 2019 at 18:23
  • If the damage is outside the repairable area, it might still be too minor to cause a problem.
    – Mark
    Oct 28, 2019 at 21:57
  • some of the disagreement is whether or not "repair" would be warranted.
    – John Lord
    Jun 17, 2021 at 21:46
  • This is the recommendation for penetrations. If it is a curbed wheel and tire, where the outside of the sidewall has endured a bad scrape, but there is no penetration and the tire holds air, that is where you can get into the opinions of what someone will say is fine and another will say it is not.
    – user58368
    Oct 26, 2023 at 21:54

Over on Bicycles we have a selection of standard, general questions that are used for "close as duplicate".

Example a common question is "identify/date my bike" and all they give is
a serial number and some common parts but lacking a photo

Result - question will normally be closed as a duplicate of :

These target questions were either real questions asked, or intentionally posted to be a target for closure.

I'd suggest someone asks a somewhat open-ended question like "How do I decide if my tyre needs replacing?" and answers would be like @Zipzit answer here, which gives information for the user to make their own decision.

Also add info like "if in doubt, replacement is the safe option" and "be a good road user to yourself and to others"

This takes the Opinion-ness out of it, by simply providing facts and letting future readers make their own decision.

Also, "closed as duplicate of existing question" is less off-putting than "closed as offtopic" to new users. Its clearly a tyre on a motor-vehicle wheel, and a new user often has problems understanding why that is off-topic. "Duplicate" is more palatable while having the same effect overall.

  • 1
    We've already had a plethora of answers stating "go seek advice" and "if in doubt, replace" ... this is just one area we do not want to be part of. The biggest thing is, these questions can only be answered by opinion. There's no way to answer "correctly" if you cannot see it for yourself. And then you're always going to get opinion and conjecture. Everyone has an opinion about what to do with tire damage. It is far better for the OP just to go seek professional assistance. Thus, we close them because we cannot give a "good" answer. May 29, 2022 at 1:37
  • @paulster2 yep - no disagreement with that, but my point was "close as duplicate" of a question that says the same is more acceptable than "closed as off-topic" to new users.
    – Criggie
    May 29, 2022 at 2:12
  • What is the difference between closing as a duplicate and answering the question ... to my line of thinking, there is none. It doesn't matter if the questions are old questions or new questions, answering the questions as duplicates leaves us in the same place ... answering questions which are so subjective, it might mean someone's life. I don't think this is an arena which we need to go into. I get your sense of closing questions on new users. That doesn't feel right to me either. However, these questions need to be answered in person, not over the internet. Read what SteveRacer has in bold. May 29, 2022 at 2:30

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