When Dry Rot begins to affect your vehicle tires it can be a real headache. For one thing, no mechanic is going to repair the tire, they are just going to advice you replace them. Most people will simply agree and end up shelling out a load of money on brand new tires to replace ones that otherwise could have hundreds of miles of tread left.
How annoying is that?
Well, dry rot is not necessarily the death sentence for tires that mechanics will claim it is. In fact with some easy to source tools and materials and some straightforward instructions you can complete the repairs at home. So we’ve put together this guide to help salvage your tires, to lengthen their lifespan and save you some serious money!
What is Dry Rot?
It may seem strange to realize this about such a highly engineered, modern object but tires are essentially a natural product – or at least the material they are made from is.
This means that they start to decay almost as soon as they roll out of the factory! Obviously, this decay is a pretty long process, and many tires will have used up their useful life spans before the decay causes any problems.
In some instances though, they will start to decay whilst they still have plenty of tread left. This could be because they are on a vehicle which is not used much, because they have been in storage or because they have been run underinflated for a long period of time.
UV light (from the Sun) is also very damaging to tires, and excessive exposure can really speed up the decay process.
Despite it’s name, Dry Rot is not a rot that sets in as you would see on a tree for example. It’s actually just the name for the physical symptoms of the rubber compounds in your tire becoming damaged, drying out and starting to crack.
How Do it Affect Your Tires?
It will present as dry and cracked patches on your tire wall. As the rubber dries, it will become brittle (like an old elastic band) and will eventually fail, destroying the tire with a blow out.
In addition to losing the tire, this can of course also be extremely dangerous if the blow out happens whilst the vehicle is in use – especially at high speeds on the highway.
It’s therefore a good idea to inspect for decay and Dry Rot as often as you can, and always before a long trip.
So if you have seen the tell tale signs of cracking appearing on your tire wall, what should be your first step?
Well, as we said up top it’s probably not going to be to go your nearest mechanic –unless you just want to buy a new tire!
No, your first step is to assemble all of the equipment you are going to need to complete the repair, which is:
- A Hose Pipe
- Clean Sponges & Rags
- A Tire Protector Product (water based)
- Tire Degreaser (water based)
That’s it – a pretty simple list, right?
The first two items you probably have, and if don’t they should be pretty simple to source unless you are living on a base in the Antarctic.
Just know that you’ll be cleaning your tires so buy suitably sized and tough sponges instead of dabbing at the tires with a dishcloth for an hour.
The Protector and the Degreaser are more specialized products, so you may need to order them online.
For the purpose of repairing your tires it is advisable to buy water based products. This refers to the solution that the repair and protection formulas are suspended in – they can be either water or solvent based.
Whilst they both have advantages (and disadvantages) over the other in terms of their typical application and uses, it is generally agreed upon that the water-based ones are a little kinder to the natural compounds that make up a tire.
As we’re already working here to repair a damaged tire, it makes sense to go with the products that are a little gentler to the tire.
How to Repair Your Tires
Now you’ve assembled the equipment list, it’s time to get to work! Happily, as you’re about to see, this is a remarkably straightforward process.
1. Remove the Tires – If the tires are already removed, i.e. if they have been in storage, then you are all ready to get started.
If however the tires are still on the vehicle, it really is a good idea to jack up the car and remove the tires from the wheels. This is because Dry Rot can affect the tire wall on both sides of the tire. If the wheel is still on the vehicle that of course makes it harder to see the inside tire wall.
2. Inspect the Tire – Next inspect the tires to see where the most damage is building up so you know which areas to concentrate on with the Protector product. Place your tire somewhere where water run off is not going to be an issue – i.e. maybe do this job on your driveway or lawn rather than inside your garage or workshop.
3. Degrease – The next step is to prepare the tire surface for the Protector product. The first stage in this preparation is to use the tire degreaser product. They will all of course come with their own instructions so take a moment to read them before you begin. Broadly speaking though, you will be pouring some of the Degreaser product onto your clean sponge and giving the tire wall a good rub down, concentrating on the areas with the most damage.
4. Rinse – Wipe the tires down with more sponges and rags or cloths, then grab your hose. Spray the tire down, and use lukewarm water if you have a heating attachment on your hose – cold water will be fine if not. Continue rubbing down with cloths until most of the water and all of the Degreaser product and all of the dirt and grim is removed. You’ll now have a nice clean (but quite wet) tire. Leave it to dry completely before moving onto the next stage.
5. Protect – After the tire is allowed to dry completely, the next stage is to apply the tire Protector product. As before, it will likely have it’s own application instructions so give them a glance before starting. Again, broadly speaking, you will simply be pouring some onto your rag collection and wiping it directly onto your tire – or spraying it on if you’ve bought a product with a nozzle attachment. Make sure to apply the product all over the tire wall – not just the areas affected with Dry Rot. Make sure you read our guide to the best tire shine to add an additional layer of protection.
6. Crack open a beer; eat a doughnut – however you want to celebrate. You’ve just saved yourself from buying a brand new tire, congratulations.
Conclusion & Prevention
The first thing to note is that technically you’re not repairing the tire, you are merely slowing the drying out process. As we mentioned, this decaying process is a natural part of the life cycle of the rubber molecules that make up your tire.
No one – not even the mighty Car Bible – has the ability to put a full stop to this natural process.
However, by following this guide you can stop the damage from progressing quicker than it naturally should, and in this way you can elongate the useful lifespan of the tire.
The tire protector product will go a long way to slowing the process of decay down and they are especially useful at protecting against the damaging effects of UV rays, from Oxygen and Ozone chemicals all of which help break down rubber molecules. For maximum effect, it is advisable to reapply the Protector product roughly every 30 days, and more frequently after periods of driving in rain or snow.
In addition to periodic reapplication of protector product, there are also a few habits that you can adopt to help prolong your tire life.
- Since UV Light from sun rays is one of the most potent causes of Dry Rot, simply trying to park your vehicle in the shade – such as a garage or underground parking lot – will go a long way to protecting your tires.
- If you’re going to park it for long periods, consider covering either the car or the tires themselves with an opaque material like a tarpaulin to keep the sun off the tires.
- Always ensure that the tires are inflated to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. Running the tires at a low pressure will go a long way to causing dry rot to set in early, so avoid it at all costs!
- Finally, try not to store tires for too long. Not using them frequently will lead to decay setting in far quicker than tires that are frequently used.
Hopefully then you’ve seen that repairing affected tires can be an easy – and not to mention cheap – solution to this common problem.