What Is Tire Dry Rot? (Signs, Prevention, Fix, Safety)

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Updated December 2, 2022

Are your tires dry rotting? In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • Signs that your tires have dry rot
  • How to prevent getting dry rot in tires, and;
  • How to fix tires that have dry rot

Let’s learn more about these below.

What Is Tire Dry Rot (Sign, Prevention, Fix, Safety)

Table of Contents

Welcome to my article about dry rot in tires. Dry rot is something that happens to tires over time and if it goes untreated, you could pay for it in the long run.

Because it’s gradual, it’s normal for drivers not to notice dry rot for many years.

What Is Tire Dry Rot?

Tire dry rot, also known as sidewall weathering, is a crack that’s visible in the tread of a car tire or in the sidewall. When a tire’s rubber compound starts to break down that’s when you can usually notice any cracks.

Tire dry rot is decay that happens to tires as they age, or when they’re constantly in harsh environments.

The good news is that if you notice dry rot quickly after it develops, you should be okay to repair it. Normally you’d have to take your car to a mechanic who’ll use a tire sealant to repair the cracks.

However, if you notice it years down the line then you’ll have no choice but to replace the tire as the car will be unsafe to drive with damaged tires.

The reason you can’t really drive with dry rot is because the air in the tire escapes, which means the tire deflates. I mean, you can’t really drive with flat tires, am I right?!

In addition to deflating your tire, dry rot can actually expand the rubber if you drive that could lead to the tire blowing out.

Do you want to be that guy whose tire blows out on him? Exactly.

Don’t do it, kids.

Read Also: How to make tires last longer? (Tips and Tricks)

How Long Does It Take For Tires To Dry Rot?

Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those “one size fits all” situations. Don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but driving in Alaska is wildly different to downtown LA. Moral of the story: the time it takes for dry rot to manifest depends on many things, not least the conditions and environment of where you’re driving.

Having said that, as a general rule, it can take two years for your tires to dry rot. So, instead of channeling your inner Need For Speed, think twice before you start doing doughnuts in your local parking lot because replacing tires is not cheap!

But if you’re sensible, and let’s face it if you’re reading this you’ve done something to cause your tires to burst, so you’re probably the furthest thing from it. Anyway, on the off-chance that you actually are sensible with your driving then you can expect your standard run-of-the-mill tires to last for a minimum of six years and a maximum of ten.

Make no mistake, dry rot is sneaky, it’s a gradual thing that develops over time but at a certain point it will start to spiral, so be careful.

How Long Does It Take For Tires To Dry Rot

After 6 Months Dry Rot Tires

Initially when your tires have dry rot, the cracks you see at later stages are not as visible, instead, you’ll notice how your vehicle handles. You’ll start to realize that you’ll have less control handling the car and it may even feel a little erratic. 

You may mistake this for more mechanical problems with your car or truck, but a close inspection of your tires will reveal microfractures in the tires.

After 1 Year Dry Rot Tires

So, by the time another six month has passed, as well as a wobbly driving feel, your tires will start to show signs of brittleness. This is when the dry rot actually starts to manifest. To check if your tires are brittle here’s a simple experiment you can run:

·   Run your finger along the tire tread so you can feel whether it’s brittle or not. You also want to feel how dry the tire is. Hopefully it’s not dry. If tiny pieces of your tire start to peel off, then that’ll be all the confirmation you need that your tire has dry rot. 

After 2 Year Dry Rot Tires

Interestingly enough, there’s not much difference between dry rot after one and two years. However, you will come to realize that with further inspections of your tires, they will be more brittle and more of the tire will peel off. Unlike a year with dry rot, after two years you’ll see the cracks in the tires become more and more prominent.

After 3 Year Dry Rot Tires

This is where things start to escalate. Because dry rot is something that happens over time, people only notice it when cracks start to appear. It’s not uncommon to have cracks at the base of the tread. If you do see these, it’s time to see a mechanic.

After 4 Year Dry Rot Tires

Now we’re really in the thick of it. After four years of neglect, cracks will reveal themselves in the sidewall of your tire. Isolated at first, but going unattended, it can reach the hub cap. And you don’t want that!

After 5 Year Dry Rot Tires

After five arduous years of dry rot, your car tires will resemble a marathon runner after 7 hours of drinking no water. In other words, the color of your tires will fade. Remember, your tires are supposed to be jet black, but if they’re faded then you’re more than likely to have dry rot in your tires. Try jet washing your tires and if they remain gray it’s likely a sign that dry rot’s set in.

How Do You Prevent Tires From Dry Rot?

Inspect Your Tires

Before you can your tires, you need to know what you’re fixing. So, the best way to identify any problematic tires is by examining them. You can do this by checking if your tire is faded. If it is, then it suggests your tires have been worn out, which increases the likelihood of dry rot. Try running your finger through the tread. If it peels, then this is usually a good indicator that your tire has dry rot.

Soap

You can also use a water-based solution (soap and water) on a cloth and gently apply it to the tread of the tire. Let it dry off and repeat this a few times; you can even remove the tire and let it rinse off before placing it back for the final time. Regular use of a water hose can help to keep your tires moist, which will decrease the chances of cracks appearing and widening. 

Store in a Dry Place

Keeping your tires exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time can cause dry rot. So, to reverse this, keep your car parked in a dry place, preferably with shade. If you have access to a garage then that would be ideal, but anywhere dry and out of the sun will do just fine. 

How Can You Tell If Your Tires Have Dry Rot

How Can You Tell If Your Tires Have Dry Rot?

If your car steering starts to wobble or you notice the color of the tires have faded then it’s likely that you’ll have dry rot. Run your finger over the tread to see if any of the tire peels off. If it does then it means you have an issue with dry rot that you’ll need to address.

If Your Tires Have Dry Rot, How Long Will They Last?

Tires are designed to be robust and last a long time even if you do have dry rot. But that doesn’t mean you should be complacent. Typically your tires will last anywhere between six and years, but with dry rot, you can expect your tires to last between one and three years on average, with a maximum lifespan of about five years.

Read Also: How much does tire balancing cost?

How Do You Fix Dry Rot In Tires?

If you’re lucky and you catch the dry rot early then you can use a tire sealant that’ll take care of any initial signs of dry rot. However, the more it develops the less chance you’ll have to repair them. If you have cracks then you’ll have no choice but to replace your tires, which is why regular inspections are so important. They can save you time and money in the long run!

Can You Drive on Tires With Dry Rot?

Technically, yes. But you absolutely shouldn’t. If you notice your tires have dry rot, and especially if it’s in an advanced stage, you should go to your nearest auto mechanic and have them replaced.

Should You Replace Dry Rot Tires?

The short answer here is yes. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why you should, but the most important one is because of safety. Once you have dry rot, it can escalate if it’s not managed appropriately. Instead of leaving tires with dry rot, replace them with new ones. 

You’ll not only have a safer set of wheels but you won’t lose any sleep over it. You’ll be able to rest easy knowing you’ve done the sensible thing. First time for everything, right?

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About The Author

Alexander Monteverde

Alexander Monteverde

A third generation tire salesman, Alexander Monteverde has been surrounded by tires his whole life. When he’s not looking up the specs of the latest tire models or writing his latest article, he can be found playing with his dog Gizmo or on long bike rides.

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