“New” Tires Can Pose a Serious Safety Threat

Tire date code

Do you know what year your tires were made?

I see the remains of shredded, blown tires on the Interstate almost as often as I see mile markers on the shoulder.

I always assumed those rubber remains came from the tires of long-haul semi trucks that had blown after many thousands of miles of service. While that’s still a valid assumption, a new report from ABC News says blowing tires could be a disturbing and dangerous trend for passenger vehicles. In fact, even tires purchased new could be at risk for blowing out at highway speeds. How can that be? Read on.

In the United States, no regulations exist for selling “new” tires that have sat on store shelves for many years. According to the ABC report, tires that are older than 6 years are dangerous, because they dry out and can lose their structural integrity over time, even when they still appear brand new and have never touched pavement.

Investigators in the report found tires in retail stores as old as 14 years still being sold as brand new. That’s disturbing. It’s especially disturbing when you consider there is no consumer-friendly way to tell how old a tire is. The date of manufacture is noted on each tire, but cryptically. To find it, look for the number sequence beginning with DOT, then follow it to the end. The image above shows a code of 1604, meaning the tire was made in the 16th week of 2004.

I bought new tires last summer. Right after seeing the ABC report, I checked them and found they were made in the first week of 2009. Whew! Check yours, too, and if they’re older than you thought, head to your tire store today for replacements. But insist on looking at that date code before handing over your credit card!

I think it’s criminal that tire stores can sell old tires as new. Should the U.S. set regulations on the age of tires that are sold in this country? Or is it just buyer beware?

-tgriffith

4 Comments

  1. Rob’scomment, that “just checking the condition is much more important than the age, but then you have to actually think,” may be an attempt at putting down others, but as a certified master organic chemist, I have to say Rob didn’t put too much thought into that comment!

    The tire may feel fine, but you don’t know how the well the layers are still bonding underneath. Go by the AGE.

  2. If I’m spending $400 or more on a set of tires they better have been made in the year I’m purchasing them. I don’t care if UV light has touched them or not. New tires should be just that…NEW.

  3. @Rob:
    You’re probably right about storage having an impact, but do you know of any sort of test a person shopping for tires can do themselves to accurately gauge a tire’s “condition”? UV sunlight can certainly damage tires, but it doesn’t always make them look or feel noticeably different, correct?

  4. There’s a slight issue with the problem you are bringing up: This generally only applies to tires that have sat in the sunlight. If a tire is stored properly inside, without a lot of UV touching it, it does not age nearly as quickly. I’d say just checking the “condition” of the tire is much more important than the age, but then you have to actually think.

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