Should Cracked Tires Be Replaced? (Explained)

Should cracked tires be replaced? The short answer is maybe.

We previously looked into whether cracks and dry rot is normal, and now we’ll dive into when it’s time to replace your tires due to dry rot.

You might be able to drive your car for a little while with cracked tires, but it depends on how bad the damage is.

Here’s what you need to know. Let’s start with a short answer:

Here’s Whether Cracked Tires Should Be Replaced

Cracked tires don’t need to be replaced unless the cracks are deep and severe. Most cracks are tiny and don’t require any attention. Check whether they look like thin lines or bigger open cracks. Get new tires every 5 years so your tires don’t crack too much from dry rotting.

tire crack (dry rotting)

Can You Drive With Tires That Have Cracks?

Yes, you can drive your vehicle if your tires have cracks, but only if they’re small and on the surface.

All tires show wear and tear when they start to age. Their compounds degrade naturally, and they begin to dry rot. Even new tires can get harmless surface cracks on them.

Don’t panic if you notice a thin hairline crack on your tire.

It’s probably a superficial flaw from the normal wear and tear of driving. It can also be an issue called weather checking, which doesn’t make the tires unsafe. But you can take your car to an auto repair shop and have someone else look at your wheels to be sure.

When Are Tire Cracks Getting Too Big?

There is no specific measurement that rules whether a crack is too big. The danger level depends on the crack’s location and depth. Superficial cracks look more like scratches and don’t appear to have any substance. They might be long or short, but they won’t be deep.

Severe cracks look like deep cuts.

You’d think someone had taken a knife to your tires if you didn’t know any better. You can tell from their depth that the tire is falling apart from the inside, and driving a car with such deep slits is a safety gamble.

Tire cracks can appear on the sidewall, tread, or between the tread. Not all tread slits are dangerous, but they need careful inspection. Slim sidewall cracks aren’t such a big deal, but deep ones need your attention.

You should stay on safety’s side and replace tires that are more than five years old.

Their components could be worn, even if they look “good.” Cracked tires will worsen as you continue to drive and expose them to pressure and friction. Before you know it, you’ll see a small crack develop into something that can cause you problems when you drive.

How Soon Do Tires Get Visible Cracks?

Your tires are made to last for five to seven years, but severe cracking can occur long before. They can develop superficial cracks at any time, and even a newly purchased tire could have some if it’s more than a few years old.

That’s why it’s wise to check the DOT information on any set of tires you buy. DOT stands for Department of Transportation, and every manufactured tire has a number on it.

You can find the DOT identification number on the outside of the tires in the inside circle.

The last four digits of that number will tell you the date and month in which the manufacturer made the tires. You can conclude how old your tires are using that information.

You shouldn’t see any severe cracking for two or three years unless you put high miles on the vehicle and don’t clean your tires regularly.

Using the wrong cleaning solutions can cause your tire’s components to degrade faster. Harsh mixtures can make their protective elements wear down and expose them to harmful UV rays and ozone.

The weather can also cause the rubber and components to break down prematurely.

Drivers who live in hot climates are the most likely to see visible cracks after the first year. Likewise, severely cold weather tends to crack certain performance tires.

In some cases, cracks can develop because of a manufacturer defect. The company might use low-grade materials to save money, and the tires lose quality as a result. Be leery of buying cheap tires, and check the dates before you have any products mounted on your vehicle.

Can Cracked Tires Pass Inspection Tests?

Whether cracked tires can pass an inspection test depends on your state. Some states don’t check for tire cracks at all. Other locations focus on the tread depth and pay less attention to cracks.

Inspectors in those states will fail you for low tread, and they might not pass you if they see bubbles or wires on the sidewall. Checking for cracks might be optional for each site. But a thorough inspector will look out for you anyway and tell you about them.

The crack’s size and depth will determine whether an inspector fails your car in a state that checks wheels.

The most dangerous crack is one that appears on the sidewall because your tire can collapse at any time. A trustworthy inspector will not pass you if your tires make your car unsafe to operate.

Can Cracked Tires Be Repaired?

You can have someone repair your cracked tires if they haven’t yet reached the point of no return. Manufacturers sell sealants and protectants to coat the tires and stop cracking from worsening. No additive or solution can reverse the damage to your tires, though.

Once your cracks reach a certain depth, no one can fix them.

Applying a sealant and protectant is something you can do if you have the time and can’t afford to invest in new tires. Do not use Fix-A-Flat to seal a cracked tire. It won’t work, but it will cause a big mess you won’t be able to clean up.

Sealants go inside the tires. To apply one to a tire, you’ll have to remove the valve cap—the black top that unscrews—as if you are going to fill your tires with air.

You’ll then need to attach the nozzle from the sealant bottle to your valve stem. Read the instructions and then squeeze or spray the solution. Refill the air that seeps out, and drive the car around the block when you’re done.

You can make this repair more effective by using a protectant, too. Protectants are sprays or waxes with special chemicals that revitalize the rubber, and they go on the outside of your tires.

Applying a protectant to a cracked tire takes much longer than installing a sealant because you have to clean the tires before you use it. The most thorough way to clean your tires is to lift your car with a jack and remove them. That way, you can scrub, rinse, and dry them and then apply the protectant.

These crack repairs are only temporary, and you should start shopping for new tires when you get a chance.

How Long Do Cracked Tires Typically Last?

The normal lifespan of a tire is five to seven years, but a severely cracked tire won’t make it that long. But there is no clear-cut way to tell how long a cracked tire will last.

A cracked tire’s lifespan depends on the crack’s location and severity. It also depends on how well you take care of the tire after you notice the damage.

If you catch a crack in its early stages, you can take action to stop it from getting more significant. It’s too late once the cracks expand to the sidewall or the tread cracks.

You can extend your tire’s life by checking them at least once a week and using special additives to seal them. Another tip for keeping large cracks away is to store your vehicle in a garage. That habit will prevent UV rays and weather from destroying the sensitive components.

Now you know what to do if your tires crack. Rule number one is to be safe and replace them as soon as you can.

Sources:

Cracked Tires: When They’re Unsafe

Rubber Cracking

How To Tell if Your Tires Are Dry Rotted and Need Replacement

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