Tires are engineered to be tough, but external environmental and geographical forces can wreak havoc on a tire. Forces such as temperature, weather, UV, humidity, road surfaces, and even elevation can impact a tire’s performance and tire life.
Heat, or more specifically, thermal degradation, can really decrease your tire life and exacerbate any preexisting damage. The heat makes the rubber compounds more susceptible to wear and tear through friction. As the tire heats up, it can also heat up the air inside the tire, increasing tire pressure. This increased tire pressure can create an uneven tire footprint, adding more uneven wear to the tire. Locations such as Arizona or Texas will notice a dramatic decrease in their tire life compared to locations like South Dakota, and it is important to choose the correct tire that can last in the heat. Using a mud terrain tire for your daily commute in Texas will certainly build up an excess amount of heat, cutting your optimal tire life in half.
UV rays from the sun are a form of radiation that bombards Earth in the form of ultraviolet rays. These tiny ultraviolet particles can penetrate the lower layers of the tire, breaking apart the rubber compounds, making them more susceptible to breaking down. Usually, this can be seen visually when a tire looks dried out and cracked. To avoid this scenario, it is best to store tires in a shaded area or park the vehicle in a garage in hot places.
Road surfaces have a significant impact on tire life and performance. A gravel road reduces traction for a highway tread tire, while a paved road can diminish traction for a mud terrain tire, as the treads are designed for specific conditions. Mud terrain tires feature deep lugs, allowing for more grip in loose or muddy conditions, while a highway tread has more lateral grooves, reducing noise and heat while providing superior traction on hard-packed surfaces. This comes down to selecting the proper tire for your application. Unfortunately, other factors, such as road slope, can impact the life and performance of any tire regardless of its design.
Elevation is a factor that often goes unnoticed, yet it wields a considerable influence. Varied elevations give rise to distinct atmospheric pressures. While the variation is generally minimal, consider a journey from Los Angeles to the high-altitude expanse of Denver, Colorado, and you’ll experience a notable 2-3 PSI differential. This seemingly small discrepancy can wield a significant impact on your tire longevity, causing an uneven wear pattern. Though typically not a pressing concern on its own, when combined with the other factors mentioned above, it can certainly contribute to a host of issues that often escape our attention.
Ice, Water, and Salt
Treads are designed to dissipate as much moisture as possible to avoid creating a layer between the tire and the surface of the road. When this does happen, it is referred to as hydroplaning and can be catastrophic as the tires lose traction with the road. In addition, the colder the water is, the more likely this occurrence is to happen, as the water molecules are denser. With ice or black ice, no tread design will help the tire navigate the road. In these instances, use better judgment or switch to winter tires that can help dissipate the ice and snow.