Under-inflated tires. Over-inflated tires. Misaligned tires. All these tire issues are easy to diagnose and fix. But what does it mean when tires start turning orange? Should it be a cause for alarm?
Well, car wheels turn this color when their treads are worn beyond a certain extent.
And, yes, this should alarm you. The following post provides a comprehensive answer to the question, “why are my tires turning orange?”
Why are my tires changing color?
On the surface, a tire seems like one big mass of rubber. But at its core, it’s a uniquely-designed piece of equipment made of several elements.
One agent that’s incorporated during a tire’s production process is an antiozonant. This is an organic compound meant to protect the rubber casing from ozone deterioration.
More specifically, it forms a protective barrier on the rubber surface that slows down the reaction between ozone and rubber.
Antiozonants may not entirely prevent the oxidation process from happening. But slowing down the reaction certainly protects your wheels from premature drying and cracking.
It’s a no-brainer that the more you drive, the more the tires’ treads become worn. This then exposes the antiozonant, bringing it closer to the exterior of the rubber casing.
Once exposed, the antiozonant reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere creating a brownish residue. This explains why the tires of a vehicle turn into a brown color in the long run, and this process is known as tire blooming.
Tire blooming is very similar to the rusting that occurs in metals.
When a metallic object is exposed to air, its surface reacts with oxygen and moisture in the atmosphere. This causes rust, which is seen in the form of a reddish-brown hue.
The case of mold releases and silicone dressings
Some experts opine that mold releases are to blame for tire blooming, and they’re partially right.
Not sure of what mold releases are? Well, these are the non-stick lubricants applied on the surface of a tire mold to facilitate a seamless release.
The truth is, a small portion of the lubricant can linger on the wheel’s surface after release. It creates a chemical bond with the tire’s elements, and this keeps the antiozonant exposed on the rubber surface.
So the higher the amount of lubricant left, the higher the risk of oxidation which causes tire browning. This proves that mold releases partially contribute to tire blooming. But, they’re not the only culprit.
Now, if you go through several forums, you’ll notice that many also blame tire shine and similar dressings for blooming. But contrary to popular belief, silicone based tire dressings don’t cause blooming.
The tire browning seen here is as a result of the silicone dressing holding dirt on the exterior.
It doesn’ mean that the actual tire has turned into a permanent brown hue.
In fact, it’s very easy to clean off and restore their black color. Just look for a garden hose and spray water to remove dust. If this doesn’t work, an all-purpose wheel cleaner will get rid of the tire dressing efficiently.
Is tire blooming permanent?
When it comes to tire blooming, an ounce of prevention is certainly better than a pound of cure. Put simply; it’s much easier to prevent or try and slow down this process than it is to fix it.
If your tires are completely discolored, then it’s probably too late to fix them. But if you’ve just started to notice the discoloration, cleaning and adding a tire dressing should help.
Check the detailed guide on how to remove tire blooming below.
The Role of Color Changing Wheel Cleaners
Before you rush to buy the latest wheel cleaner on the market, keep in mind that they can expedite the oxidation of antiozonants.
Having dirty tires for an extended period or failing to clean them properly, often leads to accumulation of the antiozonant on the rubber surface. When you finally use an active wheel cleaner on such tires, it reacts with this buildup expediting blooming.
The easiest way to avoid this is with regular cleaning and scrubbing of the brown tires.
Similar to exfoliating skin, frequent scrubbing ensures that none of the antiozonant has a chance to accumulate on the exterior..
Should you then be wary of wheel cleaners? Not necessarily. However, you should use them knowing that tires need to be deep cleaned every so often. Cleaning the tire sidewalls can prevent tire blooming from happening altogether.
Ever wondered why the sidewalls are affected by blooming yet the treads aren’t?
That’s because driving constantly wears out the tread patterns. This prevents the antiozonant from sitting on the surface of the tire long enough to cause blooming.
How do I get my tires back to black?
This depends on the intensity of the problem. For tires that are just starting to discolor, you can restore their appearance with a deep clean and application of a black tire shine.
However, if the discoloration is too severe, no amount of scrubbing will help. Your best option is to replace them with new tires.
Step by step for REMOVING THE BLOOMING
The first thing you should do is gather all the necessary supplies. You’ll need:
- A stiff bristle brush
- A bucket filled with water
- Tire cleaner
- Using the brush, soap and water, clean each tire thoroughly. Things can get quite messy here so ensure you’re donning an overall or some rugged clothes.
- Work in a systematic manner, being careful not to leave out any spot. Be particularly attentive when cleaning the grooves and patterns in the sidewalls as bloom stains can easily hide in these nooks.
Cleaning the tire is an important first step. It gets rid of bloom stains and other debris like brake dust.
- Once you’re done scrubbing every square inch of the tires, rinse them with clean water.
- Wipe off any soap that may have spattered on the body panels. Leaving soap on the car’s bodywork can strip the paint; hence, leave your car looking dull. So don’t skip this step.
- Using a clean towel, wipe any remaining water from the tires and give them time to air-dry.
- Finally, take your preferred tire cleaner/shine and apply the recommended amount on the tires’ exterior walls. You don’t have to apply a very thick layer of coating. But ensure you’ve covered the entire surface of the tire.
- Give the tire cleaner time to sit (about 20 seconds). Finally, agitate this cleaner with your brush and rinse it out completely. Some tire cleaners may require a second and even third application to yield the desired results. So if you notice any brown spots are left on the tires, don’t be scared to repeat the process a second and third time.
With your car rid of all the brown residues, applying a tire dressing at this point is a pretty good idea. This brings us to the question, are water based dressings better than silicone-based ones?
The choice between these boils down to an individual’s preferences. Water-based dressings are the safest option. This means that you don’t have to worry if you accidentally spray it on the body panels. However, they don’t last long.
Silicone-based dressings are a riskier option. Silicone easily ruins the paint on a vehicle. If you have to go for this tire dressing, look for one with low silicone content. At the same time, follow the instructions provided to the letter.
It’s not unusual for tires to change color from black to brown, gray or even orange. This happens because of an additive agent incorporated in the tire known as antiozonant.
This compound works by slowing down the process of oxidation, which is what causes a tire’s premature drying and cracking.