Is It Normal for Tires to Dry Rot? (Explained)

Learning to care for your tires is of the utmost importance.

Dry rot is a common issue for tires that are exposed to harsh weather or even very warm sun. We’ll dive into why and when it happens.

Is it normal for tires to dry rot?

All tires will eventually dry rot but they shouldn’t do so within the 6-8 years tires normally last. Dry rot will occur faster if you continuously expose your tires to harsh conditions such as sun, rain, and snow.

tire crack (dry rotting)

Do All Tires Dry Rot?

All tires will dry rot at some point. It’s simply a matter of how quickly it happens based on such things as time and the amount of exposure the tires are given to harsh conditions.

Tires are only good for approximately 6 to 10 years, regardless of miles.

After tires have reached a certain age, it doesn’t matter what the treadwear looks like.

The tires will be old. They will have experienced at least some level of dry rot, reducing the integrity of the tire.

Dry rot will happen faster when the tires are exposed to the following over long periods of time:

  • Sun
  • Harsh weather
  • Corrosive materials

Even if you do everything right, complete with preventative maintenance, tires will dry rot. The chemical components of the tire break down. In arid conditions, this can take as little as five years.

It’s why many people in hot, desert towns will go through tires more frequently.

Preventative maintenance is key. Keep your tires properly inflated.

Park your car out of direct heat. And, especially in dry, hot areas, use a tire foam protectant on the tires monthly.

What Happens if Dry Rot is Left Untreated?

There is no way to fix dry rot once it has started to take place. The only thing that you can do is treat the tire so that you can slow the process.

When dry rot starts to occur, you will want to acknowledge it. You may be able to keep the tire functional by repairing the cracks.

If you identify dry rot early on, you can follow a simple process:

  1. Clean the tire
  2. Wipe the tire with a water-based degreaser
  3. Let the tire dry
  4. Apply a water-based tire protection solution
  5. Reapply monthly until you replace the tire

If you don’t treat dry rot, the tire will continue to deteriorate.

The rubber dries out, creating a brittle surface. You’ll start to see cracks and breakage.

When the tire becomes brittle, it may be impossible for the tire to stay inflated. You may experience a small leak at first. If you don’t replace the tire after a hole or leak has been discovered, the next issue could be a blowout.

Remember:
Rubber can expand when you’re driving on the road. With dry rot, the rubber may expand more inconsistently, leading to the tire literally breaking apart on the road.

As soon as the cracks start to deepen, it’s best to get rid of the tire. Even treated, tires with dry rot are not very safe to drive on.

Do Tires Dry Rot on the Inside as Well?

Tires will dry rot on the inside just as well as on the outside. The early phases of dry rot are not always seen.

Especially if you live in an arid condition, it’s important to get your tires inspected annually. This way, you can find out if there is any dry rot taking place.

Even if you don’t suspect dry rot, tire inspections are invaluable.

A professional will be able to tell you about:

  • Inflation pressure
  • Worn spots
  • Tread wear
  • Sidewall cracks
  • Cuts and snags

Dry rot on the inside is often where the issue begins.

Once it becomes visible on the outside is when you need to look at replacing the tire.

What are the First Signs of Dry Rot?

Dry rot can manifest in a number of ways.

It’s important to know about the different signs so that you can understand the condition of your tires.

Less Handling

You may not notice anything about the tire, especially if you aren’t physically inspecting it close enough. Instead, you may notice the way that the vehicle handles.

It may start with the steering wheel feeling a little wobbly, especially at speeds less than 30 miles per hour.

The entire vehicle may even wobble, regardless of speed.

If you notice handling issues, it is best to bring the car in for an inspection. This way, a mechanic will be able to check out the steering system as well as all four tires.

Brittleness Start to Show

The rubber in your tires will start to dry out.

All of the essential oils that create elasticity leech out over time.

You can rub your finger along the tires to feel how dried out they feel.

There will be a brittle feeling. If you rub your nail across the tires, small pieces may even break away.

Cracks in the Tread

We have another article here about when you have tire cracks enough to replace your tires.

Advanced signs of dry rot include seeing cracks throughout the tire tread. Unfortunately, this is when most people actually realize that rot is taking place.

In some instances, the cracking will be at the base of the tread. It may look like webbing or even wrinkles in the rubber.

The cracks will spread over time. Even if the tread is still in good condition, the cracks will deepen, impacting the way your car handles.

Cracks on the Sidewall

Small cracks may appear on the sidewall of your tire. These may be isolated to a few areas or extend toward the hubcap.

Either way, the cracks will deepen over time.

If you catch them early enough, you can try to use a rubber sealant. It can help to buy you a few months on the tires.

Faded Color

Tires are supposed to be a rich black color. When you find that they start to look gray, it means that they have started to develop dry rot.

If you’re not sure if the tires have faded to gray or if they’re dirty, wash the tires with a good tire wash.

Rinse and let them dry. If the color is gray instead of black, tire rot has set in.

Do Tires Dry Rot When Parked in a Garage?

Tires will dry rot anywhere, and parking in a garage is no different.

There are some instances when tires will be more prone to dry rot.

While parking in a garage adds some level of protection, it’s important to understand that it is not the only line of protection.

Avoid Prolonged Periods of Inactivity

If you’re parking your car in a garage, it’s likely because you don’t use the vehicle that often. Dry rot is common in classic cars. They’re not being driven very often.

When a car is parked for extended periods of time, the tires begin to age. They dry out.

Tires are actually engineered to be used regularly.

If the resins in the tire compound aren’t engaged through motion, the rubber starts to dry out – and that’s when dry rot sets in.

One of the best things that you can do is to take your car out for a spin every few days. Let the resin compound activate to naturally protect the rubber on your tires.

If your car will be kept in the garage without any activity for three months or more, remove the tires. Store the tires in airtight bags so that they are not exposed to the elements.

Then, when you’re ready to drive again, reinstall them.

Pay Attention to the Temperatures

Many people assume that their vehicles are protected if they’re parked inside of a garage.

One of the reasons for dry rot is because of extreme temperatures – either hot or cold.

Pay close attention to the temperature inside of your garage. If the temperature is rising above 100° on a regular basis, you may actually be speeding up the dry rot process.

In the winter, cold temperatures can also cause damage to your tires.

Especially if the temperatures are reaching below 30° Fahrenheit, the dry rot could occur within months.

If you plan on using your garage as a way to protect against dry rot, try to keep the temperature between 60 and 80° Fahrenheit.

This can be done with space heaters, evaporative coolers, and more.

Avoid Chemical Spills

Inside garages, virtually anything can happen. If you spill certain liquids, it can have a negative impact on your tires.

In some instances, it can speed up the dry rot process.

Chemicals to be careful of:

  • Motor oil
  • Pool treatment chemicals
  • Industrial cleaning solutions

Any chemical that is abrasive or corrosive should be cleaned up as quickly as possible.

Is Dry Rotting in Tires Dangerous?

Dry rot in tires is extremely dangerous. If you don’t know that your tires have dry rot, you run the risk of the tires deteriorating quickly when you’re driving down the road.

All it takes is one change in pressure for the tire to experience a blowout. You may lose control of the car and get into an accident.

Particularly at advanced stages of dry rot, it is not safe for you to drive on the tires.

While you may not want to invest in new tires, dry rot is not something that you can repair. It’s better to make the investment and know that your tires are in good condition.

If a front tire has dry rot, you’ll feel the steering wheel wobble at low speeds.

If a back tire has dry rot, the wobble may be felt throughout the entire vehicle.

Is Dry Rot Covered Under Warranty from the Manufacturer?

Tire warranties can vary dramatically. Regardless of the manufacturer, most warranties will expire after five or six years.

Dry rot is most common on older tires and on vehicles that don’t get driven very often.

Unless your tire has been exposed to a number of harsh conditions, you won’t see dry rot for 8 to 10 years – and tires should be discarded after that length of time anyway.

You’ll likely experience tread wear before dry rot if you are driving your vehicle frequently.

The only time dry rot may be covered by any warranty is one that is issued from the dealership on a used car. You would have to prove that there were signs of dry rot on the tires before you bought them.

This would be highly unusual since most dealerships conduct a full inspection – including a tire inspection.

Final Thoughts

Dry rot is a natural phase for tires. It will happen because the rubber will start to break down.

Rubber breaks down naturally on all products – even shoes.

You typically won’t experience dry rot on your tires if you drive your vehicle regularly. You’ll replace your tires due to low tire tread before you’d ever have to worry about dry rot. 

Sources

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