Tire marks are one of your common questions, as in, "Why do I have tire marks after I sealed my pavers?" To answer this, we need to understand how tire marks occur, on any surface, as well as what our research and development team considers and tests during product development of our sealers.
Hot tire pickup is a key evaluation that takes place in the lab when evaluating a new sealer product, as it is a common concern amongst all different types of sealers. Hot tire pickup occurs when tires expand under heat and then contract when they are cooled on your driveway.
Tire Marks start from the asphalt onto the concrete sidewalk, then to the concrete pavers. Sealed or unsealed, fresh asphalt is a challenge.
On average, your vehicle’s tires will heat up 50 degrees Fahrenheit after just 30 minutes of driving. This means that if the temperature outside is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, your tires are a hot 120 degrees Fahrenheit when you park your car on your driveway.
Without a quality sealer on your pavers, tire marks would likely be a more common occurrence. A high-quality, film forming sealer applied to your surface will help reduce tire marks especially once the sealer has fully cured.
Another common complaint is black tire marks that are easily achieved by simply turning and grinding your wheels on your driveway and is common with both sealed and unsealed driveways. Black tire marks can be explained by plasticizer migration, which is even more common if your vehicle has high end tires which contain far more plasticizer than harder tires. These marks are much harder to remove without a high-quality sealer applied to your pavers.
Unsealed Pavers show tire marks distinctly, below.
The answer must be weighed out carefully to evaluate all the pros and cons that come with different types of sealers.
Generally, epoxy and polyurethane-based sealers have enhanced adhesion and crosslinking compared to acrylic sealers. Epoxy and polyurethane-based sealers have a higher degree of crosslinking within their chemical structure compared to acrylics, giving them an advantage against hot tire pickup.
However, with every advantage there is a disadvantage (or a few). Epoxy and polyurethane-based sealers are so highly crosslinked, they are impermeable, leading to many other common complaints such as turning white when water gets trapped underneath, a phenomenon that the lab refers to as “blushing”. This is especially important to note for exterior applications where water is imminent.
Additionally, the highly durable epoxy and polyurethane-based sealers usually require an expensive two-part process that requires specific mix ratios, rushes the project with short pot lives, and greatly extends dry times, which in turn can lead to a multitude of other issues in between the time you apply the sealer and the time it takes to cure.
Water based acrylic sealers allow the substrate to breathe, allowing any excess moisture to escape freely, and therefore eliminates blushing issues seen with other types of sealer. This fact alone is why 99 percent of exterior concrete is sealed with an acrylic based sealer.
A water-based acrylic sealer is an easy one-part application with no pot life and requires only one to two hours to dry after application before exposure to moisture. Yet another advantage to water based acrylic sealers is that they are capable of being formulated to under 100 g/L VOC (volatile organic content) and are easily cleaned up with water, compared to solvent-based sealers that contain harsh chemicals and require heavy solvents to clean, making water based acrylic sealers the safest and easiest option for a beautiful DIY project or a commercial project.
So, you have chosen a water based acrylic sealer for your project, now what is the best way to prevent hot tire pickup? All tires, especially high-performance tires which are commonly found on cars and trucks, contain chemicals which soften (plasticizers) and protect (paraffins) your tires. These chemicals migrate to the surface of your tires when they are heated, then leach out onto your concrete surface, promoting your tires to stick to the surface and create buildup that may go unnoticed before sealing.
Additionally, 90% of people park their vehicles in the same spot every day. This leads to paraffin buildup embedded in your cement surface, which will inhibit the sealer that you are about to apply from properly adhering to the surface, resulting in poor adhesion and hot tire pickup.
Cleaning and degreasing your surface before sealing is a highly essential preparation step. Make sure all existing tire marks are completely removed prior to any sealer application.
One way you can test how much sealer you are likely to need before sealing is to perform a porosity test on your substrate. Place a dime-quarter size drop of water on your surface and pay attention to how long it takes for that water droplet to be absorbed into the surface. If the water does not fully absorb in 30 seconds, then your surface will need another cleaning to ensure that it will be able to take in the sealer for optimal performance. Once the water bead absorbs into your substrate in under 30 seconds, you are ready to begin your sealer application.
See our article related to the impact porosity plays in sealing surfaces: CLICK HERE.
Another key to preventing hot tire pickup is to avoid overapplication of your sealer; more is not always better. Applying thin coats of sealer to your surface will help to prevent hot tire pickup by minimizing the amount of sealer that sits on the surface.
Over application of sealer extends both the dry and cure times. This means the sealer will stay soft longer and is prone to tire marks unlike a properly sealed surface, which will resist those same tire marks. One to two thin coats of sealer, depending on your surface porosity, will help to ensure that your project stays beautiful longer. Follow our guidelines for the proper amount of sealer based on your surface porosity.
A distinct tire mark on travertine like the photo below is typically indicative of too much sealer or driving on the surface before it is cured.
Once the sealer is fully cured (hardened), it will help resist most stains and tire marks.
Should tire marks occur after the sealer has cured, generally a light wash with a mild detergent will remove the marks, unlike unsealed surfaces which will almost always require a pressure wash to remove.
For more information, before, during or after your project, please contact us at 1-800-270-4050. We have over 20 years’ experience in the industry and our knowledgeable staff is here to assist you in turning your next project from good to great!
Andrea Widmer | Technical Director
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