When a tire is affected by dry rot, the rubber will start to crack and flake. These cracks often spread in a pattern that looks like the scales of an alligator, which is why it’s called alligator rot. When tires get enough sunlight and heat over time, they can develop these cracks and eventually the tire will become too damaged to be safe to drive on.
The best way to avoid dry rot is by having your tires inspected every 6 months or at least once a year when you have them rotated. If you live in an area with less extreme weather, rotating your tires every other oil change should also help to keep them from getting dry rot. It’s also important to pay attention for signs of dry rot yourself so that it doesn’t catch you off guard!
The Cause – Not Oxygen, But Heat
You might think tire dry rot is caused by the oxygen in the air or even by sunlight. But, actually, the culprit is heat. Tires can get heat-damaged when they are exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time. The sun’s UV rays, whether shining directly on the tires or not, cause tires to break down over time. When this happens, rubber will crack and fade and become hard and brittle.
Why it’s Called Dry Rot
- Why Is It Called Dry Rot?
The term “dry rot” is actually a bit of a misnomer. To get dry rot, your car tires don’t need to be wet. In fact, you can get it if you drive your car for too long in the blazing hot sun (and sometimes even in just regular hot weather). The heat from the sun and the friction from use cause damage to the tire, which leads to cracks—and cracks are where dry rot starts. It doesn’t matter whether the tires are on or off your vehicle, as long as they are exposed to sunlight and oxygen.
- Tire Sidewall Damage
As previously noted, dry rot affects the sidewall of your tires, so these parts of your tires need extra protection when stored outdoors or anywhere that gets lots of sunlight. If you have no choice but to leave them outside, protect them with a tarp or other cover that will block out light and air flow. Also check their condition regularly and replace them whenever you see signs of damage (even minor ones).
Symptoms of Dry Rot
The first and most obvious sign of dry rot is cracks in the rubber. As tires age, they will begin to crack more and more, and if you start seeing cracks going all the way around the tire, you should definitely replace them soon.
Another sign of dry rot you can check for is dryness. You can check your tires visually by taking off a wheel cover or looking on the wheel itself to see if it’s dry or not. This might prove difficult on some cars because there may not be a good place for inspection.
Softness is another sign of dry rot in your tires that you can check for, simply by pressing into your tire with your thumb or something similar to see if it gives when pressure is applied. If your tire gives noticeably when pressure is applied, you might have a problem with dry rot forming in your tires.
Finally, discoloration and whiteness are other signs of deteriorating quality in tires that could be attributed to dry rot forming in them as well. If this happens, I recommend replacing the affected tire immediately so that no further damage can occur to yourself or others while driving around on bad tires!
Solutions to Dry Rot
- Replace your tires. If you have dry rot, it is time to replace your tire with a new one from your local tire dealer.
- Check tires regularly. The best way to prevent dry rot is to check tires regularly and take steps to prevent dry rot from occurring in the first place.
- Rotate the tires. Tire rotation helps even out the wear on a vehicle’s tires and extends the life of each tire, both for preventing and for treating dry rot. Tires should be rotated every 5,000-8,000 miles depending on the type of car you drive and how many times you use it per week.
- Maintain proper inflation pressure. Properly inflated tires are less prone to developing dry rot because they don’t flex as much when being driven on abrasive surfaces like rock or concrete at high speeds.* Avoid driving on underinflated or overinflated tires if possible; avoid rough roads; and avoid driving at high speeds through debris fields like construction sites.* Use a tire sealant product. Tire sealants can help treat some minor cases of minor dry rot by sealing up any small cracks that might develop before they get worse. Make sure the sealant you choose doesn’t cause damage to your wheels or other parts of your vehicle.* Use a tire shine product.* Use a tire dressing after washing your car with soap and water; then apply an aerosol-type dressing such as Armor All Ultra Shine Tire Foam Spray (available at most auto parts stores) which contains penetrating oils that help protect against UV rays while leaving behind no oily residue.* Apply tire protection solution (TPR)
Make sure you have a spare tire and know how to change a tire, just in case.
While it’s a good idea to carry a spare tire and know how to change one, in case of emergency, you should also make sure that your spare is in good condition. Most manufacturers recommend that you replace your spare tire after six years.
After six years, the rubber on the tire may be severely compromised. As rubber ages, it becomes more brittle and prone to cracking or shattering if impacted or bent significantly. It will also become less effective at sealing air inside of it as well as absorbing shocks from the road. All of these things can lead to a dangerous failure in the event of an emergency.