Tires and wheels
Bubble on Tires PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

I noticed the other day that I had a bubble-like thing on one of my car tires. What is this; how did it happen; and is it dangerous?



Dear Mike,

Okay, the store where you purchased your tires should, without an argument, take the defective tire back and replace it at no charge, considering that it is still within the mileage limits of the warranty on the tire.

The bubble is a weakness in the tire, usually caused by an error in manufacturing or as a result of unusual contact (e.g., a curb that you might have struck while coming home from your favorite country and western dance hall on a weekend night). I have personally experienced this particular scenario once or twice. Oops!

As far as it being dangerous, picture this… you are on the highway doing 80 mph and the tire blows out because of the weak spot which has now formed the bubble in question. The chances of you losing control over your vehicle and seriously putting yourself or another driver on the road into danger are as high as gasoline prices right now.

This could be a life-threatening situation, so I strongly suggest replacing the defective tire ASAP.

Thanks for writing in and reading my Q&A in the ‘Houston Chronicle!’

4-Wheel Drive vs All-Wheel Drive PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

Is there a difference between 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive?



Dear George,

Good question. OK. The term “4-wheel drive” usually refers to a system that powers all 4 wheels of your vehicle 100% of the time on an equal and proportionate power basis (e.g., 25% each) given a stable traction environment. Most 4-wheel drive vehicles provide a high and low 4-wheel drive option.

The “Low 4WD” option will give much greater torque to get you through those more challenging low-speed and usually off-road situations where the additional power and grip are needed to assist you with your feelings and urges to demonstrate some of your built-up testosterone to your peers, or for most off-roading or mudding!

The high setting is more appropriate for driving at higher speeds on payment, allowing your lead foot to exceed the speed limit racing to your favorite honky-tonk, car race, or family reunion.

The primary difference between 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive is that there is no high or low option. The automatic all-wheel drive terminology refers to a system that is really a two-wheel drive system until the system senses that you need all-wheel drive (i.e., detects that your 2-wheel drive axle is losing traction) and then it kicks in to all-wheel drive to help you regain traction.

Thanks for reading and writing in,

A Noisy Wheel PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

I recently had a tire on my car patched after having discovered a nail in it. The service included balancing the wheel. Is it normal that after the tire was patched, it started making a slight noise?

Thank you.


Dear Alex,

If you are experiencing noise and not shaking or shimmering, then I assume you are okay. Patching a tire, or plugging it, does modify the exact structure of the original formula that makes up your tires.

You might take it back to the shop that repaired your tire and have them look at it to make sure that the job was done right. I am sure they will do this at no charge. When you put a band-aid on something like patching or plugging tires, chances are it will never be 100% right again. The noise is not something I would be alarmed about, especially if it is a slight humming sound. I would however suggest if, at some point, it sounds like a freight train as you increase your speed to find a sale on tires and start fresh!

I will also suggest having it looked at to make sure that the noise is coming from your car’s tire and not let’s say from the brakes, diff, or possibly coming from under the hood. Also keep in mind, if you have a road-hazard warranty on your tires, to possibly ask for a new one instead of having them just fix it.

Thanks for reading!

Tire Weathering of Dodge Ram 2500 Quad Cab PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

I have read your column in the Houston Chronicle for several years and have a question about tires. I have a Dodge ram 2500 quad cab with a six cylinder Cummings diesel engine. I bought this truck new in 2001. The truck currently has 34,000 miles on it, so the tires also have 37,000 miles. These tires have started weather cracking around the edges of the tread where the tread bonds to the sidewall. The treads have not yet worn down to the wear marks that are built into all tire treads so I think they're still good for several more miles yet. I also have a trailer that sits around most of the year without use, and it's tires are also weather cracking even though the tread hasn't worn down to the wear marks yet.

A friend tells me that if they are cracking then they are dangerous and need to be replaced.

Who is right on this, me or my friend?

Thanks in advance for your advice.


Dear Odell,

Weather cracking on trailer tires is way more dangerous than your truck but do not mistake that either is good idea. If it just started with the truck you should be able to squeeze a few more miles out of them. I would however find a local and honest mechanic and ask for their advice on how they look.

Another thought is that we should always put safety first and it is better to be over-prepared rather than being under-prepared. If it were me…I would spend the small amount of money on new tires verses the value on what our lives and others are worth.

Thanks for writing in,

2007 Hyundai Santa FE and the Racket Up Front PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

I have a 2007 Hyundai Santa FE and for the past month it has this loud road noise coming from front tires. What do you think is causing this issue?

I was informed during the state inspection that the tries are still good. I would like to resolve issue ASAP.

Thanks for your assistance


Dear LD,

There are a few things it could be, possible wheel bearing which would sound more like a baseball card in a bicycle spoke. It could even be tire noise even though the tread is in good shape. The only thing that would point out what and where the noise is coming from is having an experienced mechanic drive your vehicle and determine the exact cause.

Thanks for writing in and I hope that you get help for this very irritating problem.

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