Why Do Tires Dry Rot and How To Fix It


Are your tires dry rotting? Dry rotting is very common and happens more times than we would like to. Many friends ask me how to prevent or fix dry rot.

The simple answer is: you don’t need to worry about dry rot if you change your tires frequently. However, changing the tires frequently is not an option for everyone. There are some ways that you can prevent dry rot or even fix dry rot if you catch it in the early stages.

In this article, I will be sharing the technique that I use to fix tires with dry rot in the early stages and how to prevent dry rot.

What Is Dry Rot On Tires

Why Do Tires Dry Rot and How To Fix It

Dry rot also referred to a sidewall cracking is the aging of a tire. It leads to hairline cracks along the sidewalls and inside the tread of the tire. In a worst-case scenario, a little small crack can open up in your tire and cause your tire to blow out. Sidewall cracks in the tire can also cause the tire just to simply rip open.

When the moisture in the tires gets dry, the surface of the tire both on the thread side and the sidewall begins to dry rot, making the tire unsafe for driving.

Tires are made of connected strands called polymers and these polymers need to stay strong and healthy to work correctly. The polymer bonds begin to break due to ozone oxygen, sunlight, tire age, and corrosive chemicals. When the polymer bonds begin to break, the surface of the tire becomes dry and starts to crack.

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lif... x
How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lifters?

Basically, dry rot weakens the structural integrity of the tire making it vulnerable. This is a great safety risk that needs to be taken seriously. If you notice that your tires have dry rot, you need to replace them with new ones.

How To Fix Tires With Dry Rot – Step By Step Guide

If you catch dry rot in the early stages it is possible to save your tires simply by restoring the moisture. I have used this technique many times and I am very satisfied with the results.

However, you should only fix tires that have a decent thread depth. If the tires are too old and have no thread depth, please replace them with new ones. Here is how to fix tires with dry rot:

1. Tools and materials required

  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Bucket with water
  • Sponge
  • 10oz engine oil (around half-liter)
  • Brush

Before working on a vehicle, make sure that you always use gloves and safety goggles. Even if you are working on something as simple as changing a tire. I made it a habit to put a pair of gloves on and safety goggles and that habit has saved me from a lot of unpleasant moments.

2. Wash the tires with water only

Wash the tires with water and a sponge to remove any dust, debris, and contaminants that can be found on a tire. If there is any old dirt on it, you can grab a brush and clean the tire. After washing, let the tire dry out completely before moving on to the next step.

3. Rub the engine oil on the tire

Apply the engine oil on the tires with dry rot. Make sure to rub it in the cracks on both the sidewall and the thread side. You can use either burnt engine oil or new oil.

The engine oil will moisturize the rubber and will bring back the elasticity. The cracks and dry rot appear once the tire dries out and becomes hard. Applying engine oil will close up the cracks on the tire.

4. Let the tires dry for 24 hours

After rubbing the engine oil on the tires with dry rot, let them soak in the engine oil for 24 hours. During the drying period, make sure that the vehicle is not parked in direct sunlight because the engine oil will just evaporate instead of getting soaked in the tire.

5. Apply more engine oil (OPTIONAL)

Depending on how bad the dry rotting is on your tires, you might need to apply more engine oil. I always leave the tires to soak in the engine oil for 24 hours and then I inspect them to see if more engine oil is needed. Just in case you have more cracks on your tires, you can apply the engine oil again and leave it to dry for another 24 hours.

How To Prevent Tire Dry Rot

In order to prevent tire dry rot, you need to drive frequently and never let your tires sit unused. Regular use will ensure that the wax protectant is constantly moving to the surface of the tire where it is needed to protect against ozone damage.

If you want to prevent your tires from dry rotting, always keep your tires inflated properly. Proper inflation keeps your tires in the correct shape. If your tires are underinflated, the sidewalls of the tire will collapse and all the weight of your vehicle will be sitting on that bulge causing it to crack.

Also, make sure that you avoid using any chemicals when cleaning your tires. Basically, if your tire comes in contact with anything besides the ground, you need to rinse it off. This goes for soap too. The chemicals will eat away the rubber over time and will cause it to crack.

How To Inspect Tires For Dry Rot

In order to properly diagnose that your tires are dry rotting, you need to inspect them. Here is how to inspect tires for dry rot:

1. Wash the tires with water only

Grab a bucket of water and a sponge and wash the tires. Make sure that you remove any debris and other contaminants that can be found on the tire.

2. Let the tires dry

After you thoroughly washed the tires, let them dry out for a couple of hours. We need the tires to be dry because if they are wet, the dry rot won’t be 100% visible.

3. Check the sidewall of the tires

Once the tires are dry, check the sidewall first for dry rot. Look for any cracks, both deep and surface cracks. You can’t be too careful when it comes to dry rot. This is because dry rot affects the structural integrity of the tires and can cause a tire to blow out at any time.

4. Check between the tire’s thread

Dry rot can also be found in between the tire’s thread. This is a commonly overlooked place because many people think that dry rot is only found on the sidewall.

It’s a little bit tricky to determine dry rot on this part of the tire because the external tire thread gets in contact with the road surface and has a lot of chips and cracks from the road itself.

A dry roast in between the tire thread will look like a really dry rubber that has cracks on it.

5. Assess the damage done from dry rot

Many tires that have been affected by dry rot won’t be safe for driving anymore. These tires are probably older than 7 years and have been severely affected by dry rot on both the sidewall and the thread side of the tires.

However, if you have tires not older than five years and have good thread depth can still be saved, if you catch the dry rot in the early stages.

Is It Safe To Drive on Tires With Dry Rot?

It is not safe to drive on tires with dry rot because the dry rot affects the structure of the tire itself and makes it weaker. When the tire gets older and starts to dry rot, it becomes less of material to grip the road and more of a material that just turns into a harder plastic with less grip on the road.

A tire with dry rot is more prone to hydroplaning, especially in the winter months when your tires need to be in the best shape to get a grip onto the road.

Tires that have good thread dept but are showing signs of dry rotting are not safe for driving. It is bad if your tires are cracking. Many people think that a tire is good for driving as long as it has good thread depth. This is wrong because dry rotting can occur even on tires that don’t have a lot of miles on them.

So, the tires can both have a decent thread, but also dry rot on them. There is really not a tool that can check which tire with dry rot is safe for driving. So, since safety is in question, it is best if you just change the tires that have dry rot on them.

How Long Does it Take For Tires To Dry Rot?

In general, tires lose their flexibility after three to five years and after that period they are not 100% safe for driving. Sometimes dry rot appears after a couple of years. Factors like direct sunlight, ozone, chemicals, and driving with underinflated tires can speed up the dry rotting process.

Basically, if you take care of your tires, it might take seven to ten years before you see dry rot. The tires on my SUV are exactly seven years old and without any signs of dry rotting. I always make sure that my tires are properly inflated. Also, when I am washing my car, I do not use any chemicals on the tires and make sure to rinse off any soap from the tires.

It’s little things that you need to pay attention to if you want your tires to last longer. But, if you notice that your tires are starting to dry rot, make sure to replace them as soon as possible. Once the tires start to dry rot, they are not 100% safe for driving.

Can Tires Dry Rot in 5 Years?

Can tires dry rot in 5 years? Yes, tires can dry rot in 5 years. If the tires are exposed to direct sunlight, underinflated, and have been in contact with chemicals can dry rot even sooner than 5 years, whether you are using them or not.

If you want to keep your tires safe from dry rotting, store them in a place where there is no direct sunlight. Also, make sure that the tires are not placed directly on the ground.

As far as keeping the tires on your vehicle safe from dry rotting, try to park the vehicle in shade as much as possible. Also, make sure that the tires are always properly inflated to prevent cracks from appearing.

Can tires dry rot after a year?

It is possible for tires to dry rot only after a year. It really depends on the quality of the tire, the weather conditions, and how well the tire is taken care of. If your tires are always underinflated, you park the car in direct sunlight, and the tires get in contact with chemicals, they can dry rot in a year.

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