Are your new tires really 6-year old ticking time-bombs?
Check the tires on your car. How do they look? Plenty of tread, no bald spots, no wear and tear? If that’s the case, you’ve probably got a great set of tires with years of life left on them, right? Well, maybe not. Those tires could actually be ready to break apart at any moment.
I don’t like buying new tires. Right now, I’m shopping around for a good deal because the quote I got from my local tire store was close to $800. But I’m wary of "deals" on tires because they actually have a use-by date. Most people don’t know that. It’s not advertised and there's no law protecting us (more on that later). And worse still, the consequences of driving on old tires can be deadly. This is not just about getting the best tires for your money…it’s about getting SAFE tires.
In Europe and Asia, tire manufacturers inform customers about the dangers of old tires, and the very real dangers of driving on ‘new’ tires that are actually six years old, or even older. But here in Uncle Sam, we’re being kept in the dark. And that’s hardly surprising, because tires are a billion dollar business, and no company wants to destroy tires and see profits literally go up in smoke. They look new. They smell new. They are new, right?
Well, no. The rubber in the tires dries out over time. This can lead to cracking, greater stress on the tire’s infrastructure and “catastrophic failure.” When that happens, the tire can literally fall apart on you while you’re driving. The tread comes away from the tire quickly and violently. As you can imagine, this can be disastrous; even deadly.
So far, more than 100 deaths have been attributed to old tires, and there is currently a lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone for selling old tires as new. It’s alleged that these tires were responsible for a crash which left one man dead and a family without a father.
And yet despite all of this evidence, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has refused to impose a six-year shelf life on tires. All they have issued is a warning . Why? We could speculate, but money talks, and how many tire companies are ready to junk thousands of tires every month that could easily be sold as new?
A hidden camera report by ABC’s 20/20 , aired on May 9th, show revealed some shocking facts about so called ‘new tires’ currently on sale. Some tires were up to 12 years old, and were on sale at Sears, a reputable store. It makes you wander what stores without the big name and reputation will carry. You can watch the complete section below, this is 10 minutes of your time very well spent.
So, what can you do? First, check your tires.
Whether you’re shopping for new tires, riding on new tires, or have tires that are several years old, check the actual age of your tires asap. Knowing where to look and how to translate the code is simple enough, but it does vary depending on the age of your tires. The highlighted section below is the complete information I got from TireRack, the place where I buy my tires and a store that is very forthcoming about both tire age and longevity:
When it comes to determining the age of a tire, it is easy to identify when a tire was manufactured by reading its Tire Identification Number (often referred to as the tire’s serial number). Unlike vehicle identification numbers (VINs) and the serial numbers used on many other consumer goods (which identify one specific item), Tire Identification Numbers are really batch codes that identify the week and year the tire was produced.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires that Tire Identification Numbers be a combination of the letters DOT, followed by ten, eleven or twelve letters and/or numbers that identify the manufacturing location, tire size and manufacturer's code, along with the week and year the tire was manufactured.
Tires Manufactured Since 2000
Since 2000, the week and year the tire was produced has been provided by the last four digits of the Tire Identification Number with the 2 digits being used to identify the week immediately preceding the 2 digits used to identify the year. Example of a tire manufactured since 2000 with the current Tire Identification Number format:
e Tire Identification Number is required to be branded onto one sidewall of every tire, current regulations also require that DOT and the first digits of the Tire Identification Number must also be branded onto the opposite sidewall. Therefore, it is possible to see a Tire Identification Number that appears incomplete and requires looking at the tire’s other sidewall to find the entire Tire Identification Number:
The use of a partial Tire Identification Number on the one sidewall (shown above) reduces the risk of injury to the mold technician that would have to install the weekly date code on the top sidewall portion of a hot tire mold.
Tires Manufactured Before 2000
The Tire Identification Number for tires produced prior to 2000 was based on the assumption that tires would not be in service for ten years. While they were required to provided the same information as today’s tires, the week and year the tire was produced was contained in the last three digits. The 2 digits used to identify the week a tire was manufactured immediately preceded a single digit used to identify the year. Rxample of a tire manufactured before 2000 with the earlier Tire Identification Number format:
While the previous Tire Identification Number format identified that a tire was built in the 8th year of a decade, there was no universal identifier that confirmed which decade (tires produced in the 1990s may have a small triangle following the Tire Identification Number to identify the decade).
And finally, hold on to your sales receipt. Most tire manufacturer's warranties cover their tires for four years from the date of purchase or five years from the week the tires were manufactured. So if you purchase new tires that were manufactured exactly two years ago they will be covered for a total of six years (four years from the date of purchase) as long as you have your receipt. If you lose your receipt, your tires' warranty coverage will end five years from the week the tire was produced (resulting in the tire manufacturer's warranty coverage ending only three years from the date of purchase in this example).
For more information, you can also go to ABC here .
So, you have old tires. What next?
If you’re the OCD frugal shopper I am, you’ll have kept all of your receipts from the past few years for your major purchases (and I consider tires to be one of these). Most of us hang on to these receipts because tires come with a warranty, anywhere from 20k to 65k miles.
Contact the store, garage or website that sold you the tires and explain the situation. If your current tires have had plenty of use, you may still be entitled to at least a discount on a replacement set of tires. If you’re a good haggler, you may get a new set free of charge. And if you have just bought your tires, you should absolutely demand a replacement set that were manufactured recently.
I’ll be examining my new tires closely when the arrive from TireRack. I like a deal, but not at the expense of my safety. If the tires are older than 6 years (and I’m hoping they’re much newer than that) I’ll demand free replacements. You should too. Old tires being sold as new are not just an oversight. They’re a deadly deception. Drive safe folks.
UPDATE: My tires arrived today from TireRack, they shipped in just two days and each tire was manufactured within the last 5 months. I can heartily recommend TireRack not just as a way to save money on brand-name tires, but as a reliable source of brand new tires. They'll be getting my business again.