Car Tires

Tire Sidewall Cracking? Causes, Prevention, and How to Minimize Accidents

Tires are often under-appreciated. They are put through a lot of stress and have to safely carry the weight of a car and maintain traction on the road.

All this work comes at a cost, and tires can degrade quicker than expected, depending on how frequently you use your car.

When they consume, they show visible cracks known as tire sidewall cracking, which can lead to critical tire blowouts at high speeds and cause severe accidents on the road.

Is there a way to prevent this or avoid it altogether? How can you minimize the effect of tire sidewall cracking?

We answer these questions in today’s post, considering your safety and the safety of other vehicles on the road, the durability of tires, and what you can do to prevent and minimize the dangers of sidewall cracks.

What Is the Cause of Tire Sidewall Cracking?

Tire sidewall cracking is a sign that the tire is aging, which happens naturally when the compounds (polymers) in the rubber start to break down. When it occurs naturally with no other external factor, a tire can last for about ten years. But there are also external factors that can cause sidewall cracking and tire aging: 

  • Exposure to sunlight/UV light
  • Climate conditions
  • Moisture
  • Wear and tear
  • Low tire inflation 

UV light breaks down the polymers in the rubber quicker, and extreme climate conditions, moisture, and wear and tear can remove the wax protectant on car tires, making them susceptible to damage and cracking.

Tire cracks can also stem from manufacturing defects and can either be a sign of natural aging or severe degradation that can be dangerous if left to propagate while in use.

The cracks start as small streaks that are random and limited, and over time, as the tire use increases or aging continues, they become more prominent, appearing all over the tire.

tire sidewall cracking

When Are Cracks in Tire Sidewall Unsafe?

When sidewall cracks appear on tires, they are harmless and are no cause for worry except for some aesthetic concern. But you should pay close attention when multiple cracks propagate extensively and more profoundly.

Driving your car is a safety hazard as your tire can give out at any moment, blow out at high speeds, and cause a terrible accident. If you are unsure when this is the case, we recommend taking your car for a checkup to inspect the tires.

When Should a Cracked Tire Be Replaced?

Replacement of a cracked tire is necessary when the cracks are numerous, profound, and almost homogenous throughout the tire. Sidewall cracks become dangerous when they have propagated throughout the tire, which indicates that a tire blowout can occur at any point, even when the tire is not in motion. Replace your tire if it’s in this shape.

If your tire has expired, you should still consider replacing your car tires even if there are no visible cracks. 

When the main structure is compromised, the tire is not as strong, tough, and resistant to shocks and bumps as it once was, especially if it has already started failing internally.

If cracks are present on the tire tread, it’s another sign that you should replace the tire. Cracks in the tread are unsafe and often denote other underlying issues which call for replacement.

How Much Tire Cracking Is Too Much?

Small prominent sidewall cracks that are shallow, light, and short, even when they are all over the tire, can indicate a surface defect on the tire. It is rare, and if it occurs in a factory, such tires will not pass the factory quality checks.  

But when sidewall cracks are excessive, deep, long, and appear throughout the tire, you should have second thoughts about driving your vehicle. The cracks will further wear down the tire if unchecked, eventually leading to a sidewall blowout.

Inspect your car regularly if you are unsure of the safety of your vehicle and its tires, replacing them once the cracks increase. The best option is to replace your tires once sidewall cracks become prominent, even if they are too deep or long.  

Can Cracked Tire Sidewall Be Repaired?

Sidewall cracks are a symptom of aging and cannot be repaired. Tires wear out, and they don’t perform optimally when they do. 

An excessively cracked tire should not be repaired or used again after it is declared unfit for the road by a professional or at your discretion. The only remedy for run-down tires is recycling. 

How To Prevent Tire Sidewall Cracking

Although tire sidewall cracking is inevitable, you can preserve the integrity of your tire by following a few simple tips:

  • Protect your tires from the elements and store them away from moisture and extreme weather changes
  • Keep your tires inflated. Semi-inflated tires increase the surface area that touches the ground as the car moves, increasing friction and wear and tear, a marker for sidewall crack initiation
  • Keep your tires clean. Dirt, oil, and chemicals can all lead to an increased risk of tire cracks and speed up tire breakdown
  • Do not leave your tires exposed and unused for too long. The wax protectant moves when the tires are in motion and protects them from damage. Unused tires make the protectant inactive, increasing the risk of a breakdown
  • Avoid tire shine with chemicals and agents that dissolve wax protectants. Use only approved tire shine recommended by the tire manufacturer
  • Inspect your tires at least once a week. Check every corner, even the side facing the car, touch it to check the firmness for proper inflation, and listen when you drive for any hissing sounds or funny changes in suspension or impeded control

tire sidewall cracking guide

How To Prevent Danger and Minimize Accidents from Dry Rot?

If you notice sizable tire sidewall cracks, don’t panic; examine the tires and ascertain if the tire is still roadworthy, or take your car to a professional tire technician for inspection. 

If you are unsure, change your tire immediately to reduce the risk of an accident. 

Buy New Tires, Never Used Tires 

Always replace your tires with brand new ones, as used tires may already have cracks that fillers have masked. 

You will probably save a few bucks if you purchase used tires but don’t be fooled. Used tires are not under federal regulations, so you will be held responsible for any potential accidents that put you and other car owners at risk.

Don’t Install Tires With Sidewall Cracks

New tires can also present sidewall cracks, meaning the tires have stayed on the shelf for quite a while, or there is a factory defect. Either situation will shorten tire lifespan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is A Little Cracking on Tires, OK?

If the sidewall cracks or dry rot are light, shallow, and tiny, appearing few and far between, there is usually no cause for alarm. The tires are only showing signs of aging, and that is okay. 

If the cracks are numerous throughout the sides, deep, and have propagated significantly, your should replace your tire without hesitation.

Is Cracking on Tires Normal?

Yes, cracking on tires is normal. It is a natural sign of rubber aging, and the process cannot be reversed or repaired. Cracks can also be a sign of degradation and exposure to harmful chemicals or extreme weather conditions.

Is It Bad to Drive on Cracked Tires?

While small, light, and few cracks usually do not pose any present risk, it is not recommended to drive for long distances with more noticeable cracks. Call a certified tire technician for inspection if you are unsure how safe your tires are.

Conclusion

If you own a car, you probably know how important it is to stay safe on the road, so preventing tire sidewall cracking is one way to do that. You now understand that cracking is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean you have no control over how soon it occurs.

Take special note of what causes sidewall cracking and apply the prevention tips listed in this article to keep your tires safe and shiny for the longest time.

And when you do decide to change your tires, buy new tires that do not have any visible cracks. 

See related articles for more car maintenance information, tips, and tricks.