What Is Dry Rot In Tires?
Tire dry rot, also known as sidewall weathering or sidewall cracking, refers to the degradation of a tire’s rubber compounds. The appearance of cracks, discoloration, and a generally brittle texture in the tire’s rubber marks the condition. Unfortunately, age-related dry rot is inevitable, but you can manage other contributing factors to some extent.
Causes of Tire Dry Rot
- Exposure to Heat and Sunlight: Prolonged exposure to high temperatures and direct sunlight accelerates the breakdown of rubber compounds in tires, leading to dry rot.
- Cold Weather: Freezing temperatures can make the rubber in tires brittle, contributing to the development of dry rot.
- Age of Tires: Over time, the materials in tires naturally degrade, making age a significant factor in the occurrence of dry rot.
- Lack of Use: Tires that are not regularly used can dry out faster, especially if they are exposed to adverse environmental conditions while stationary.
- Poor Maintenance: Inadequate tire maintenance, such as improper inflation and neglecting regular inspections, can hasten the onset of dry rot.
- Chemical Exposure: Exposure to certain chemicals, oils, and other substances can accelerate the degradation of tire rubber.
Signs of Tire Dry Rot
Identifying tire dry rot involves regular inspections of the tire’s sidewalls and tread. Key signs to look for include cracks, discoloration, bulges, and wear that appear unnatural or excessive for the tire’s age and usage. These visual indicators can help vehicle owners determine when their tires are suffering from dry rot and need attention or replacement.
How to Prevent Dry Rot Tires?
Preventing tire dry rot involves a combination of regular maintenance and environmental management:
- Check your tires frequently for signs of aging, cracking, and tread wear.
- Always park your vehicle in a garage or shaded area to protect tires from prolonged exposure to sunlight and UV rays.
- Avoid using abrasive chemicals on tires.
- Refrain from using petroleum-based tire protectants, as they can interfere with the weathering agents in the rubber compound and extract oils from tires. Opt for water-based cleaning solutions instead that protect against ozone and UV damage.
- Regularly use your vehicle. Extended periods of inactivity can accelerate dry rot.
- Before storing the tires, clean the tire surface with water-based protectants and wipe them dry. After that, pack them in airtight bags to avoid tire oxidation.
Is It OK to Drive a Car With Dry Rot Tires?
Driving on tires with dry rot is generally unsafe. Dry rot leads to the degradation of the rubber compounds in the tire, causing them to become brittle and cracked. Sidewall cracking can expose the internal structure of the tire during driving. This compromises the internal structural integrity of the tire and makes it more prone to instant failure. Specific risks associated with driving on dry rot tires include:
- Increased Risk of Blowouts: The weakened structure of dry-rotted tires makes them more susceptible to blowouts, especially when driving at high speeds or under heavy loads.
- Reduced Traction and Handling: Dry rot can affect the tire’s tread and overall texture, leading to diminished traction and handling. This can make controlling the vehicle more difficult, especially in adverse weather conditions.
- Compromised Braking Performance: The effectiveness of your car’s braking system can be significantly reduced if the tires are dry-rotted. The reduced grip can lead to longer stopping distances and increased risk of skidding.
- Air Pressure Issues: Tires with dry rot may not hold air as effectively, leading to underinflation. Driving on underinflated tires can cause further damage and also affects fuel efficiency and handling.