Bottom Line
Think storing tires is a no-brainer? Think again
Even though they're off the road, improper storage can actually damage perfectly good tires

By David A. Kolman
Special to Land Line

There can't be much to storing tires. They're tough and rugged. How hard could it be?

If that's the way you think about tires, you need to think again. In fact, why not take the true-false quiz on the next page and see just how much you really do know?

You can screw up a good set of tires by simply putting them in the wrong spot in your garage - and the pitfalls don't end there.

Tires are manufactured with oils, waxes and certain chemical ingredients as part of their rubber compounds. These components protect against damage from ozone and ultraviolet light - the main environmental degradants of tires and all other types of synthetic and natural rubbers.

These oils, waxes and chemicals are designed to migrate to the tire's surface when the tire flexes as it rolls through its footprint, where they form a physical barrier between the air and the tire.

As long as a tire is used in a fairly consistent manner, the oils, waxes and chemicals normally do the job quite well. Where a tire generally runs into problems is when it sits for about six months or more and thus does not have the flex motion to move the ingredients to the tire's surface.

Following some simple recommendations when it comes to storing tires can help assure that the tires will remain in good condition.

No extremes
The ideal place to store tires, advise tire experts, is in a place that is dry, cool, well-ventilated and not subjected to extreme temperatures. This area should be out of direct sunlight and away from highly reflective or heat-absorbing surfaces and any heat source. Light, especially sunlight, causes ultraviolet damage by breaking down the rubber compounds.

Also, tires should not be stored near electric motors and generators, arc welders, mercury vapor lamps or other ozone-generating sources. Ozone adversely affects rubber, causing it to become brittle and crack.

By its very nature, the rubber in tires weathers over time. Exposure to sunlight and heat accelerates this change.

Like many other organic materials, rubber also undergoes changes caused by sensitivity to oxygen and ozone. This change, or oxidation, shows up as tiny cracks around the circumference of the tire's sidewall or at the base of the tread grooves.

This cracking is sometimes referred to as weather checking, weather cracking or ozone cracking.

It is also important to keep solvents, fuels, lubricants, chemicals, etc., from contacting stored tires. Such liquids are readily absorbed by rubber and will weaken it.

Stacking
Tire experts recommend that tires be stored vertically, or upright, on their treads to minimize stress and tire distortion. If tires must be stored horizontally, tires should be stacked flat so that the bottom tire will maintain its shape.

Do not stack too many tires on top of each other. Too much weight can distort and damage the bottom tire. Be sure to allow air to circulate around all sides of the tires, including underneath.

It is advisable, especially for long-term storage, to wrap tires in coverings made especially for tire storage that guard against environmental damage. These are available from most truck tire retailers.

If mounted tires are to be stored, they should be maintained at a pressure of 10 psi.

Keep in mind that the longer the storage period, the greater exposure there is to potential damage. Always use first the tires that have been in storage the longest.

Cleaning
Before mounting a tire that has been stored, carefully inspect its inside for debris, dirt and moisture, and remove all foreign matter.

Dirt and debris trapped inside after mounting can block the tire valve or create a slow leak. Trapped moisture can permeate the casing and cause rusting of steel cords, which will reduce the tire's strength and the integrity of the casing.

Because tires are made of rubber, all will age somewhat regardless of what precautions are taken, acknowledge tire experts. But following the procedures outlined here will help keep stored tires from aging prematurely.

David A. Kolman may be reached at caboverkolman@yahoo.com.

July Digital Edition