How to Tell If Tires Have Dry Rot

by Keith Evans
Tara Novak/Demand Media

Owners of cars, motorcycles, boat trailers, trucks and even recreational vehicles must pay close attention to the condition of their tires, as dry rot can erode tires’ structural integrity and cause early failure. While detecting dry rot may seem like an intimidating task, vehicle owners can quickly and easily identify dry rot with only a brief visual inspection.

Step 1

Park the vehicle or trailer on a flat, straight surface. If possible, position the steering wheel so that the tires face straight ahead.

Step 2

Inspect the tire sidewalls. Starting with the front driver’s side tire, or either tire on a motorcycle or trailer, perform a visual inspection of each tire. Look for cracks, especially multiple deep cracks; numerous cracks are common in dry rot situations. If discoloration surrounds the cracks, the tires may have advanced stages of dry rot.

Step 3

If you are inspecting a car or truck, turn the steering wheel all the way to the left or right. Note that some vehicle models may require you to insert the key or start the car to accomplish this step.

Step 4

Repeat the visual inspection, this time while examining the tire tread. While dry rot is most commonly found on the sidewalls of tires, it can infect any part of the tire’s structure. Look carefully at the tread on the exposed portion of the tires; if any cracks run through the tread, especially at a perpendicular angle, the tire may have dry rot.

Replace any tires with dry rot. Dry rot causes extensive cracking in tire surfaces and, if left unchecked, can completely erode the tire’s structural integrity. If tires exhibit any symptoms of dry rot, replace them before attempting to drive the vehicle or use the trailer.


  • According to Tire Care Tips from Bud's Tire and Wheel, dry rot may appear on tires after only three years. If your tires are more than three years old, you should perform routine inspections.


  • Never attempt to drive a car or tow a trailer that has tires with dry rot. Dry rot can cause sudden catastrophic tire failure, possibly resulting in injury or death.

Items you will need

  • Tires

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