All good things come to an end, right? And so it is with tires. Everything degrades with time, there’s no way around it, and tires are no different. You might think you’re just looking distinguished as you age, but your tires are just plain getting OLD. Oils and chemicals in tires start to evaporate or break down over time because of UV exposure and plain old air, and the tire starts its slow death dance, otherwise known as dry rot. The rubber becomes less flexible, little cracks begin to show at the surface, and inside, the structure is becoming more and more brittle. Is this sounding familiar? Maybe you’re feeling this way yourself in your fight against Father Time; the next time you check your tires, remember how you feel after a long day of yard work and look more closely at what you’re riding on.
Tire manufacturers put a coating on their tires to protect them from the corrosive qualities of the air and UV rays, much like you might be slathering on moisturizer every day and night, but it only lasts so long before time has its way (You know I’m right, girls!). In hot states like Florida, Arizona, etc., your vehicle’s tires battle the sun everyday, so you may not see your tires lasting quite as long as someone’s tires in Virginia, for instance. Wet climates can eat away at the protective coating on your tires with water and dirt. Hot, dry climates basically bake your tires with use on hot roads and UV exposure. So, Floridians, how do you think your tires will fare in the hot, wet weather of your tropical paradise? You’re getting a double whammy.
Got a car that mostly just sits there and is occasionally driven, and now you’re wondering why the tires are all cracked? Manufacturers put a waxy, protective coating on tires to help protect the rubber from the process of oxidation (the same process that produces rust). Unfortunately, if tires just sit, they begin to break down more quickly. This happens because tires that are regularly used have the protectants inside the tire slowly squeezed out onto the surface where they do their work. No rolling, no squeezing, no working. Hello, dry rot! Petrochemicals and silicone oils, like the ones you encounter unknowingly everyday on the roads, also break down a tire’s protective coating.
So, what can you do to stop this process? Not much. You can help your tires weather time more smoothly by maintaining the proper pressure, checking their wear, using them on a regular basis, and protecting them as much as possible from the elements by storing your car in a garage or under other covering, but nothing lasts forever. Note the manufacture date of your tires, maintain them, be responsible, and keep an eye out for signs of dry rot. Your tires may look good if you’re just giving them the once over, but get down there with them and really look. If they’re starting to show signs of dry rot, replace them. Don’t keep riding around on them because they seem to have plenty of tread left. Tread can’t save you when it’s so rotted that its flying off in chunks on the highway.
Those in the tire industry generally agree that a tire’s life is about 6 years from the date of manufacture; tire manufacturers give them 10 years. There’s some wiggle room there, right? A few states have wrestled with this wiggle room and tried to pin down a specific number as they work on laws about the buying and selling of used tires, but the reality is that there is no definitive answer right now. Your best bet is to be aware of the age of your tires and keep an eye on them.
Some places, especially stores that sell in bulk, will buy tires that are 4 or more years old, and while you might buy them cheap, think about what you’re really getting–tires that are probably more than halfway through their life expectancy. You might save a few bucks, but, in the long run, you will have to buy tires again sooner than you should. Again we say, ask about the manufacture date. The best decisions are informed decisions.
Now, some of you are customers who are looking to buy used tires, and there are some things you should know. Pay attention when you’re shopping around. Where are the tires you’re looking at being stored? Often businesses that sell used tires store their tires outside, exposed to the elements. What does that mean for you? You may be getting a great price on a used tire, but are you getting a great deal when the tire you’re looking to buy has plenty of tread but has been alternately soaking in the rain and baking in the heat for who knows how long? Tread depth isn’t the only consideration. If you’re tire(s) has been exposed to the elements for some time, then damage has been done and the life of the tire has been shortened. At RNR, all of our tires, new and used, are stored inside a climate-controlled environment, not out in the open, so you’re getting a tire that has seen the road (as you would expect from a used tire), and then was stored, usually still on the wheel, in our storage facility. There’s a difference.
Never seen dry rot before and want someone else to confirm or deny their condition or age? Stop by any RNR store for a free tire inspection and we will let you know where you stand.