Have you noticed cracks in tires on your vehicle? Tire cracking can appear on different parts of a tire, but tire sidewall cracks are one of the more common instances of tire cracks. If any of these images resemble what you see on your own tires, cracking is occurring and you may need new tires to help avoid a dangerous situation.
Causes of Tire Cracking
Tire age is a common cause of tire sidewall cracking. Think about how old rubber bands are brittle and more likely to break than brand new ones. The same effect happens to the rubber in tires over time. Tires are subjected to all sorts of harsh conditions, and the rubber in tires naturally degrades over time. Even if tires aren't in use, like tires that are stored or installed on a vehicle that's rarely used, tire cracking can occur.
Lots of fine tire sidewall cracks can be caused by exposure to sunlight, excessive heat, or ozone. Many people associate ozone with the atmosphere, but the gas can also be produced by static electricity from machines. This is why tires that are stored in a garage can still get tire cracks: electric motors can create ozone that degrades the rubber in tires. This type of tire sidewall cracking is sometimes called ozone cracking or weathering. As a tire continues to degrade and dry out, dry rot can occur.
Chemicals can also cause cracked tires. Tire cleaning or dressing products can damage the rubber in tires. Cracking appears when the polymers in the rubber start to break apart. Be careful which products you choose for tire care. Even ones that are marketed for use on tires may still cause damage that leads to tire cracking.
Improper use can also cause or accelerate cracks in tires. Incorrect tire inflation such as frequent low pressure can lead to cracked tires. So can exceeding a tire's load limit. It's a good idea to monitor your tire air pressure to help prevent tire cracking, in addition to all of the other benefits of proper tire inflation.
Preventing Cracks in Tires
Tires are created with rubber compounds that contain antidegradants such as waxes, antioxidants, or antiozonants. These help protect against ozone, oxygen, heat, and other causes of degradation that can lead to your tires cracking. These protectants don't work as well when the tires remain stationary for long periods of time. Taking a few extra strolls around town in a car you don't usually drive can help maintain its tires.
Sometimes tire sidewall cracks are actually caused by the tire scraping against the curb. Be careful when parking so that you don't damage your tires. If you clean your tires or want to use any sort of protectant, make sure that the chemicals are safe for use on tires. Cleaners that are too harsh can actually strip away the protective compounds that are designed to help prevent tire cracking.
What to Do about Your Cracked Tires
If you're noticing tire cracking on a tire that's only a few year old, the cause may be a manufacturing defect. This is rare these days, but you should visit your local dealership so they can inspect your tires for you.
Tire cracks can allow the underlying structures within a tire to become exposed. As the structural integrity of the tire worsens, the risk of a blowout increases. A blowout, or tire failure, leads to a less responsive vehicle or possibly even a complete loss of vehicle control. And a tire blowout at highway speeds would create an immediate emergency situation.
Superficial tire sidewall cracking may not be an immediate safety concern, but sometimes cracks in tires that seem minor can get worse in no time. Severely cracked tires must be replaced.