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Tire Cupping

I was told by a mechanic my rear tires are cupped. At one time, a suspension eval was suggested. Another time, replacing the tires were suggested. However, when I looked up cupping, it did not seem to me what the rear tires look like. The tread is still ok these tires, but they have a frayed appearance. We got the car (2000 Camry) from a relative, so not sure exactly how old the tires, but would appreciate an opinion on whether these tires need to be changed or are still ok to drive on. Thanks.

Your pictures all show the tires to be age cracked, not cupped. They need to be replaced, the structure of the tire is not what it once was nor is the tread able to grip the road very well, especially in the wet. They need to be replaced.

If the tires are actually cupped, that is an indicator that the struts need to be replaced on the end of the car with cupped tires. It could be alignment only, but if the car has gotten “bouncy” or "shakey on the road, they need replacement. An alignment is needed when the struts are replaced.

Get a picture of the tread itself, not the sidewall. They might be cupped as well, but you won’t see that from a side shot.

The sidewalls have bad weather cracks, the tires should be replaced. The cupping is visible in the third picture, wear patterns in tires can be noisy and will not go away with “suspension eval”.

Michelin Harmony, I wonder if those are the original tires on that car?

The tires are dangerous due to dry rot. They need to be replaced ASAP. The cupping is likely due to worn rear struts as these are rear tires. The new tires will develop cupping as well if you don’t replace the rear struts. So, you need to replace the rear struts, and then put new tires on the rear.

If the front tires are also aged and dry rotted like the rears, then you need 4 new tires.

The pictures are hard to interpret, but it looks to me like “feathering”. That’s caused by bad toe-in.

Compare the tire to the images in the attached link and post back with which one is similar.

Thanks everyone for your advice. It seems the tires do need to be replaced. We don’t plan to keep the car for longer than one or two more years since it is pretty old at this point. My follow up question would be if we replaced the tires, and not the struts, would the new tires be ok for the next year or two, or would they develop significant problems in that time period? I imagine replacing the struts is a more expensive job, and I am hesitant to do that on this car.

Question for @FMCoupe - How old are these tires? Rubber that is that deteriorated could also contribute to abnormal tread wear patterns but I can’t really see the tread. I would just simply replace them ASAP.

@“MY 2 CENTS” I’m actually not sure how old the tires are. I am attaching two more pictures of the tread on the rear tires if that helps anyone comment on the cupping and strut situation. Thanks.

I take back my earlier guess. This is cupping.

How long have you had the tires in the photos? How many miles a year do you drive?
The new tires MIGHT, if you don’t drive it much, last you another year or two without developing obvious wear problems… that will be noticed and signal to the appraiser/buyer that the suspension needs work. The cause of the poor wear pattern will only get worse with time, and the poor wear develop faster.

Cupped tires are good for shock and strut sales but that isn’t completely honest. The struts and suspension should be inspected but shocks and struts should not be condemned due to tire wear patterns. Tire cupping is more often the result of a combination of factors; lack of rotation maintenance, insufficient pressure, tread design and driving conditions.

The lighting in the photo is a little deceiving. On the right side of the photo it appears to cupped (or feathered) one way. On the left side of the photo it appears to be cupped the other way. It’s not likely it is cupped both ways. At any rate, rubber that is that deteriorated from age has also become quite hardened. This can lead to treacherous traction, especially on wet roads.

I’d just replace them. I’m not convinced there is a suspension problem but you should get it looked at.

Ask the shop that replaces the tires to check the struts. And make sure they properly balance the new tires and do a four wheel alignment. They might spot something obvious in the process. Cupping can indeed be caused by a strut problem, but just as easily by a wheel weight that fell off making the tire unbalanced. I’m a frequent pedestrian and find wheel weights along side the road all the time. I have a big coffee can full of them. Or it could an alignment problem, or even defective tires. No way to tell if the tires were defective when they were installed, but it is clear the tires are defective now due to age and weathering, so it is entirely possible the tread wear you are seeing is due to just that alone.

OK, technically, this is heel and toe wear - usually caused by too much toe in (although SLIGHT heel and toe is a normal wear condition)

This condition is frequently mislabeled as cupping wear - AND - there are other conditions also mislabeled as cupping wear (and those have different causes as well.

Nevertheless, the tires need to be replaced due to the cracks (due to age). And will the new tires last a few years without needing replacement? Based on these tires, yes!

One or two years is a long enough time that I’d replace the tires, get an alignment, and replace the struts if needed. It would be a different story if you planned to keep the car for only a few months.

In this area the condition is called 'feathering" and it is the result of excess toe. If the wear is on the inner circumference there is excess toe in and vice versa. Alignment is in order. Also, the cracking is from age and while the tires might last another 20,000 miles if driven from red light to red light at <30 mph I would strongly recommend having them replaced other wise. But on both issues I’m just throwing my 2c behind the good advice already given.

I see a scalloped wear pattern, you call that “feathering”?

Yes, what I saw on the OP’s photo I call “fethering.”

Guys, there are a lot of words that are used to describe tire wear and many of them are the same thing and a matter of degree. I spent a week with a group of other tire guys arguing about what words meant what and what photos we wanted to use to depict those words. We put them into a book - This book:

I would suggest everyone who wants to describe tire wear (and other tire conditions) read this. This is the most definitive collection of photos and tire conditions ever printed.