If you’re an enthusiast driver, then you’re aware of how cracked tires can ruin your day. In fact, this is the last thing you can ever expect to see in your car when doing a routine inspection. But, as a regular driver, tire wear is absolutely inevitable. If you’re on a tight budget, buying a new tire might leave a financial dent in your wallet. So, to avoid shelling out more cash than expected, you can simply learn how to fix cracked tires.
Now, when it comes to car upgrades and maintenance, most people focus on the engine, battery, and interior/exterior aesthetics. Although it improves your car’s performance, the tires are always neglected yet they serve a very critical role in your car’s safety, drivability, and fuel efficiency.
Although tires are made from rubber compounds that don’t deteriorate easily, they don’t last forever. Following regular abuse caused by stretching, compression, and friction, tires begin to wear down slowly by slowly creating cracks that can eventually cause safety concerns.
Therefore, to give you an ultimate solution, this guide will discuss how to fix cracked tires both internally and externally. But, before we get there, we’ll discuss how to identify the cracks, what causes them, and later how to prevent them. We’ll also answer a few pressing questions at the end to help you understand more about cracked tires.
What are Cracked Tires?
Also referred to as dry rot, cracked tires are actually visible crevices that form on the sidewall of the tires. Now, when we mention dry rot, we’re not referring to the actual fungal disease that causes plants and wood to decompose. Actually, the word is just a borrowed term to refer to how a tire deteriorates over time when exposed to various conditions.
Now, tire technology has advanced to a point where makers have combined pure natural rubber with synthetic rubber compounds and boosting additives such as black carbon, protective wax, and oils to improve reinforcement.
But, despite all the efforts, tires are still susceptible to dry rot caused by exposure to the elements, driving style, and driving conditions. If the condition is undetected, it can cause air to escape from your tire causing rapid tire deflation. Eventually, this can cause poor steering and braking and in worse cases, it can cause tire blowout that can lead to an accident.
What Causes Cracked Tires?
Now, before we discuss how to fix your cracked tires, it’s important that we first identify some of the reasons that cause the tires to crack. By talking about some of these underlying causes, it will be easier for you to prevent them before they can ever happen. So, which are some of these causes?
- Exposure to Extreme Temperature and Humidity
When your car is exposed to the elements such as high humidity and extreme temperature, the tires are likely to suffer severely. First, high humidity is likely to affect the rubber compounds in your tires causing them to deteriorate and crack.
On the other hand, extremely high/low temperatures can hurt the rubber compounds on your tires. For instance, if temperatures get too high, the chemical bonds on the rubber compounds of your tires are likely to get hurt causing cracks to appear. If temperatures are low, your tires are likely to get rigid and dry out. This drying out is the main reason why the tires crack.
- Extended Periods of Disuse
If your vehicle is left unused for a long period, several things are likely to happen. One, the engine is likely to get damaged and two, the chassis might rust. The battery is also likely to get damaged, especially if it’s discharged for a long time. Lastly, the tires are likely to crack.
You see, your car’s tires contain protective compounds such as oils and antioxidants that evaporate and leach to the ground when your car is unused. This stripes your tires off the protective properties leaving them exposed to the elements thus causing dry rot.
Just like any other thing, tires have a lifespan. Their days are numbered the moment they leave the factory. After thousands of miles and years of use, the rubber synthetic and protective properties begin to degrade causing dry rot to set in.
- Low-Quality Rubber
If you happen to buy tires made from low-quality materials, then dry rot can set in much faster than expected. You see, your tires are the ones that get in contact with the road. If the materials used are substandard, then they’ll struggle to protect the tires from everyday abuse causing dry rot to creep in.
- Over & Under Pressurized Tires
If your tires are over or under-pressurized, there are certain problems you might experience. One of those is dry rot. You see, when your tires are under pressurized, friction is likely to occur, as most of the tire’s surface will be in contact with the road thus generating more heat.
On the other hand, if the tires are over-pressurized, excess stress will be applied on the walls of the tires causing them to bulge causing cracks eventually.
What are the Early Signs of Dry Rot?
Now that you’re aware of some of the causes of dry rot, this section will try to look at some of the early signs of dry rot or tire cracking. Now, dry rot is not a process that happens instantaneously. The degradation actually takes time to manifest itself depending on the conditions we’ve discussed above. So, which are these early signs?
- Dry Brittle Rubber
A healthy tire has flexible rubber that allows it to compensate for changing in temperature, driving conditions, and shifting weight. With time, the protective waxes, oils, and antioxidants start to leach away leaving the tire’s sidewalls with a dry and brittle appearance.
- Cracks on the Sidewalls
If you happen to inspect your car and notice traceable cracks on the sidewalls, then these are warning signs that reveal the tires are in their early stages of dry rot. These cracks can sometimes appear on the outer treads of your tires. In either case, you need to repair your tires as early as now or replace them depending on the situation.
- Minor Flaking or Peeling
Sometimes, you’ll notice small pieces of rubber flaking or peeling off your tires’ sidewalls. The reason for this is that the tires are already dehydrated. Before cracking occurs, you might notice the color of the tires will begin to fade from black to grey.
Two Ways to Fix Cracked Tires
So, how do you fix cracked tires? Well, some people will decide to take the short but expensive route of replacing the tires. However, replacing the tires is not always the solution, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Instead, you can consider fixing the tires by using these two methods.
Now, fixing dry rot is considered a temporary solution. Therefore, to guarantee effectiveness, you need to first fix the interior of the tire using a sealant then fix the exterior using a protectant. So, if you’re ready, then let’s discuss both parts in detail.
Part One: Sealing Internal Cracks with a Sealant
In this first section, we will be sealing the tire internally to fix those small cracks that are hard to see. Here, we’ll be using a sealant, which is a fibrous liquid that’s effective in sealing such tiny cracks.
Things You’ll Need:
- Tire sealant
- Tire pressure gauge
- Tire inflator
- Tire pump
- Step One: Allow the Car and the Tires to Cool Down
In case you’ve been driving, it’s safe to allow the tires to cool down before you can commence. In the meantime, you can gather your supplies or you can opt to inspect the tires further to see whether you’ll identify more noticeable cracks on the treads and sidewalls.
- Step Two: Remove the Tire (s)
Once the tire (s) have cooled down, jack up the car and use a ½” socket wrench or rug wrench to take off the tires. Removing the tires from your vehicle is very important as it allows you to examine them closely to see the extent of the damage.
- Step Three: Prepare & Apply the Sealant
Depending on the type of sealant you’re using, you may need to prepare it or apply it directly depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation. In either case, once the sealant is ready for application, then you can follow these steps.
- One, remove the stem valve cap on your tire and put it aside
- Two, insert the nozzle of the injector into the valve stem
- Three, squeeze the injector to direct the recommended amount of sealant inside the tire. If you’re using a spray, then you can spray the sealant directly through the valve stem.
- Step Four: Re-inflate the Tire
During the process, it’s likely that your tire (s) might lose some pressure. For that reason, you need to re-inflate them to compensate for the loss. So, here, you’ll need a tire inflator or air compressor to inflate the tires. Also, make sure that you use an air pressure gauge to get the recommended amount of air pressure.
- Step Five: Re-Install the Tire (s) and Take a Test Drive
Once you’re done, reinstall the tires back and take a test drive to allow the sealant to circulate throughout the tires to seal the cracks.
Part Two: Sealing External Cracks Using a Protectant
In case you’re dealing with large noticeable cracks, a protectant is a perfect option you can pick. In fact, it works as a sealant only if it’s used externally. Now, other than sealing cracks, a protectant aids in rejuvenating the rubber on your tires to give them a new fresher look.
Things You’ll Need:
- Sponge & clean rugs
- Tire protectant
- Water hose
- A water-based tire degreaser
- Step One: Again, Allow the Tire to Cool Down
Again, just like in step one above; you need to allow your tires to cool down before you can examine them. This is important especially if you’ve just driven the car to allow the sealant to circulate.
- Step Two: Remove the Tire (s)
Again, jack up the car to remove the tires. Just like in our first part, fixing cracks on the tires can be challenging if the tires are still fixed in the vehicle. But, with the tires out of the car, it will be much easier for you to inspect and clearly identify the cracks.
- Step Three: Degrease the Tire (s)
Once you’ve identified the extent of the cracks, the next step is to work on them. Here, you’ll need to start by applying a degreaser to the tire. The purpose of a degreaser is to remove any grease that might have accumulated on the tire. Grease and oils can ruin the effectiveness of the protectant rendering the work you’ve done useless.
So, to apply the degreaser, simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Most brands demand that you apply a small amount of degreaser on a clean sponge then spread it generously over the tire.
- Step Four: Wash the Tire
After applying the degreaser, allow it to dry for a few minutes. Afterward, scrub the tire thoroughly using a scrub and a sponge to remove any surface dirt and dust. Make sure that you focus more on the cracks as most of the dirt, gravel, and road debris might be trapped in there. When you’re done, rinse the tire and leave it to dry.
- Step Five: Apply Protectant
Applying the protectant is actually the most important step in this entire process. But, before you do that, you need to ensure the tire is entirely dry. Depending on the type of protectant you’re using, you’ll need to apply or spray it directly on the tire.
During application, make sure that you apply it evenly across the entire surface of the tire. When you’re done, leave the tire to cure for several hours before reinstalling it back to the vehicle.
So, there you have it. In case you’ve read up to this point, then these are the methods and the steps you should follow to fix cracks or dry rot on your tires. Although the best option is to replace the tires, fixing the cracks is a cost-effective alternative that will not cost you an arm and a leg.
Finally, yet importantly, it’s important that you learn the various dry rot prevention tips to keep your tires safe. Some of these tips include:
- Avoiding UV exposure
- Using tire covers
- Parking in a cool dry place
- Elevating the tires from the ground
- Giving your tire proper drive time
That said, fixing cracks is not a permanent solution but only an effective way of slowing down the dry rot process. Therefore, if the situation is worse, then the best remedy is to replace the tire altogether.