dry rot on a tire

Tire Dry Rot: Causes and How to Prevent/Fight it

What is tire dry rot?

You may have already heard of structural dry rot. Wood is particularly prone to the cause of the kind of dry rot that can affect your home – a specific kind of fungi that breaks down the structure of many different kinds of lumber.

But maybe you’re already familiar with tire dry rot from old rubber hoses, bicycle, or wheelbarrow tires that are cracked and brittle. Depending on how old they are or the kind of climate they’ve been exposed to, they can even crumble and fall apart in your hands.

On a much larger scale, the same can happen to the tires on your car or truck. Depending on the severity, this can cause catastrophic tire failure even from the moment you back out of the driveway. While this situation would be more common in a vehicle that hasn’t been moved in years, it can also apply to tires that have been improperly stored.

How to tell if dry rot has affected your tires

Wondering how to tell whether your tires have dry rotted? Regular tire inspections cam determine whether there are hairline cracks or pliable chunks of rubber coming off of your tire’s sidewall, dry rot in tires can vary in severity.

Another useful frame of reference is to check the manufacture week and year of the tire itself. Knowing exactly how old your tires are can help guide your next purchase if you’ve been happy with the amount of treadwear or performance, and can also help in collecting on any warranties if the tires experience dry rot within an amount of time usually predetermined by the manufacturer.

Can I drive on a tire with dry rot?

It’s less a matter of whether you can drive on a dry-rotted tire and whether you should. Modern rubber compounds have become far more advanced to the point where tire sidewalls are far more resistant to tire dry rot, but there also is no way to reverse or fix tire dry rot.

Once tire dry rot sets in, it will only get worse.

Because of the possibility of tire failure, if you notice the beginnings of tire dry rot we recommend that you bring your vehicle in for a tire condition inspection. Our technicians will be able to diagnose the severity of your tire’s dry rot, and can help review some options from there.

Countless tires that are cracking because of dry rot are used every day, but there are also countless blowouts and tire failures that strand and inconvenience thousands of Americans every year, outside of the accidents they can cause.

According to a 2012 NHTSA study, 9 percent (189,917) of 2,188,970 crashes were “tire-related”.

In fact, dry rot can cause tire failure in multiple ways, including:

  • Tread separation while driving
  • Leaking air
  • Low tire pressure
  • Blowouts

How long does it take a tire to dry rot?

Again, it all depends on how old the tires are, as well as where and how they have been stored. In arid climates, tire dry rot can set in after as little as five years, while more humid environments aren’t as conducive to the splintering and cracking tire dry rot causes.

In order to mitigate dry rot in tires, try to park so that your tires aren’t in direct sunlight if you have to keep your vehicle outside. Practicing routine tire maintenance will prolong tread life in any situation, and can help ward off tire dry rot at the same time.

Rotations, rebalancing, air pressure and use (yes, driving actually helps prevent tire dry rot by effectively stretching the rubber in the tire as it rotates) all can help prolong the life of your tires on multiple levels.

The long and short of it is that if your tires are beginning to dry rot, they’re probably old enough that they need to be replaced regardless of the severity of the cracking and splintering that dry rot causes in tires.

If you want to learn more about when to replace tires or want some advice on what your next selection of tires should be, find your nearest location or browse more helpful and in-depth tire-related topics under our “Tips & Guides” section of our site.

Tire dry rot isn’t always preventable, and it certainly isn’t a fun topic – but here at America's Tire it’s something we can help prevent from damaging your tires no matter what it is you drive.


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