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Dry Rot Tires: Warning Signs, Replacement, Prevention and Safety

There are many aspects of tire health that must be considered to maintain safety on the road. One of those concerns is if the car is dealing with dry-rot tires. By learning how to detect dry rot in tires, you will ensure greater safety on the road.

In this guide, we cover the meaning of tire dry rot. We also look at some warning signs and show you when a replacement is needed. Finally, we offer some tips on prevention and safety measures related to tire dry rot.

What are dry rot tires?

Dry rotted tires have rubber material broken down from old age. Tire dry rot occurs after the material has been exposed to moisture or harmful contaminants. Dry rot generally does not occur in tires that are used regularly unless they age.

It’s important to know what dry rotted tires look like so you can replace them. Because dry rot allows air to escape from the tire, it is difficult to keep it inflated. It can also lead to unnatural rubber expansion, which breaks down the tire.

Causes of Dry Rotten Tires

Dry rot is irreparable, so it is important to understand what causes it to avoid the problem. Old tires are the main cause of dry rot. As rubber ages, it becomes less flexible.

However, tires exposed to direct sunlight can also degrade due to UV rays. Additionally, harsh and abrasive chemicals can further break down the rubber material. Additionally, if tires are used with insufficient pressure, dry rot can occur.

RELATED: Tire Cupping: Meaning, Causes and Prevention

Warning Signs of Dry Rot Tires

1. fragile

This condition causes the tire rubber to dry out. As natural oils begin to leach from tires, they will appear more brittle.

You will be able to feel this fragility when touching the rubber material. There could even be pieces of tire that are separating from the surface.

2. Cracks in the tread

As the rubber material becomes more brittle, you will begin to notice cracks in the tread. The overall surface becomes harder, making it easier to crack and break.

This brittle feel allows the tread to crack without impact. In fact, a simple touch could be enough to crack and crack the dry, rotting tire. If there are cracks in the tire tread, the vehicle’s handling will be affected. The tire could also burst at any time.

3. Cracks in the side walls

Cracks don’t just occur in the tread. It is also possible to see cracks on the side wall due to dry rot.

Even in the mildest cases, cracks can form on the sidewall of the tire. You may see some in a small area or they may be spread everywhere. Anyway, the car is not safe to drive with these tires installed.

4. Faded color

A telltale sign of dry rot is a change in tire color. When tires are new and in good condition, they appear dark black, sometimes even shiny.

However, when UV rays begin to break down the material, black tires turn gray and dull. Discoloration usually occurs before cracking, but it can occur either way.

Do dry-rot tires need to be replaced?

You should never drive with dry, rotten tires. In fact, if you notice cracks or imperfections in the tire, you should replace it as soon as possible. When dry rot occurs, air can escape through cracks in the rubber. Because of this, it is difficult to keep your tires inflated, which only puts you in serious danger on the road.

Additionally, cracks deepen and grow over time. Sometimes this process happens slowly, but there are times when the cracks expand rapidly while you are on the road. If the cracks end up in the tire cords, which are the polyester and nylon threads woven into the tire to support the weight of your car, the rubber in the tire will expand and break down quickly.

READ MORE: How much does it cost to replace your tires?

How to prevent tire rot

1. Inspect the tires

With regular tire inspections, you can avoid many problems. Tire inspection isn’t just for dry rot, but it is helpful.

Check the tires monthly for signs of the dry rot we talked about. If you notice cracks, discoloration, or anything else that seems unusual, have it checked.

2. Stay out of the sun

Just as UV rays are bad for your skin, sunlight is bad for the rubber in your tires. If you live in a warm, sunny climate, you should try to park in the shade whenever possible.

Otherwise, the UV rays could prematurely disturb the side wall. If you can’t park in a shaded area, it would be helpful to have a car cover.

3. Clean/Protect

It is important to keep tires clean and protected. With car wash soap and a clean rag, you can keep contaminants and dirt off the surface of the tire.

Be sure to rinse the tires well after washing them. You don’t want soap left over. Additionally, it is helpful to dry the tires to ensure the best protection.

4. Avoid harmful products

After washing your tires, you need to pay attention to the products you use on them. Whether you choose special cleaning products or want to protect them after cleaning, you should carefully read the ingredients of the chosen solution.

It is best to stay away from products that contain petroleum. These are known to degrade the rubber material, causing premature cracking.

5. Keep tires inflated

Rotten tires usually occur because they are not used and age. However, dry rot can also occur in regularly used tires.

Driving with underinflated tires will cause unnecessary tire wear. The underinflated tire generates an excessive amount of heat, which causes cracks and separation of the tread.

To avoid this, you should regularly check the inflation level. It is often recommended to check tire pressure every month. However, you should also check it every time the weather changes significantly. If the tread is already starting to crack, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain normal tire pressure as air can leak. In addition to preventing dry rot, proper inflation keeps you safe on the road and helps prevent overall tread wear.

RELATED: How to Find the Right Pressure for Your Car Tires (4 Steps)

6. Don’t overload the tires

Your car tires are designed to fit your particular vehicle. They are not universal and have a specific load capacity. This rating is the weight of the vehicle plus whatever you decide to load in the car, truck, or SUV. You can find the cargo capacity in your car’s owner’s manual.

If you create more weight than this recommendation, you overload the vehicle. This condition adds unnecessary stress to the car’s tires as well as the suspension system. This extra weight can cause tire cracks and blowouts.

7. Store Tires Correctly

If you won’t be using your car for a short period of time, it’s important to store your tires properly. Let’s say you drive a classic car or have a motor home. Either way, you may need to determine where to store the vehicle where it will remain protected. Ideally, you want to remove as much weight as possible from the tires, even if that means putting it on a lift or strong jack stands. You’ll also want to keep the vehicle out of direct sunlight, preferably in a garage or under a blanket.

If you cannot remove the weight from the tires, you should drive the vehicle a short distance every three months. At a minimum, you want to maneuver the vehicle slightly so that the weight is placed elsewhere on the tires.

On the other hand, if you need to store tires off the vehicle, such as snow or summer tires, during the off-season, you’ll want to follow some of the same guidelines. Hang them on hooks in a covered area, away from the elements. They should not be stored on the ground and there should be no direct contact with sunlight.


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