If you have ever purchased a high performance summer tyre or a dedicated race tyre, you have probably seen the warnings: Don't store your tyres below freezing temperatures. But due to the fact that there are so few pictures of freeze-cracked tyres out there, no one seems to know what actually happens when a tyre has been subjected to freezing cold temperatures.
The only site which seems to have a picture of a freeze-damaged tyre is TireRack.com, but the photo they show is actually of a tyre that was cut by debris, not one damaged by the cold:
Good advice, terrible photo.
Well, due to unforeseen circumstances, the StudioVRM Prelude had spent a few nights out in some sub-zero temperatures. When we came out in the morning, we found that the front tyres had been severely damaged by the low temperatures. Here's what an actual freeze-damaged race tyre looks like:
Can't see the damage? Here's a closer look:
Those trypophobia-inducing grooves in the tread are actually deep cracks that go all the way to the steel belts. Contrary to popular belief, it's the outer shoulders of the tread, not the sidewalls, that crack in cold weather.
While these tyres do still hold air, they are no longer safe to use. If you apply any load to this tyre, the tread will crumble and peel away from the location of the cracks, until you are basically rolling around on a steel belt held up by sidewalls. If you see this on any of your tyres, replace them immediately.
How Do You Prevent Freeze Cracking?
As boring as it sounds, the best way to prevent freeze cracking is storing them according to the manufacturer's instructions. Dismount them from the car and keep them in a cool, dry indoor location that is climate controlled above freezing (0 degrees C / 32 degrees F). Racing tyres are especially susceptible to degradation from ultraviolet rays, so keep them away from the sun as well. If you store them in your garage, cover them with a moving blanket or put them high on a shelf in the corner where sunlight will not reach them.
Take good care of your tyres, and they should serve you well in the warmer summer months.
See you at the track.