An online search quickly tells you that tire dry rot is a big and expensive problem. Top search inquiries include “How to keep tires from dry rotting”; “How to tell if tires are dry rotted”; “How long does it take for tires to dry rot?”; and “Protect tires from sun damage.” I have provided essential information and pictures to help you identify and understand tire dry rot.
There are three main degrading agents that attack tires, plastic, and vinyl: ultraviolet (UV) light, ozone, and “protectants.” All of these attack the long hydrocarbon chains of the rubber, trim, and vinyl skin by breaking these bonds, which shortens the molecules and causes a loss of elasticity and other properties. The results show as plastic fading, vinyl cracking, tire dry rot, or tire cracking.
Tire manufacturers add two primary sacrificial protectants to the rubber. To protect against ozone, tire manufacturers add a wax-based sacrificial protectant. The ozone attacks the wax and depletes it. As the tire rolls, additional wax is forced to the surface of the tire. This oxidized wax will appear brown on the tire surface, a process referred to as “blooming.” This blooming refreshes the surface wax level. A tire that has not been flexed will have the wax depleted by ozone and protectants, which will promote degradation, tire cracking, and dry rot . . . so driving helps prevent tire dry rot. Tires that receive a only a small to moderate amount of drive time will eventually dry rot.
Tire dry rot can be prevented to an extent. One way to end tire dry rot is to stop using so-called “protectants” or “tire dressing.“ Almost ALL of these types of products, regardless of manufacturer claims of being petrochemical-free, silicone-free, oil-based, or water-based, are a combination of silicone, oil, and emulsifiers. Emulsifiers, wetting agents, solvents, surfactants, dispersants, and detergents are all necessary components of protectants. The oils and silicones require emulsifying, which enables spraying or wiping the product on and creates the wet, shiny look. These tire protectants simply enhance the appearance by providing temporary hydration and shine of the surface.
Keep in mind that a solvent will break down any surface over time! Protectants emulsify the protective waxes in rubber and deplete them. Most protectants would be more appropriately labeled as “cleaners with shiny stuff mixed in.” Some tire manufacturers may not honor their tire warranties for damages if the use of such protectant products is detected. The key to understanding all protectant products is:
If it feels slippery, it’s slowly drying your tires, fading the trim, and cracking the vinyl!
Keep tires out of the sun as much as possible. UV exposure is the number-one reason for tire dry rotting and for plastic fading. Another sacrificial protectant added by manufacturers to protect against UV is carbon black. This is why tires and trim are almost always black. The carbon black will turn gray or white as it absorbs the UV and protects the rubber and plastics. This is the basis of rubber and plastic parts turning gray as they age.
This is why Renew Protect Blak is a favorite tire dry rot prevention product in the RV and golf cart industries. Get a permanent fix for plastic fading and vinyl cracking with Renew Protect Blak, Satn, and Gloz, which supply copolymer essential elements that restore the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) composition of the surface. Renew Protect also creates a dry-seal ozone and UV block with infused zinc and titanium oxides. This technology also serves to retard the blooming and off-gassing processes and greatly enhances the retention of protective elements within the surface. This dry-seal also keeps surfaces much cleaner. Renew Protect Blak also contains a high level of carbon black. It is ideal for the restoration of faded black surfaces, because carbon black is a competitive UV absorber. Renew Protect is silicone-free, oil-free, and forms a dry seal with no active petrochemical solvents.
Vinyl surfaces have a protective skin that is depleted by off-gassing. Protectants dissolve the essential oils in the skin, hastening the premature formation of cracks in the vinyl and causing the accelerated fading of trim. Although plastic surfaces have no “skin”, similar effects occur in them, resulting in plastic fading.
Tire dry rot can be slowed by the application of Blak, Satn, or Gloz, but once tires are cracked, dry rot cannot be stopped, and tire replacement is the safest option.