Understanding the different components and aspects of a tire will aid in the purchase, repair and maintenance of a vital, yet often ignored part of automotive safety and performance. Tires are crucial to safe passage, as well as optimal vehicle performance and fuel efficiency. One critical component of the tire is that of the sidewall. The sidewall is the part of the tire that can be seen when looking directly at a tire from the side. It's where you'll find the tire manufacturer's name along with a lot more important information about the tire. Not only does it have the ability to change the aesthetic look of a vehicle, but it also serves a critical importance to the life and performance of a tire.
What is the Sidewall?
As briefly mentioned, the sidewall is the part of the tire that can be seen when you look at a tire from the side when it is mounted on a vehicle. The side wall possesses the information about the tire, including the brand name, the tire size, the tire code, the DOT code and possibly some design to make the tire look good. Some sidewalls have a white line one them. You know these tires as white walls. Sidewalls might also have the tire manufacturer's name printed in color. These are often seen on vehicles such as classic muscle cars, as well as jeeps and off-road vehicles.
Aside from the aesthetic impact the sidewall has on the tire, it has the very basic function of maintaining the shape of the tire. The sidewall is primarily made of rubber compounds, but it is reinforced by a variety of materials, from flexible metals to plastics and fabrics such as nylon. These reinforcement materials aid in the transfer of energy that occurs from the drive axle to the tire tread. The portion of the tire where the sidewall meets the tread is called the shoulder and is one of the toughest parts of the tire. Together, the sidewall and shoulder make sure that your tire stays mounted on the rim and that it maintains its shape so that it can perform as intended by the manufacturer. This is especially important knowing the amount of horsepower that the average vehicle posseses which is all transfered through the sidewall to the tire tread.
You can gather information about the size of a sidewall based on the specifications offered in the tire code, the series of letters and numbers printed on the sidewall. The tire code includes the size of a tire in various dimensions. For example, if a tire size is listed as 200/60R16, then the tread width would measure to a point of 200 mm, and the side wall would measure 60% of the tread width. The final number listed is 16, which means the tire will fit on a 16 inch rim. The lower the sidewall ratio, the lower profile the tire will possess. Low profile tires, generally equate to higher performance capabilities.
The sidewall of tires can and should be visually inspected on a routine basis in order to preempt any serious damage. Minor damage to a tire's sidewall can eventually lead to serious tire failure, such as a blowout. It is also a good idea to keep your tires clean and free of materials that may lead the rubber of the sidewall to break down prematurely. Various wheel and tire cleaners can aid in this process, as well as tire protectors and glosses that are made to highlight aesthetics and protect the tire's integrity. Ultimately, the best preventative maintenance offered to a tire is to ensure that the tire is properly inflated, and never running low. Incorrect tire pressure can damage the tread, shoulder and sidewall of a tire.
If you experience sidewall damage, it is crucial to get your vehicle towed to a service station or your auto dealership so that your tire can be replaced. Sidewall damage can lead to serious tire failure. Even minor sidewall damage is a major issue and cannot be rapaired.