Are Dry Rotted Tires Dangerous?

by Richard Rowe

Tire sidewall cracking is a condition caused by oxidation in the rubber compounds used in a tire's construction. Though modern manufacturers use a number of additives to prevent it, this cracking condition can affect any tire no matter how new.

"Dry Rot" vs. Sidewall Cracking

The term "dry rot" applies only to old cotton-based bias-ply tires that haven't seen production for the street in 30 years. The condition as it applies to modern tires is called "sidewall cracking."

Pressure Loss

There's about a 50/50 chance your cracking tires will begin to lose air pressure in a slow leak before catastrophic failure occurs.

Pressure Failure

These small cracks can open rapidly, releasing the tire's air pressure in a severe blow-out with no warning whatsoever.


Sidewall cracks can lead to sudden and massive rips in the sidewall severe enough to separate the tire from the rim.

Failure Scenario

Since a sidewall's job is to absorb road variations, sudden failures will usually occur while traveling at high speed on imperfect roads.

About the Author

Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Image by, courtesy of Saquan Stimpson