Are Your Tires too Old to Be Driving on?

Of all your car's parts, its tires have the greatest effect on the way it handles and brakes. Unfortunately, failures of older tires have resulted in fatalities. Thus, it's important to keep an eye on your tires! The investigation into the accident's cause that killed actor Paul Walker in 2013 revealed that the Porsche Carrera GT he was riding in had nine-year-old tires. The California Highway Patrol indicated that the tires' age may have compromised how they handled.

For years, drivers have relied on the tread depth to judge the condition of a tire. But the rubber compounds in a tire wear out with time, regardless of the tread's condition. An old tire can be a safety hazard. For some people, old tires will never be a problem. If you drive somewhere around 12,000-15,000 miles each year, a tire's tread may wear out in three to four years, before the rubber compound does. But if you only drive around 6,000 miles a year, aging tires may be an issue.

Rubber bands may illustrate the point. Everyone knows that rubber bands age poorly and will develop cracks within a couple of years. That's essentially what happens to a tire. Cracks in their rubber start to develop over time. They may appear on the surface and inside the tire, too. This cracking can eventually cause the tread's steel belts to separate from the rest of the tire. Hard use can accelerate the process.

How to determine a tire's age

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Tires made after the year 2000 have a four-digit DOT code. The first two numbers represent the week of the year in which the tire was made. The second two represent the year of make. A tire with a DOT code of 1207 was made in 2007's 12th week. Check tires once in a while for any sign of aging, such as tread distortion, or small or large hairline cracks in the sidewall. According to the Service manager at Hiley Mazda of Hurst, a local full-service car dealer in Hurst, TX, vibrations may also be an indicator of aging problems.

How long a tire lasts for

If living in a warm climate, you may want to pay special attention to your tires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that tires deteriorate quicker in warmer climates than cooler ones. Do you live near the coast? Keep that in mind when monitoring the condition of your tires. Are you using a spare tire? Well, avoid storing it in the trunk. It will get really hot in there.

However, the NHTSA doesn't have any specific guidelines on tire aging and defers to the recommendations of tire manufacturers and car makers. Some carmakers such as Mercedes-Benz and Nissan tell people to replace tires six years after their production date, regardless of their tread life. A few tire manufacturers, such as Continental and Michelin, say that a tire can last up to ten years when a driver has all the proper maintenance done as per their vehicle manufacturer's recommendation.