This weekend, I discovered a bubble in the sidewall of one of my tires—a spot where the rubber bulged out, as if the tire were about a explode.
Tire bubbles can come from a manufacturing defect or from damage to the tire—for instance, bumping into a curb while parallel parking.
In the moment though, the reason doesn’t matter. The reality is you’ve got a bubble in the sidewall of your tire, and you need to do something about it.
You have a few options. In theory, the bubble might be fine. Maybe nothing will go wrong and you don’t have to take action. That’s a bad idea, because eventually the tire will fail. The tire might go flat while you’re parked, which would be annoying but safe. The bubble might also burst at 65 miles an hour as you’re driving on the interstate, and that would not be fine. Ultimately, how much of a risk are you willing to take?
The first time I noticed a bubble in my tire, someone pointed it out to me in a parking lot. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I Googled it. That helped me get a general idea of things—and confirmed it was a safety risk—but it wasn’t specific to my particular situation.
Fortunately, I have a great, trustworthy mechanic, so I described the situation to them. They recommended taking action. Although they would benefit financially from my taking action, they’ve had a good track record, so I trust their advice.
That’s the thing about bubbles in the sidewall of your tire: maybe it’s going to be fine, maybe it’s not. But it’s safer to take action before something much worse happens. After all, $200 for a new tire is a lot cheaper than dying in a crash following a high-speed blowout.
I asked my mechanic if they could repair it, as they do when leaks are on the tread. He explained that due to the construction of tires, it’s not possible to fix a sidewall bubble. Instead, you have to replace the tire—and sometimes you need to replace two tires, due to wear patterns.
Getting back to this weekend, I knew I’d need to replace the tire, and I knew I could probably make it to my mechanic without dying. I gave them a heads up and arranged to drop it off.
In situations like this—where you suddenly have an unplanned expense and need to take time to deal with it—it’s easy to want to point fingers. But the reality is, blame is not important at this point. I’m the only person who drives my car, so it was probably my fault. Was it a manufacturing defect or something I bumped into? Again, it doesn’t really matter at this point.
It also doesn’t matter when the bubble formed. It could have formed yesterday or it could have formed a month ago. The key thing is that I noticed it, and now that I’ve noticed it, I have to take action. We can take action to prevent problems, but we ultimately don’t get to choose when most problems occur.
Dealing with an unexpected defect that could have catastrophic consequences reminds me of what it’s sometimes like to run a digital agency. Prevent problems when you can and act decisively when you can’t prevent them. Don’t ignore the tire.