Dry Rot Tires: What Is This Problem & How To Prevent It


There are several defects that could compromise the integrity of your tires, and one of them is dry rot.

Dry rot on tires, also known as sidewall weathering or cracking refers to the visible cracking on the tire’s tread or its sidewall. It happens when there is a breakdown in the compound of the tire rubber.

This article will provide you with everything you should know about tire dry rot and how to prevent it. Read on to learn more!

 I.            What Does Dry Rot Look Like On Tires?

Unlike the smooth and crack-free appearance of a healthy tire, a dry rot tire is quite the opposite. It looks like cracked leather or, as some may say, has the appearance of an elephant’s skin.

Depending on the seriousness of the dry rot, the cracks on the sidewall or the tread of your tire may differ in size. Now that you know what dry rot looks like on tires, it will be of value to be familiar with the warning signs.

Here are some symptoms that indicate your tires have this problem:


  • Brittleness

Seeing as dry rot causes your tires to dry, over time, the tire will look and feel brittle. This is due to the fact that the essential oils have come out of your tires as a result of the dry rot. As time goes on, you will notice that small pieces of your tread will start to break away.

  • Cracks On Tire Tread/Sidewall

Advanced stages of tire dry rot will cause your tires to crack on their tread’s outer edges. Therefore, this affects your vehicle’s handling, regardless of whether your tire’s tread has enough depth or not. As for the sidewall crack, it can happen even at the early stages of tire dry rot. Also, some of these cracks may spread around parts of your hubcap.

  • Fading Color

If you notice that your tires are starting to look more grey than black, the chances are that dry rot is in its near future. Keep in mind that this fading can occur before or after the cracking starts.


II.            What Causes Dry Rot On Tires?

Several factors can cause this problem. Below we will discuss some causes of dry rot on tires:


  • Sun Exposure

Too much sunlight can lead to the cracking and blistering of your tire. Consequently, this will expose your tire’s internal layers, which causes the surface to decay. When your tires stay under direct sunlight for a long time, it is exposed to intense ultraviolet rays resulting in bubbles/blisters on your tire. Eventually, your tire’s surface will start to break/crack.

  • Weather Conditions

When your tires are overexposed to wet or dry conditions, it can affect your tires negatively. The majority of tire compounds are slightly porous. Therefore, if your tires are in wet conditions for too long, water can get into the tire through its exterior and corrode its steel cords with rust. As a result, this can lead to tire dry rot.

Strong winds can also cause dry rot on tires as they carry abrasive materials that can wear out and scour the tire’s surface leading to cracks. By implication, the tire’s internal components become vulnerable to damage from external elements.

  • Poor Tire Maintenance

Lack of proper maintenance is a major cause of several tire defects, including tire dry rot. We will discuss this further in the section “how to prevent dry rot on tires.”

  • Tire Age

Tires aren’t built to last forever, implying that with time, the quality of your tire will reduce. Also, if you park your vehicle in one spot for too long, the tires will begin to age and dry.

  • Improper Inflation (Under/Over Inflation)

Improper inflation will result in premature wear on your tires, making them weak and vulnerable to dry rot and several other tire defects. Under-inflation also exposes the inner layers of your tires, subjecting them to corrosion rust.

  III.            How Long Do Tires Last Before Dry Rot?

It heavily depends on the weather conditions/climate. Naturally, tires last longer in milder climates. It takes less than 5 years before dry rot happens in harsh weather conditions, while it takes roughly 8 years in more favorable conditions. Remember that the rubber compound of tires doesn’t last long in extreme dryness and heat.

  IV.            Is It Safe To Drive On Tires With Dry Rot?

No, it isn’t, and here’s why. If your tire has dry rot problems, it means that its quality has been severely compromised. Having cracks on a tire isn’t something you should take lightly, implying that you should replace the tire. Also, a tire with dry rot will prove difficult or impossible to inflate because it allows air to escape through the cracks.

But that’s not all. This tire issue can also make the tire rubber expand, causing the tire to break apart gradually. As it becomes more serious, the tire will develop even more leaks and holes, ultimately causing tire blowout. The only time you should drive on tires with dry rot is if you are heading for the garage/repair store.

    V.            When To Replace Dry Rot Tires?

It would be best to replace your tires as soon as you notice the first signs of dry rot on your tires. There is simply no reason to wait till it gets worse. In addition, you should know that all tires that have hit the 5-year mark are at risk of developing this fault. However, depending on the quality of the tire, this problem may start earlier or much later.

  VI.            How To Prevent Dry Rot On Tires?

In this section, we will provide you with some tips on how you can prevent dry rot on your tire. All you need to do is consciously avoid the points we mention below:


  • Store Tires Away From Direct Sunlight

The ultraviolet rays coming from direct sunlight will cause the oils that maintain the moist nature to deteriorate and seep out of the tire. By implication, if you store your tires under direct sunlight, their chances of developing dry rot are high.

  • Store Your Tires At A Constant Temperature

Keeping your tires in temperatures lower than 45°F or above 65°F will speed up dry rot on tires. You should store your tires/car in a place where you can control the climate. Somewhere a little cooler than the standard room temperature is perfect (55-59°F).

  • Unmount Your Vehicle’s Tires If You Won’t Be Using The Car For More Than Three Months

If a tire hasn’t developed cracks yet, it can be restored and used again safely. However, if you leave the tire attached to your vehicle for too long, the stationary weight of the car can cause the tire to crack.

  • Keep Loose Tires In An Airtight Bag

Do this only if you are storing your car for a long time, meaning that you would have to remove the tires. The reason is that oxygen plays a part in dry rot on tires, and this is why all tires experience some level of this problem. By keeping your tires in an airtight bag, you can reduce the chances of facing this issue.

  • Inspect Your Tires Regularly

You should examine the condition of the tread and sidewall of your tires at least once a month. Check for bulges, cracks, fading, and abnormal wear.

  • Clean Your Tires Regularly

Use mild dish soap, a cloth, and water to clean the surface of your tires frequently. Do not use harmful chemicals as they could damage your tires.

  • Make Sure Your Tires Are Properly Inflated

Ensure that your tires are adequately inflated, as under-inflation is one of the major causes of tire failure. The tread will wear faster if your tires do not have enough air. Over time, this will generate excessive heat while driving, bringing about cracks on your tire.

  • Do Not Overload Your Vehicle

All tires have a maximum loading capacity, and adding too much weight to the tire will place unnecessary stress on the tire. If you overload your tires, it will develop severe cracking on its tread and sidewall, leading to dry rot.

VIII.            Conclusion

Despite the fact that all tires eventually experience dry rot, it is up to you to decide how long they will last before then. Thanks to this article, you know what the causes of tire dry rot are, why you shouldn’t drive on it and how to prevent it.

So, have you inspected your tires recently? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? How about you give your tires a quick glance while looking out for the dry rot signs. Trust us; it will save you a lot of trouble.


About the Author:






Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is a tire technician. He has been working with tires for 8 years. Now, he’s the Chief Editor of tiresglobe.com – a blog about Tires & Wheels.

He has been writing articles to share his experience related to tires & wheels with honest and accurate information.