Part of owning a vehicle is knowing how to care for all the different components it has. And while plenty of people pay attention to the engine, transmission, brakes, and other major components, people often overlook the tires.
But the tires are an essential component of your vehicle, and more goes into checking and caring for them than just looking at the tread. Tire dry rot is a serious and common problem you need to keep an eye out for.
But what exactly is tire dry rot, how do you know when your vehicle’s tires have it, and how do you keep it from happening in the first place? We’ve answered all those questions and more for you here.
What Is Dry Rot?
Tire dry rot and wood dry rot are two completely different conditions. Wood dry rot refers to fungus growth caused by moisture. However, this type of dry rot has nothing to do with tires.
Dry rot in tires, also known as sidewall cracking, occurs when the rubber compound in the tire starts to break down. When this happens, the rubber begins to split and separate. Tire dry rot has everything to do with the natural aging process of tires, although there are things that can accelerate this aging process.
What Does Tire Dry Rot Look Like?
Tire dry rot starts out looking like small cracks along the tire’s sidewall. These cracks usually start out small, but over time they’ll spread and develop into larger and deeper cracks along the sidewall.
Tire dry rot almost always occurs on the tire’s sidewall but sometimes will be found in between tread block or on the tread block itself. More concerningly for drivers, tire dry rot often starts on the inside of the tire, so by the time you see anything on the outside, there’s a good chance there’s plenty of dry rot on the inside of the tire already.
What Causes Dry Rot on Tires?
Dry rot on tires comes from the natural aging process of tires. Whether a tire uses natural or synthetic rubbers, there’s a manufacturing process that gives the tires the strength and shape they need to stay on your vehicle.
It’s an effective process, but it doesn’t last forever. As tires age the compounds inside the rubber start to break down, causing the polymers to separate from each other. This shows up as small cracks, which we also call dry rot.
Can Dry Rotted Tires Be Repaired?
It depends on the extent of the dry rot, but for the most part, we do not recommend trying to repair dry-rotted tires. That’s because tires often dry rot from the inside out, so if you see dry rot on the outside of the tire, there’s a good chance there’s a lot of dry rot on the inside too.
For minor dry rot a tire professional might be able to use a tire sealant to repair the tire, but for anything beyond even the smallest dry rot, we recommend playing it safe by replacing the tire with the correct size.
Do Tire Warranties Cover Dry Rot?
Typically tire warranties cover dry rot, but it doesn’t fall under the treadwear warranty. It’s under a manufacturer warranty that ensures the tire is free of any defects.
The exact warranty with your tire will vary depending on the brand, but typically warranties that cover dry rot won’t last more than six years. That’s because eventually, dry rot is a normal condition, especially if you’re not caring for the tires properly.
Are Dry Rotted Tires Safe to Drive On?
Not at all. Dry-rotted tires can’t hold air as well as tires without dry rot, and it’s only a matter of time before dry-rotted tires fail. When dry-rotted tires fail, it can be with small amounts of air leaking through the cracks, but sometimes it’s a full-blown blowout.
This happens when the air starts to push its way through the crack and the force of the air pushing its way through the crack expands the crack further. This leads to more air loss which puts more pressure on the tire which expands the crack further.
Eventually, the overall integrity of the tire fails and you have a complete tire blowout while you’re driving down the road.
How to Prevent Tire Dry Rot
While it’s good to be able to identify dry rot and what you can do about it, it’s an even better idea to know how to prevent it in the first place. Because while there’s no way to prevent dry rot on tires completely, you can significantly slow down dry rot.
Below we’ve highlighted five tips you can follow to help keep your tires from dry rotting.
#1 – Keep Tires Out of Direct Sunlight
If you’re storing tires for a longer amount of time or parking your vehicle throughout the day, one of the easiest things you can do to help prevent dry rot is to keep them out of direct sunlight.
Simply parking the car in a garage when you’re not driving can make a huge difference.
#2 – Dry Tires Before Storing Them
If you’re taking tires off your vehicle and putting them in storage, it’s imperative that you dry them out completely before storing them. Standing water is a primary cause of dry rot, and most storage areas don’t provide adequate ventilation for the water to evaporate fully.
#3 – Keep Them at a Consistent Temperature
The more you can keep your tires at a consistent temperature, the less likely they are to develop dry rot. While you’re not going to be able to control the temperature of the tires when you’re on the road, if you keep your vehicle parked in a garage it’ll help.
Ideally, you want to keep the temperature between 45- and 68-degrees Fahrenheit to slow the spread of dry rot.
#4 – Use the Tires
One of the primary causes of dry rot on tires is having them sit in one area for too long without any use. If you’re consistently using the tires, it’s far less likely for dry rot to form and it should take longer.
However, if you’re letting your vehicle sit in one spot for more than three months without moving it we recommend removing the tires from the vehicle and properly storing them to help reduce the risk of dry rot.
#5 – Store Tires in Airtight Bags
If you’re storing tires between seasons, then one of the best things you can do to prevent dry rot from forming is to store them in airtight bags in a cool, dark place. This will reduce all the factors leading to dry rot, making it less likely that you’ll have to deal with it.
It might be a bit more work, but it’s a big difference-maker.
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