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How to Keep Tires from Dry Rotting


Your entire family’s safety rides on your car’s wheels, so it’s critical to keep them in good shape. Regular maintenance includes everything from regular rotations to pressure checks (especially when the seasons change) to checking the depth of the treads.

It’s a good idea to have a tire professional take a look at these things periodically, but you can also perform these checks yourself to track and maintain your tire condition.

One thing to watch for in particular is dry rotting of the tires. Dry rotting is often a symptom of inactivity of the vehicle but can also be attributed to a number of improper tire care practices.

Dry rotting (also known as sidewall cracking) can occur when the rubber compounds within the tire break down over time. It is typically visible to the naked eye, and comprises hundreds or thousands of tiny cracks that show the deterioration of the tire. These can typically mean your tires are too far gone to be saved, so it’s best to avoid altogether.

Read on for more tips about how you can stop dry rotting in its tracks.

person inflating car tire
Keep tires properly inflated

Keep Tires Properly Inflated

Driving with underinflated tires can cause quite a bit of damage to your tires in short order. First of all, it can adversely affect your gas mileage, which is a place where all of us want to save money.

Second, underinflated tires mean increased stress and wear on the treads of the tire. This means that more heat is generated as the tire makes more contact with the road thanks to friction. As a result of this excessive heat the tires will start to crack and break apart as described above.

Fortunately, the solution to this is quite simple. Your tire pressure should be checked monthly; a task you can accomplish with a pressure gauge. If you have a tough time remembering regular checkups like this, consider setting monthly reminders on your phone so you remember to perform your pressure checks. Depending on your vehicle, you might also have dashboard alerts for when tire pressure dips below desired temperatures.

cars parked
Cars parked out of direct sunlight

Try to Limit Extended Parking

Leaving your car parked and inactive in one place for too long can be hard on your tires and quickly lead to dry rot. Whether your car is a vintage classic that you keep in the garage for months at a time or one you’ve bought for someone who will soon have a license, there are steps you can take to prevent dry rot.

First, direct sunlight can take a terrible toll on rubber. UV rays can batter the rubber and cause premature sidewall breakdown (especially if you live in a warmer climate). If you know that your car is going to be sitting in one place for a while, consider investing in tire covers to keep the sun’s rays at bay. Alternatively, try and get your car into a garage or carport. If you only have one garage space it could be a good idea to leave the inactive car there. This can help you avoid having to buy new tires when it’s finally ready to hit the road again!

Next, inactivity can cause strain in the form of weight distribution. Try to have the car seated so that as much weight as possible is lifted off of the tires. Jack stands work well for this particular purpose. You also want to try and drive the car roughly every three months if you can – even this seemingly infrequent rotation will go a long way towards stopping dry rot.

car parked over an oil spill
Although car fluid leaks are most common, keep the tire path clear of any other spills

Avoid Harmful Chemicals

If you’re keeping your vehicle in a garage for a while, make sure that no harmful chemicals can make contact with them. Additionally, take care when using tire cleaners. Make sure you’re following manufacturer directions to the letter and be aware that any petroleum-based products should probably be avoided. They can chip away at the built-in anti-weathering defenses that the tire’s rubber has and lead to premature breakdown and dry rot.

Taking care of your tires is typically just a matter of regular maintenance and good habits. Dry rotting usually means that a tire will need to be replaced altogether, so it should be avoided at all cost. Avoid this problem by keeping your tires out of sunlight and regularly driving all of your vehicles.

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