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What to Know About Tire Dry Rot

What to Know About Tire Dry Rot

It comes as no surprise that your car takes real abuse every day, from sitting in direct sunlight for hours to high-speed winds blowing dirt and gravel against every surface.

Without proper maintenance, your vehicle would begin to break down over time. Luckily, your car has an owner like you who’s generally concerned with its care and upkeep. 

As expected, your tires receive the bulk of this abuse. Every pothole, rainstorm, gravel road, and hot day takes its toll. Even with general maintenance, your tires should be inspected and replaced every six years. 

While this may be one box to check during your next inspection, you may want to do a quick walk around yourself to inspect for bulges, wear, or dry rot.

The Importance of Tires

Constant vehicle maintenance was once common practice. Days off meant adjusting distributor points, cleaning and swapping plugs, and checking fluids, but many modern owners have pushed these habits to the wayside. 

Instead of proactive vehicle maintenance, it’s common to wait for items to fail before taking a closer look. This should never be the mindset with tires. 

Your tires allow your vehicle to glide across the road’s rough surfaces, maintaining traction and keeping you safe. 

If a tire were to suddenly fail at highway speeds, the sudden loss of control could become dangerous to yourself, your passengers, and other vehicles on the roadway. Not only would the initial damage be dangerous, but the event would leave you stranded. 

It’s safe to say, maintaining your tires is a must

Inspecting Your Vehicle 

While inspections may be part of your oil changes, tire rotations, and other maintenance done by local shops, it’s important to take a few minutes to visually inspect your vehicle independently. 

These are simple tasks that you can do as you walk up to your car. 

Always check under your vehicle, ensuring nothing is broken or hanging down. Check for any fluid or other marks under your vehicle. Take a look around your vehicle for damage and ensure nothing is lying on the ground.

Now is a good time to turn on your lights and check them out, as well. 

Take a look at your tires. Do you still have tread? Are there any strange signs of wear or deterioration? Are there any cracks or strange colored spots? 

Dry Rot

When looking at your tires, you will be looking for gashes, cuts, and dry rot. 

The outer layers of a tire are made of natural and synthetic rubbers. Within these rubbers are various oils that allow the tire to be flexible and retain its original shape. 

Ever seen someone do a burnout? The smoke that occurs are the oils burning away from the tire. 

Over time, these oils break down due to weather, sun exposure, improper use, or other conditions, leading to dry rot and accelerated rubber drying. 

When looking at your tires, dry rot will look dried and cracked. Shallow cracks are a sure sign that damage is occurring and your tires will need to be replaced soon. Deep large cracks should be replaced immediately. 

Where You Live

You may experience quicker dry rot and sun damage in places that are hot, lacking humidity, and exposed to long hours of sunlight due to quicker oil breakdown. 

If you live in a location with snow, your state probably uses salt to melt snow along the roadways. This salt could increase the rate of dry rot and cause further damage. 

Expected Lifespan of Tires

You’re expected to change your tires every 6 years or when tire tread wears to less than 2/32 of an inch. Regardless of your tire’s upkeep, manufacturers give tires a lifespan of approximately 10 years. This includes time spent on the shelf.

If your tire sat on a store shelf for 2 years after manufacturing, you’d still have 8 years before the tire begins to age naturally. If you bought your tires from a less than reputable location, your tires might have sat on the shelves for five or more years. This means you’ll have significantly fewer active years left for your tires. 

To check the age of your tires, look at the DOT number stamped into the side of your tire. 

DOT numbers before 2000 were more complex and needed to be decoded. If your tires were made before 2000, it’s time to get them replaced without a doubt. 

Tires after 2000 are more simply defined. The last two digits of the DOT code will represent the year of manufacturing. This means tires manufactured in 2018 would have a code such as: 

  • DOT U2LL LMLR 5118 

Even though older tires may appear okay, the natural deterioration may leave you stranded or with a dangerous loss of traction.

Can You Fix Dry Rot?

The simple answer: No.

Unfortunately, once damage has occurred, you can’t just repair tires. While products and companies offer fillers or corrections, the damage to the material itself has already happened. 

It would be like putting a bandaid on a crumbling bridge. The structure is already compromised and remains dangerous.

How to Reduce Dry Rot

With such a high cost of tires and even higher costs for roadside assistance and vehicle repairs, it’s important to take care of your tires. 

Wash your tires thoroughly inside and out, including the wheel. When you hit the brakes, it forms brake dust. This dust is highly corrosive and could damage your wheels and tires. 

Conditioning your tires remains the best method to fight dry rot. Conditioners commonly add oils to the rubber compounds of your tires, replacing the dried oil that caused damage in the first place. 

When possible, keep your vehicle in the shade. Every aspect of your car, from your paint to your interior to your tires, is damaged by the sun’s UV rays. Finding a shaded area for your vehicle could drastically increase the overall lifespan of your car. 

One of the best methods to prevent dry rot is to actually drive your car. When a car sits in one spot for an extended period, the sun hits the same areas every day. Water and other contaminants won’t splash the tire, meaning there’s no chance of added protection. 

A tire is flexible, so you need to drive your car for the tire to go through its flex cycles. When the car is finally driven, small fractures occur because the tire has become more brittle. These small breaks expose the rubber to the sun, unprotected and ready for damage. 

Myths About Tire Gel

There’s a bit of controversy surrounding dry rot and tire gel. While some companies state their gels reduce dry rot, others claim it expedites the process. 

When buying any tire cleaning product, it’s important to understand if it is stripping the surface or adding a protectant. To achieve the cleanest tire, all the dirt and grime need to be removed by cleaners. Cleaners will often leave the tire unprotected.

A tire without any protection will dry out quicker. 

Many gels on the market add a layer of oil to the surface to give you a shiny, like-new appearance. 

So will gel help or damage your tire? 

As a consumer, it’s important to read up on each product you purchase. 


Tire dry rot is no laughing matter, and it’s something you should always proactively prevent. 

A flat tire may seem like a mild inconvenience, but you can never be sure when it will occur. A flat at high speeds, such as driving on the highway, can be highly dangerous and life-threatening. 

Since there are safe ways to repair dry rot, it’s important to maintain your vehicle to reduce the risk of damage. Once dry rot begins, the open and less protected tire will quickly become more rotted and damaged.

If you have dry rot on your tires, it’s time to buy a new set. When you need new wheels and tires, Rent A Wheel is your go-to supplier. 

With great deals and amazing service, RAW will have your tires shipped and mounted at no extra cost to get you safely back on the road. 



When and How Often to Replace Your Tires | NerdWallet 

How Long Should a Set of Tires Last? | Car and Driver 

How to Tell If Your Tires Are Dry Rotted And Need Replacement | Know How