If one or more of your tires starts to show signs of dry rot—a condition characterized by dried-out rubber, excessive cracking of the tire’s sidewalls, and the reduced ability to hold air—they will need to be replaced. Advanced dry rot can result in improper tire inflation and may even cause the tire to break apart while driving, posing a serious safety hazard.
While it’s natural for your tires to show
wear and tearwith age, dry rot can wreak havoc on your tires even before they start to go bald from normal use, leading to their premature replacement. Learning to identify dry rot—and the conditions that cause it—can help save you money in the long term.
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What is tire dry rot?
Tire dry rot is a condition that essentially speeds up the aging process and is caused by exposure to certain temperatures, substances, or situations that lead tires to dry out, crack, and break apart.
How does a tire get dry rot?
Some of the most common causes of dry rot are:
- Excessive exposure to UV rays: Tires that receive a lot of sunlight for long periods are more apt to crack and dry out
- Exposure to abrasive chemicals: Motor oil, industrial cleaning solutions, and other corrosive chemicals can cause the rubber to dry out and crack
- Inactivity: Cars that are parked for long periods—both outside and inside—can develop dry rot as the protective resins in rubber are only activated when the tires are in use
- High temperatures: Frequent exposure to high ambient temperatures can cause tires to age faster
Warning signs of tire dry rot
You’ll know your tires have started to dry rot if they’ve begun to discolor and have turned a shade closer to grey or white as opposed to their usual black. Another telltale sign of dry rot is cracking along the tire sidewall or tread, which can occur independently or in tandem with discoloration.
Key Takeaway Long periods of inactivity, exposure to the elements, extreme temperatures, and underinflated tires can all give way to tire dry rot if you’re not careful—inspect your tires regularly to lessen your chances of debilitating tire damage.
How to protect tires from dry rot
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent your tires from getting dry rot—check out the list below:
- Clean your tires: A rag, warm water, and dish soap can be used to clean tires without exposure to harsh chemicals
- Keep tires properly inflated: When your tires are properly inflated, it reduces the amount of wear and subsequent heat they are subjected to, extending their lifespan. Check yourtire pressureregularly
- Inspect tires regularly: Check your tire sidewalls and treads once a month for cracks and other damage
- Avoid parking in sunlight: Whenever possible, park in the shade to avoid unnecessary exposure to UV rays that will dry out your tires
- Don’t overload your vehicle: By not going over the recommended load capacity of your vehicle, you’ll prevent unnecessary stress on the tires that can cause premature cracking
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Is it safe to drive with tire dry rot?
No, dry rotted tires are not safe to drive on and should be addressed as soon as possible. As dry rot cracks the rubber, air escapes from the tire, making it almost impossible to keep it properly inflated. Over time, the cracks will worsen and once they reach the nylon cords woven into the tire, the heat produced by driving can cause the rubber to expand and break apart while driving.
What does dry rot on tires look like?
Tires with dry rot will start to become discolored over time, taking on a white- or grey-ish hue instead of the normal black. Dry-rotted tires will also have noticeable cracks along the tread and/or sidewall, appearing almost like cracked leather or the skin of a rhinoceros. Advanced cases of dry rot may even cause small pieces of rubber to flake off entirely.