Tire Dry Rot is the decay of the rubber tire compound that can be seen as visible cracks in the sidewall of a tire.
Tire Dry Rot is sometimes also referred to as Sidewall Cracking but can also appear on the tire tread itself.
Seeing cracks in your tire can make you worry. It is normal for us to worry when we suspect an issue with our vehicle and to ask for an expert’s opinion. This guide to tell you everything you need to know about Tire Dry Rot.
The causes of Tire Dry Rot
Dry rot in tires occurs when the rubber compound becomes dry and brittle, causing small cracks to appear in the surface of the tire. If left untreated, these cracks will deepen as the tire further deteriorates. This is because rubber is a natural product which will naturally deteriorate over time.
It is worth knowing that tires will deteriorate faster after their 6th year since manufacture. This will be true of all tires no matter how often they have been used or how well they have been maintained.
Lack of use
Tires are designed to be used and vehicles that are left standing for an extended period of time are more prone to tire dry rot. This is because tires that are not stressed will lose flexibility and lead to the rubber compound deteriorating and becoming brittle faster.
With the current global situation meaning people are at home more often and not using their vehicle as much, lack of use is a more common reason for tire dry rot. If you haven’t driven your vehicle recently or know you won’t be driving it in the near future, I would recommend taking a short drive to rotate your tires and help stave off tire dry rot.
It has been shown that UV rays/ultraviolet light can degrade the rubber compound of tires at a faster rate. If you live in a particularly sunny area and your tires are subject to constant exposure to the sun, this is likely to leave your tires more susceptible to tire dry rot.
Under Inflated tires
Tires that are not inflated to the correct pressure, specifically under inflated tires, suffer from riding along whilst deformed from their designed shape. This creasing of the sidewall will lead to uneven tread wear and these creases can prematurely cause cracks to appear and tire dry rot to occur.
When washing and caring for your vehicle, some cleaning products or degreasers may contain harsh chemicals which can lead to premature deterioration of your tires. It is important to check the products and purchase from a reputable brand.
The Signs of Tire Dry Rot (What does Tire Dry Rot Look like?)
There are a few key signs to look out for when examining your vehicle for any signs of tire dry rot.
Inspect your tires and analyse the tire surface. The first sign of tire dry rot will be that the tire surface is very hard and dry. It may also show signs or brittleness and break to the touch.
The other telltale sign of tire dry rot is cracks in the tire. These will most commonly occur in the tire sidewall and run parallel to the outside of the tire. Depending on how deep the cracks are, deep cracks are an immediate issue and should be replaced at the earliest possible opportunity.
If the dry rot is extremely severe, you may also see the tire tread begin to split and separate from the tire. Tires suffering from extreme dry rot are much more likely to suffer from potentially dangerous blow outs and may develop leaks and not hold air correctly.
I would recommend changing your tire before setting off. Check out our guide on how to change a tire here.
The Symptoms of Tire Dry Rot
For mild dry rot, there may be little to no noticeable symptoms whilst driving your vehicle. For more severe tire dry rot however, if the tread has begun to separate from the tire, you will begin to feel the steering wheel wobble.
This will be more noticeable if the dry rot is in the front wheels, however the car will still vibrate with the dry rot in the rear wheels.
If you experience any unusual noise, vibration or behaviour from your vehicle, I would always recommend taking your vehicle to a shop at the earliest opportunity.
How to Prevent Tire Dry Rot
Purchase High Quality Tires
When purchasing new tires, there are 3 main categories, budget, mid range and premium tires. More expensive premium tires will last longer and be less likely to develop tire rot than budget tires. This is because premium tires are more extensively tested and are made of much better compounds than budget tires.
Always remember when purchasing new tires to check the age of them. Tires have a lifespan of between 6-10 years and every tire will have the date of manufacture marked on the sidewall of the tire. This will show in a 4 number format, XX XX.
The first 2 numbers will show which week of the year it was manufactured, followed by the year of manufacture.
If the size and brand tire you would like isn’t available and needs to be ordered in for you, you can be sure that these will likely be fresh tires directly from the supplier.
Our recommendation is always to spend as much as you can on tires as the benefits provided are always worth the cost. The potential downsides of budget tires, including their proven shorter lifespan and increased likelihood of dry rot, outweigh the potential savings.
Use the Tire
The easiest way to prevent dry rot in your tires is to use your tires often and not leave long periods of time where your vehicle is not driven. Tires do not respond well to sitting for an extended period of time.
In your tire compound there are protective waxes which are released when the tire is stretched and stressed which protect the tire surface in a process known as Blooming. Note that this will not be able to cure dry rot that has already appeared in a tire.
Protective Tire Shine
Another popular way to protect your tires from dry rot is to use a good quality protective tire shine. The average American has their vehicle washed 13 times a year. This is the best time to apply a tire shine and most reputable car washes will include this as the final step to any standard wash.
If not, is it easy to apply this yourself with parts from your local home depot. Protecting your tires with a protective tire shine approximately once a month will be plenty to ensure your tires do not succumb to dry rot and prolong their life.
Correct Tire Pressures
It is important to ensure that your tires are inflated to the correct pressure as this will help to maximise the life of your tires and protect them from dry rot. Dry Rot is much more likely to occur in tires that are often underinflated. If unsure, most garages will have free air for you to check and fill up your tires if necessary.
Prolonged Harsh Weather
We mentioned earlier the effects that high temperatures and particularly direct exposure to sunlight can have to a tires lifespans. If you reside in a particularly hot or desert climate, the high levels of UV will likely affect your tire compound and dry out the surface of the tire, encouraging dry rot to occur.
To avoid dry rot occurring in your tire, try to park your vehicle in shade where possible and apply protective tire shine more frequently.
Dealing with Tire Dry Rot
If tire dry rot is caught early, it can be treated with proper maintenance and protective tire dressings. However this will not cure the issue and is a sign that you will need to look at changing your tires in the near future.
If you experience dry rot, it is likely that your tires are also more than a few years old and may be at the point where they would need changing anyway in line with your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
Check the age of your tire from the markings on each sidewall, the overall condition of the tire tread and the compound to determine if you need new tires.
If you however notice the symptoms of dry rot as above including deep cracks and a brittle or dry surface, we would recommend having the tire changed immediately.
Can you drive on Dry Rot Tires
For mild dry rot tires, it is safe to drive on until you find a shop where you are able to have an expert’s opinion on your specific vehicle. If you are unsure, we would recommend changing the offending tire with your spare tire as the potential risks of driving on a dangerous tire make it not a risk worth taking.
Tires and vehicles are large purchases for everyone. We always believe in safety first and any sign of damage or dry rot tire should be taken seriously. As always, we recommend taking your vehicle to the shop for an expert’s opinion if you are unsure.
Following the steps above to prolong the life and performance of your tires will leave you with peace of mind knowing that you and your passengers are safe.
We hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative. If you have any questions then please leave a comment below or get in touch via email or through social media and we will read and respond to every comment, email or question. Thanks for reading!