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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

UV Tire protection. The FACTS

For some time I have been reading posts and advertisements about tire covers and UV protection. As an engineer I prefer FACTS over sales PR.

This investigation has taken more time than I originally wanted as I needed a reasonable way to measure UV and a day with full Sun.
 - Not something easy to find in NE Ohio-

As they say it all came together today April 16 2014. While it was cold 24°F last night and we had an inch of snow yesterday, it is bright and sunny today with only a little haze in the sky.

The test uses a Hawk2 UV meter. This unit is intended to help you judge how much sun you are getting while at the beach but I felt it would serve my purposes as we are not trying to measure an absolute value in milliwatts per square centimeter but a gross relative level of shielding of different materials used to cover tires.
If interested you can learn more about UV HERE and more about the UV Index HERE

I set up a test using my RV.
As you can see the UV of 6 years here in Ohio,  has pretty much destroyed the cheap vinyl used by Coachmen for the side decoration. Anyway the front tire has my normal white vinyl tire cover and there is a standard blue tarp, a roll of window screen and some black cloth backed vinyl similar to what is used in black tire covers.

I will show the meter readings for each "shield".
Full Sun gives a reading of 9 which is considered "HIGH"

 while in full shade the reading in zero.

Under the white cover the reading is zero

 and even under the black cover the reading is zero


  but the screen only reduced the UVI to level 5

I interpret these results to indicate that anything that is not in direct sun or that shields all direct sunlight will provide adequate protection from UV damage for tires.

I would not be worried about reflected light going under the RV to the back side of the tires as this is full shade. After all, tires are designed to be outdoors and we are not trying to protect tires for 20 years but only to get past a normal vehicle usage of 4 to 5 years to the 8 to 10 year range for many RVs. I would not consider open mesh as used in some "tire covers" complete protection but it is probably better than nothing.

NOTE I did not address the effects of heat on tires in this post. I did cover in THIS post and that clearly shows that white covers are the ones to use if you want to keep your tires cooler so they age more slowly.

If you want to protect your tires to give you the longest life possible you need to cover them with white solid covers such as cloth backed vinyl being a most reasonable option.


  1. What about some tire manufacturers (i.e. Goodyear) claims that they embed UV protection into their tires and therefore require no external protection? Any opinion on that?

  2. This is good top know. I was going to look into this during the summer. I have a question. If you had the white covers and then added paint on top of the cover would that take any thing away from it protection.

  3. So, if I buy a couple of those flannel-backed vinyl table cloths and bungie them over my tires I'm covered?

  4. The screen in the third instance appears very translucent. My screens are not nearly as easy to see through as these. These screens are available with differing levels of UV protection as well. What about moisture being trapped in the regular covers whereas the screen covers allow air circulation around the tires. Does this have any effect?

  5. I read elsewhere that black was the best color. What about spraying tires with uv protectant?

  6. I feel I need to add my two cents and experience to this discussion;

    I have a set of White adco flannel backed covers I have used on now my second fifth wheel coach. On the first coach I did nothing special during the time I owned the coach meaning, I only washed the tires once when set up on the seasonal site it was on, the coach was in direct west sun every afternoon (and hot sun) I never used any type of spray or paint on protectant as most do not help, and in fact they hurt as they aid in drying out the tires.

    When I traded in the coach all I did was wash it and deliver it to the dealer and was asked if the tires were new as they were in perfect condition, I told them they were factory tires but covered and yes like new.

    So what would I take out of this, sue white covers not black, folks just think about it for a second anything black is hotter, just think about your car, and shirt anything that is black is hotter, so why people have been on this bandwagon of late about using black is wrong.
    Also, think about the fact of what ruins tires UV and heat so if you can keep both of these to a minimum you are ahead.

  7. jcw3rd The Goodyear claim may be accurate but not complete. I bet if you asked which they would prefer Store a tire outdoors in full sun in Phoenix or in full shade in a carport they would select carport. I know of no chemical in a tire that can perform as well as a solid shield.

    Anonymous Once you cut UV to 0 how would you get lower? How could paint make the material under the paint less solid to light?

    Linda Sand If you want to use ill fitting table cloth or old winter jackets from Goodwill is up to you. My tire covers are easy to slip over the top of the tire and they have never blown off.

    Anonymous A more closed screen is better than an open screen. My wheels have "hand hole" openings so I get reasonable circulation. A very closed screen will block most air movement.

    Anonymous Black covers will also stop UV BUT they will heat up and bake the tire. Heat damages the structure of a tire while UV only the surface.

    B Smith Thanks for your info

  8. Why can't one simply spray paint the tires white (or silver) to protect them?

    1. A few problems. Some paints have petroleum distillates which can attack the rubber causing faster cracks. Some paint will be hard and will crack and flake off or at least leave the cracked areas exposed.
      The waxes in the tire will continue to migrate to the surface and detach the remaining paint from the surface of the tire.
      Just generally not a good idea and I'm not sure it would look all that good either.


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