How to Spot (and Avoid) Dry Rot Tires

Last Updated on April 2, 2023 by Jess

When you’re traveling 65 miles per hour on the highway, the last thing you want is a tire blowout. Dry rot tires can lead to premature damage that causes dangerous situations.

Whether you drive a Ford Prius or a Newmar motorhome, you need to regularly inspect and properly maintain your tires to avoid dry rot.

Let’s take a look at how to identify and avoid tires with dry rot.

What is tire dry rot?

Dry rot is a type of tire decay that results from excessive exposure to harmful chemicals and other conditions. It is not like wood dry rot, which spreads because of a fungus.

Tire dry rot cannot spread from one tire to another. Instead, increased damage occurs, allowing air to escape from the tire. This makes it almost impossible to inflate the tire properly, which can lead to a flat tire.

What causes dry rot in tires?

You can’t fix dry rot tires. You have to replace them. So make sure as best you can that dry rot doesn’t occur in the first place.

Normally, tires can last up to 10 years, but excessive exposure to heat, cold and harmful chemicals will shorten their life. For this reason, you see many RVs with tire covers at campgrounds or storage areas.

Lack of maintenance can also lead to tire rot. Driving with underinflated tires or too much weight on the tires can cause premature aging.

Tips for preventing dry rot in tires

You don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on new tires when you can prevent dry rot. With these tips, you can avoid high costs and a dangerous flat tire. Although there’s no 100 percent guarantee it won’t happen, these suggestions will reduce the risk.

Avoid excessive sunlight

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can cause dry rot. Sunlight combined with warm weather can cause premature aging of the sidewall.

Always try to park your vehicle in a garage or in the shade. If you will not be using your vehicle for more than a few days, use tire covers.

Avoid extreme temperatures

Both low and high temperatures can damage tires. Temperatures above 68 degrees Fahrenheit and below 45 degrees are likely to increase dry rot.

In addition, regular rapid temperature changes accelerate the evaporation of essential oils in tires. Any time the temperature changes more than 15 degrees Fahrenheit in a few hours, dry rot may occur.

If you live in a place where these conditions exist, you should pay special attention to your tires and inspect them more regularly.

Avoid long breaks in use

If possible, don’t let your vehicle sit idle for very long. However, if you’re storing your RV or have a classic car in the shed, don’t rotate tires or perform basic maintenance based on mileage. Instead, keep a maintenance calendar regardless of how often you drive your vehicle.

A car, truck or RV that isn’t driven often will store oil and other fluids that age, even if the vehicle doesn’t put any miles on the road. If you take care of your car even when you’re not using it, you can be sure the tires will be ready to drive again when the time comes.

Avoid underinflation

More rubber hits the road when tires are underinflated. This causes more wear on the tire tread, which generates excessive heat.

The increased heat can cause cracking and dry rot in the tires. This premature wear and overheating can also lead to complete tire failure, which can be extremely dangerous when driving.

Close up of a flat tire

Avoid harmful chemicals

Always read product labels when cleaning your tires. Do not use tire protectants or petroleum-based cleaning products.

These products affect the weather resistance of the rubber, which can lead to cracking and dry rot. Be careful of the chemicals you apply to your tires.

Remember: What are super single tires? Let’s find out!

Inspect tires regularly

Finally, you should perform monthly inspections. Monitor the overall condition of the tires. Look for cracks, bulges or wear in the tread and sidewalls. Also pay attention to the color.

Perhaps take photos of your tires and compare the discoloration from month to month. Look for additional unnatural stains to prevent further damage.

Close up of a person inspecting their tire.

Detecting dry rot in tires

Despite all the preventive maintenance and tips above, your tires will wear out over time. If you think your tires are affected by dry rot, you can spot some signs.

Tire feels brittle

Dry rot tires become brittle. The oils in the tire leak out, which can cause pieces of rubber to break out of the tire.

If pieces are crumbling off, it’s a sure sign that your tire is affected by dry rot, and you need to replace it immediately.

The tread is cracked

The tread on your tire is critical to the traction of the vehicle. The tread is the rubber that comes in contact with the ground. If it has cracks, traction is reduced, increasing the risk of an accident or skid. In addition, these superficial cracks usually indicate deeper cracks that cannot be seen.

Sidewall is cracked

Whether you see cracks in an isolated part of the sidewall or they extend over large portions of the hubcap, it’s a sign of dry rot.

Like cracked tire treads, cracked sidewalls can be problematic. Water and other contaminants can enter the tire. So if you see cracks in the sidewall, you should replace your dry rot tires.

The color of the tire is faded

Finally, color is another good indicator of tire condition. Gray tires can indicate dry rot. Sometimes the fading of the color is accompanied by cracks in the tread and sidewalls, but sometimes it is not. So pay attention to the color when inspecting your tires.

Pro Tip: A good set of tires will completely change the way your RV rides! Before you buy your next set of tires, check out our RV tire buying guide

Should you replace all your tires at the same time?

Almost every automotive repair shop recommends replacing all four tires on a four-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle and both tires on the same axle of a two-wheel drive (2WD) vehicle at the same time.

If one tire has dry rot, the others are likely to follow. However, aside from the risk that the other tires will also exhibit dry rot, there is another reason to replace all tires at once.

Tires rot independently of each other. If a new tire has a certain tread depth and a used tire has a different tread depth, this can cause them to rotate at different speeds, which can damage the drivetrain.

This means that on a four-wheel drive vehicle, all four tires must be replaced to match the tread depth. On a four-wheel drive vehicle, this means replacing at least the two tires on the same axle. You want to maintain a tread depth that is as consistent as possible.

How much does a new tire cost?

New tires are expensive, but to avoid dry rot, spend the money up front on quality tires. If you start with well-made tires, you’re less likely to experience premature damage and wear if you follow proper maintenance and care instructions.

Tires for a standard vehicle like a Honda Civic or Toyota Camry are not nearly as expensive as tires for a larger vehicle like a Ford F250 or RAM 3500.

A basic Goodyear Assurance all-season tire, for example, costs about $100. A Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tire for a larger truck, on the other hand, costs nearly $300.

RVs also come in a wide range of tire sizes and sizing. For example, the tire you put on a 27-foot travel trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,000 pounds is not the same as the tire you put on a 37-foot Class A motorhome with a gross vehicle weight rating of 30,000 pounds.

An ST255/85R16 Goodyear Endurance trailer tire with a load rating of E costs about $245. A 245/75R22.5 Goodyear Endurance RSA all-position RV tire, on the other hand, costs about $675.

Preventing tire rot, careful tire maintenance and care.

Whether you have to spend $400 or $2,000 on four new tires, you can delay that cost by properly caring for your vehicle’s tires.

Dry rot tires are expensive to buy and can cause serious damage if a tire fails. You want to protect yourself and other drivers on the road.

Have you checked your tires for dry rot recently?

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