For something that suffers loads of abuse from pounding pavement and gravel for hours on end, it’s surprising how much TLC your tires need. Tires are delicate, and inadequate storage conditions can speed their degradation.
Exposure to the elements, poor storage conditions and stress are just some of the contributing factors to premature tire wear. Without adequate storage conditions, tires can lose tread, become deformed, crack and crumble.
Storing tires is a cost-effective necessity for many of us trying to maximize our vehicle’s performance as the season’s change. Knowing how to correctly store tires in a garage will keep them fresh, functional and safe for next time.
This article will explain steps you can take to properly prepare your tires for prolonged storage and lessen the effects of various elements that cause damage.
How to Store Tires in a Garage
1. Clean and Dry Tires Thoroughly Before Storage.
Removing any contaminants from your tires, such as asphalt, dust, dirt and debris is the first step in proper tire maintenance. There are a lot of tire cleaning products, but many can be avoided in favor of household cleaning supplies. If you do want to use a specialty product, ensure you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to prevent damage.
There is no need to apply tire dressings, as compounds in the rubber are sufficient to maintain the tire if it is well-tended. Dressings and petroleum-based products are best avoided for prolonged storage, as they can corrode the tire if left to sit for long periods.
Tire Cleaning Steps:
- Using lukewarm water and mild dish liquid, scrub any stuck on dirt, grease and grime from the tires, working deep into the tread. If the tires are left on the rim, or “mounted”, clean the rim thoroughly as well.
- Do not use abrasive cleaners, tire gloss or dressings during or after cleaning, as these products can remove the moisturizing compounds in tires that prevent dry rot.
- Dry the tires completely before storing. Water can damage tires both in storage and during use, as well as potentially expose the tire to ozone, another harmful element.
2. Keep Tires Out of the Sun.
Do not sun dry your tires after cleaning and never store them in direct sunlight. UV rays are one of the most common causes of premature tire failure. The harsh light and heat quickly dry tires out, breaking down rubber compounds deep beneath the surface.
Tires should ideally be stored indoors when possible. This prevents them from direct sunlight exposure and gives them a climate-controlled environment to further lengthen their life. A cool, dry location is preferable, away from windows and heat sources like furnaces.
Standard garages often see hot and cold temperature fluctuations, both of which are detrimental to tire health. If storing in a garage, ensure the space is temperature and humidity controlled.
How to Store Tires Out of the Sun:
- Use a thick, sun-blocking tarp for tires stored outdoors, making sure that there is no sunlight penetration.
- Keep tires indoors and away from doors, windows and heat sources.
- Use storage bags designed to keep tires protected from the sun.
- Use tire covers if you are leaving them on your car.
3. Keep Each Tire in an Airtight Plastic Bag.
Oxygen is another significant danger to stored tires. When oxygen is able to reach the tires, it deteriorates them inside and out through oxidation. Tires contain antioxidant compounds to slow this process, but it does not take long for the polymers to break down when left uncovered.
Storing your tires in an airtight bag or container prevents oxygen exposure, further reducing the effects of oxidation. This will also keep the protective oils within the rubber from evaporating. For the best results, put each tire in individual vacuum-sealed plastic storage bags.
Tire Container Options:
- Specialty tire bags. If you use a tire tote, you will still need to put the tires in an airtight bag first.
- Black contractor garbage bags.
- Lawn or leaf bags.
- Vacuum-sealable plastic.
- Tarps wrapped around the tire and tied/taped off.
4. Store Them Vertically or Horizontally.
When your tires are clean and sealed, you need to determine a suitable storage position. Stacking tires atop one another or hanging them are not recommended, as the stress can cause irreversible deformities. However, certain storage spaces limit your options and you may be forced to store them in stacks or on the wall. In these cases, follow smart storage guidelines to keep them intact.
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How to Stack and Hang Tires:
- Do not hang unmounted tires, as the weight can cause them to sag and distort. If you must hang tires, keep them mounted on the rim.
- Unmounted tires should be stored upright, although they cannot be stacked in that position. Only tires laid horizontally can be stacked.
- Elevate tires off of the ground with pallets or shelves.
- Rotate stacked tires regularly to even out wear and proactively address any potential deformities.
5. Avoid Chemical Exposure
Ozone, along with oxygen and sunlight, is a critical consideration when storing your tires. Ozone is a type of oxygen resulting from pollution. Prolonged exposure to ozone causes irreparable cracking in the rubber.
Tire manufacturers add special waxes and oils to the tire to reduce the effects of ozone. Unfortunately, these agents work best when the tire is in use. When left idle, the oils sit, leaving much of the rubber unprotected from ozone exposure.
When storing tires in a garage, it is important to identify sources of ozone so that you can avoid excessive tire damage. Many tools and appliances with electric motors use contact brushes that create ozone.
Sources of Ozone in the Garage
- Sump pumps
- Central vacuum cleaners
Be sure to avoid any direct contact with any harsh chemicals as well. Solvents, fuels and lubricants can wear away the protective moisturizers in the tire and erode the rubber.
6. Protect White Rubber
If you are unable to store your tires in individual bags and want to stack them, keep coloration in mind. The best practice is to store tires “white-to-white” and “black-to-black”, meaning you should keep white rubber touching white rubber and black rubber touching black rubber.
White rubber and black rubber are made of different compounds. When the two come in contact, oils from the black rubber move to the white areas, causing permanent discoloration. By storing them white-to-white, you keep your tires looking bright and new.
When to Store Tires
It may seem counterintuitive, but regular use actually maintains your tires better than storage. The effects of ozone, oxygen and UV rays are mitigated by the special compounds and moisturizers in your car’s tires. These compounds need to be evenly distributed and consistent across the exterior of the tire to shield the rubber from damage.
When the car is being driven, the tire flexes, absorbing the shock of the weight and movement of the vehicle. As it flexes and rotates, the protective compounds are pushed to the tire’s sidewall. This maintains the proper moisture and flexibility to withstand the elements.
When your tire is sitting for long periods, the outer layers of moisture will wear away, leaving the rubber defenseless from air and sunlight. This will quickly lead to dry rot and cracking.
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Using your tires regularly maintains their shape and compositional health. However, proper upkeep is essential to reduce wear while on the road. Be sure to keep your tires inflated to the correct PSI and rotate them every other oil change.
As the weather changes, swapping out tires, or entire vehicles, for seasonal models designed for certain road conditions is a safe and economical practice. If you have to leave tires unused for several weeks or months, it is critical to follow the above guidelines to preserve their integrity.
When storing a car, simply adding tire covers is not enough to keep them in good condition. While they may get some UV protection, the weight of the car bearing down on tires for a long time can cause flat spotting. A cool tire will develop a fixed flat spot where it meets the ground. Although the flat spot usually works itself out after driving a few miles and warming up, severe cases can permanently ruin the tire’s ride quality.
Leaving tires on a parked car also limits the potential UV and oxygen protection. Sealing off tires against exposure is the best way of reducing harmful atmospheric effects. This can only be done when the tires are isolated. If you have to leave the tires on your car, take it for a drive every few weeks to avoid issues.
Talk to a Professional
Keeping your tires safe from atmospheric elements and pressure can add years to their life. However, even well-maintained tires degrade over time, and the professional recommendation is to replace your tires every six years. Always be sure to visually inspect your tires before their first use of the season to ensure they are clear of cracking or deformities.
When tires have lost tread or show signs of dry rot and cracking, follow responsible disposal and recycling guidelines for your area. Otherwise, if you are ready to get your tires back on the road, have a professional inspect them for signs of wear to ensure your safety and comfort.