Tires are an integral part of modern transportation—nearly every modern vehicle uses them. But when they are left in piles they can become a health and safety hazard. Improper storage can also shorten the life of tires.

Whether you have a set of winter tires you need to store over the summer or you’re collecting scrap tires from your neighbors to donate to a recycling center, it’s vital that you store these tires correctly. Follow these guidelines for proper tire storage.

Keep Them Clean

Before you put tires into storage, give them a thorough cleaning. During regular use, tires accumulate brake dust, grime, and dirt. This filthy mixture won’t hurt your tires while you are using them regularly, but it will damage the rubber if you let it sit for an extended period of time.

Clean your tires with soap, warm water, and a tire brush. If you want to clean the wheels themselves, use a non-corrosive, non-acid cleaner. Give the tires a while to dry and then put them into storage. Wet tires may mold, creating toxins and a home for insects.

Choose the Right Storage Method

It can be tempting to organize your tires according to available space, but stuffing your tires in between holiday decorations in the garage may puncture, deflate, or warp the shape of the tire. Here are some common storage methods:

  • Hanging: If your tires are on rims, hooks are a great way to store a set without taking up floor space. However, un-mounted tires should not be hung. The hook may damage or pierce the tire and the uneven weight distribution can distort the tire.
  • Stacking: Stacking is also ideal for mounted tires. If you decide to stack, opt for multiple stacks rather than tall towers. Higher stacks may topple, damaging the tires, breaking other equipment, or injuring pets or family members.
  • Standing: Un-mounted tires should be stored upright because this reduces stress on the tires.

If you are storing your tires outdoors, they should be several inches above the ground. Stacked and standing tires outside make convenient homes for raccoons, squirrels, rats, and other disease-carrying pests.

Keep Them Cool

Tire rubber is engineered to absorb heat. However, while this helps them function on the road, heat absorption can damage your tires and create safety hazards for you and your property.

Avoid storing tires in direct sunlight. Tires left out in the sun can reach a staggering 135˚ F. Direct sunlight can soften and bend the tire’s surface, compromising its structural integrity. Ultraviolet rays break down tire rubber, cracking and drying out the tires. Extreme temperatures can also cause the tires to release noxious gases, which are dangerous for your family and the environment.

Keep your tires away from artificial heat sources, like your furnace, as well. Tires are flammable and tire fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish once they’ve started.

Control the Climate

Ideally, tires should be stored in individual, airtight bags. This creates a micro-environment that is easier to regulate than your basement, garage, or shed as a whole. You can pick up bags from your local dealer or repurpose vacuum storage bags.
Even if you can’t afford (or don’t want to take the time to find) a bag for each tire, be aware of these environmental elements:

  • Moisture: Moisture encourages bacterial growth. You may come back to find your tires moldy and unsalvageable. Prolonged exposure to water or high humidity can rot the tire surface, making the tires unusable for driving or recycling.
  • Ozone: Exposure to ozone can disintegrate tire rubber. Store tires away from sources of ozone like your sump pump, furnace, and electronic motors.
  • Grease: Like road grime, grease eats away at your tires. Clean up any motor oil or other grease sources before putting your tires in storage. If you are storing tires on a porous floor, you may need to invest in shelving to keep the tires out of contact with residual grease.

Proper storage can prevent wear and distortion of your tires, as well as keep you and your property safe from tire fires and pest infestations. Follow these guidelines to safely store your spare tires between uses or before recycling.