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How Long Can You Drive On A Tire With Cords Showing? [ Answered ]

How Long Can You Drive On A Tire With Cords Showing? [ Answered ]

In case you notice cords sticking out of your tires and you do not know what it means, one of your first instincts might be just to trim off the cords. However, it won’t solve the real problem – your tires have worn out to the maximum extent, and can blow out at any time.

These cords are actually steel wires formed into a belt. It lies underneath the tread, adding strength and rigidity to the tire. Hence, if the cords are showing, it means the tire tread has completely worn out over that area. You can’t drive far on such a tire, and it’s best to get the tire replaced immediately.

How long can you drive on a tire with cords showing?

If your tire’s cords are showing, it means the tires are ready to blow out. In such a situation, you can’t safely drive for longer than 80 to 100 miles. Even then, you’ll have to drive at most slow speeds of around 40 to 50 mph.

This is because once a tire has worn out enough for the cords to show, it cannot dissipate heat efficiently. The tires will likely blow out due to overheating when you cruise along at high speeds.

Although a tire with cords showing can potentially go for at least 80 miles, we wouldn’t really recommend risking it. There’s no guarantee that your tire won’t blow out early, especially if it had the cords showing for quite a while before you noticed it.

Moreover, a replacement is long overdue if the tire has worn out that badly. The longest you should drive with such a tire is the distance to the nearest shop where you can buy a new tire.


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What happens when wires show on tires?

Before getting to the answer to this question, you need an understanding of what exactly these wires are and what purpose they serve. Tires didn’t always contain wires or cords inside them, which is why tire leaks and blowouts were extremely common in the past. Rubber itself isn’t a very strong material, and can’t withstand all the pressure and wear in the long run.

Eventually, people figured out that installing cords inside the tires can improve their structural integrity. Cotton was likely the first material, followed by synthetic fibers.

French tire manufacturer Michelin was the first to use steel wires, which proved to be much more effective. All tires now come with wires of steel or similarly strong materials, placed under the tread as a belt.

The wire belt improves the structural integrity of your tire, strengthening it from the inside. This significantly reduces the chances of a blowout or a puncture. Moreover, by holding the rubber stiffly in shape, the wires also help keep the tire attached to the rim.

As the tires lie under the tread, them being visible can mean only one thing – the tread over the area with wires showing has completely worn out. You should have replaced the tire long ago, and now you are directly wearing through its inner structure. If you keep going for too long on a tire with cords showing, it can potentially blow out and result in a crash.

Cords showing on a specific part of your tires are often a result of poor alignment. When you replace the damaged tire, ensure your wheel’s alignment is checked by an expert.

Can you patch a tire with wires showing?

Once your tire has wires showing, there’s no going back. It takes significant wear and tear for all the treads to run out and the cords to start poking out.

The damage is simply beyond repair, and there is no way you can patch it up. In fact, repairing tires with wires is even illegal in some states, and you may get in trouble for doing it.

While tire repair shops can usually fix puncture holes and light wear by applying tire patch plugs, it won’t work in case of a severely damaged tire.

Once the wires of your tire are showing, it means the tire is already close to the maximum extent of damage it can sustain before it blows out. In this state, the tire might already have lost its structural integrity, which means you need to get it replaced immediately.

Is it safe to drive tires with cords showing?

Driving on tires with cords showing is extremely unsafe, and it’s not because you might get stranded somewhere if the tires go flat. While you can usually still drive for at least 80 miles, the tires may blow out if the damage intensifies quickly. As you might be aware, a tire blowout can force your car to spin out of control and potentially result in a major crash.

Of course, it’s understandable that you might not be possible to replace the tire right there once you notice the wires showing.

You can still drive home or to a tire shop to get a replacement, as long as you stay below 55 mph and do not drive for longer than 80 to 100 miles. When driving with wires showing, make sure to be extra careful to lessen the chances of crashing in the event of a blowout.

Why is your tire showing cords?

Unless you are using a tire with particularly thin tread, such as a spare tire, it takes a lot of wear and tear to reveal the cords. Most tires have enough tread to keep going for several years, sometimes even up to a decade. The cords cannot just show up overnight – it’s a result of continuous damage in the long run.

Your tire is showing cords because the tread has completely worn out and the damage has reached the inner parts. Usually, this is simply a result of road damage, and may happen to any tire. Aspects further aggravating this issue are:

  • Potholes: If you often drive on roads that are in poor condition and full of potholes, your tires are very likely to suffer heavy damage in the long run. Potholes cause the tires to bump against rough surfaces, thereby damaging the treads.
  • Misalignment: Another common reason behind tire treads wearing out is the poor alignment of the wheels or the tires. When the alignment is incorrect, it prevents equal distribution of load. Areas on the tire’s tread that have to bear the extra load wear out faster, revealing the wires.
  • Rough driving: Your driving habits have an impact on the lifespan and the condition of your tires too. Driving roughly and hitting the brakes hard too often cause a lot of stress to the tire treads. Eventually, they wear out faster than they would if you drove more carefully.
  • Punctures: It isn’t too uncommon for tires to suffer puncture holes from nails and other sharp objects. Even when the puncture isn’t deep enough to cause a leak or blowout, it still damages the tread and creates a hole. Regular wear and tear can now expand the damaged area faster, eventually exposing the wires.
  • Heavy usage: Your tires can also wear out simply due to overuse. On an average, car owners in the US drive their cars for 10,000 miles a year. Tire manufacturers set the life expectancies of their tires based on this yearly mileage – an average tire lasts at least six years. However, if your tires undergo far higher usage than average, it would naturally cause them to wear out sooner.

Your tires may also be showing wires just because they are too old and all the tread has run out over the years. While it is normal for a tire to be in such condition after a very long period of use, you should actually change your tires before they wear out enough for cords to show.


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Can you fix a tire with wires showing?

No, there’s no simple hack to bail you out of this issue. Tire repairs like patches generally occur on the outer surface, over the tread. However, once the wires show, no tread is left to repair. Depending on your state, you may also run into legal problems for repairing a tire in such poor condition.


Driving too long on tires with exposed cords is extremely unsafe; we do not recommend it at all. Even if it is just one tire, the longest distance you should try driving is around 80 to 100 miles. While buying a new tire on short notice may be inconvenient, you definitely wouldn’t want to risk your life by driving on such worn-out tires.