How Do Tires Get Dry Rot?

Between a busy work schedule and an active personal life, there may not be much time to inspect the less noticeable surfaces of your vehicle. This oftentimes includes the tires. The tires on our vehicle provide a barrier between us and the road. However, if they are not thoroughly inspected and maintained, dry rot will develop and render the tires useless. 

How do tires get dry rot? Below we will cover what dry rot is, the causes, and highlight how to prevent it.

Consider checking: How To Fix Dry Rotted Tires

Short Answer

Dry rot is caused by natural wear over time but is sped up by prolonged UV and heat exposure, inactivity, and improper care.  

What is Dry Rot?

Before we continue to answer the question, “How do tires get dry rot?” let’s understand what the term ‘dry rot’ means. 

When rubber vehicle tires deteriorate, the oils in the material wear down, creating excessive dryness. This dryness leads to cracks that form along the outer edges. This breakdown of the rubber will cause the tires to become brittle, discolored, and if left untreated, can become dangerous to drive with. 

Feel free to check out: How To Repair Tire

5 Main Causes of Tire Dry Rot 

Dry rot naturally occurs in a tire’s lifetime. The level of wear and exposure to the elements will vary depending on where you live and how frequently you drive your vehicle. These inconsistencies make it difficult to pinpoint exactly when it’s time for new tires. This also means tires can experience dry rot at any time. 

do tires dry rot

Below are the five main causes of tire rot and some tips on how to prevent it. 

1. Prolonged Sunlight Exposure 

Prolonged UV exposure can cause significant damage because the heat from the sun’s ultraviolet rays strips away the chemicals that protect the tire tread. This leads to the rubber oxidizing and drying out much sooner than intended. Learning how to protect your tires from sun exposure is one way to avoid dry rotting.

2. Freezing Temperatures 

Freezing temperatures can cause similar damage as extreme heat and sunlight. Colder weather includes snow or ice and will also wear down the wheels much quicker than average temperatures. For temperature maintenance, park your vehicle in a ventilated garage or in shaded areas to prevent it from being exposed to excess heat, sunlight, or cold.

how long can you drive on dry rotted tires

3. Exposure to Harsh Chemicals

Harsh chemicals can include fertilizers, insecticides, oils, and corrosive elements that strip resin from the rubber. Damage may not occur immediately, so it is important to periodically rinse the tires with soap and water. This prevents damaging chemicals from seeping into the rubber that may dry it out over time.

4. Low Tire Pressure

Low tire pressure can cause cracks to form in the sidewalls of the tire. These cracks allow air to seep out, not only causing a flat but also allowing more heat to settle into the tread. This will cause excessive dryness from inside the tire. 

Retaining optimal tire pressure is a basic element of maintenance, so check it once a month or when an alert appears on your vehicle’s dashboard to ensure all tires have the necessary amount of air. 

You might be interested in our guide: How To Fix Flat Spots On Tires

5. Prolonged Inactivity 

what is dry rot on tires

Prolonged inactivity speeds up the aging process because tires are designed to be in motion. When a vehicle is parked, the oils or resin coating on the surface of the rubber will dry out quicker.

Frequent shifts in outdoor temperatures will help facilitate the dry rot process. Storing the vehicle in a garage may slow it down but will not protect it from happening. This is the most preventable cause of dry rot, so make sure to still have the vehicle periodically driven. 

Consider reading of another guide: How Much Is It To Repair A Tire

Signs of Dry Rot 

Now that we’ve answered, “How do tires get dry rot?” let’s go over some major signs that your tires are beginning to dry rot. Here are the main ones to keep an eye out for:

  • Shaking or vibration of the wheels. This is abnormal while driving on a well-paved road at a normal speed and an indication of a faulty tire.
  • Worn tire tread. This appears as balding or smoothness of the surface. This can cause a breakdown or loss of control of the tires while driving.
  • Cracks, discoloration, or brittle texture. This can lead to a loss of traction while driving, resulting in slipping and losing control while steering the vehicle.

How to Prevent Dry Rot

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests checking your tire’s tread at least once a month when checking the air pressure. Routine maintenance is key to preventing dry rot from occurring. This means storing your vehicle somewhere safe from extreme temperatures, moving it periodically if you do not plan to drive regularly, and keeping it clean. 

Do not hesitate to see a professional if you believe your tires may be affected by dry rot. The causes are simple, but so is prevention. Safe driving! 

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