Q: Does severe braking cause a flat spot on my tires?

asked by on November 12, 2015

Does severe braking cause a flat spot on my tires?

The conditions experienced during severe braking can indeed cause flat spots on a tire, but usually only during extreme situations where the conditions are strenuous enough.

Flat spots most commonly occur during severe braking situations where the tires lock up and the vehicle’s tires skid, such as experienced during panic, or sudden emergency stops where the tires screech and tire smoke is released. During sudden stops such as these, the wheels are completely locked at a complete stop, but the vehicle continues to travel forward for a period of time until the tires can catch grip of the road and stop the vehicle.

It is during this period of forward travel where the wheels are locked but the vehicle continues to travel forward that the tires will skid or slide across the road, causing them to wear in the same point of contact across the entire slide. As the road is flat, and the tire is sliding across it at a from a high rate of speed, and with a higher force than experienced with a tire rolling under normal braking conditions, the wear experienced during the brief moment of sliding during a strenuous stop is considerably higher than normal. Under extreme situations such as sudden stops from high rates of speed or situations where the vehicle is traveling sideways or has spun out, the amount of force and heat exerted on a tire during the period of locked travel before the tires grip the road can sometimes be enough to accelerate wear on one or more of the tires.

In severe enough cases, a flat spot can develop that will not only be visible to the naked eye, but will have a noticeably adverse effect on the handling and ride characteristics of the vehicle. As tires are round, a flat spot will disturb the shape of the tire and will not allow it to roll along the ground correctly. This will register as a noticeable, oscillating vibration that picks up as the vehicle increases speed, and in more severe cases will be accompanied by a noise that occurs in conjunction with the vibration.

As most flat spots that occur from severe braking often occur during panic or emergency stops, the best way to avoid flat spots is to simply drive carefully, brake in a safe, defensive manner, and rotate the tires at regular intervals so that they wear evenly. If the vehicle you are operating is for high performance purposes, such as race cars designated for track or off road use, then the best way to minimize flat spots is to upgrade to higher performance suspension or tires. In either case, flat spots are something that can definitely occur under severe braking conditions, but are also something that is easily avoidable with more defensive driving habits or higher performance materials. Flat spots can also lead to other problems similar to the ones associated with other forms of uneven tire wear.

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