Tire Age is as Critical as Tread Depth
The health and longevity of your tires doesn’t always have to be related to wear and tread depth. Age can also be a factor for the state of your tires.
Your tires may have plenty of tread left, but if they are older you may notice the presence of cracks in the rubber where the tread blocks meet the sidewall. This is due to a condition called “dry rot” and if it’s showing up on your tires, you need to replace them immediately.
To understand dry rot, you need to understand what tires are made of. Each rubber compound is made up of five components in slightly varying volumes. There are also various chemicals that help the tires resist UV, ozone and oxygen exposure, but make no mistake: exposure to the elements starts killing tires the moment they come out of the molds.
Oils and chemicals in the rubber begin to dry out and break down, and the rubber begins to lose its flexibility, turning almost plastic instead of rubber. As the tire rolls, it stresses weak points in the rubber, and cracks begin to develop. In severe cases, chunks of the sidewall can separate from the inner liner, and the tread itself can separate in a complete piece.
Ironically, lack of use is more the issue than overuse. Tires that sit don’t go through the heat cycles of driving while a well-used tire does, and it leaves them more susceptible to dry rot.
The life span of an average tire is six years, regardless of mileage. Once tires hit that age, the rubber compound begins to harden, and the rubber is more likely to crack. It also doesn’t grip the road surface the way it did when it was new. To check the age of your tires, look for the manufacturing date located on the sidewall.
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