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Tire Wear, Hot Weather, and Elusive Tire Age Information

12/21/2009
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The European and the British people are warned about aging tires. They are warned that old tires can be dangerous. The European and the British people are educated that a brand new tire, fresh from the store shelves, might not be brand new. The European and the British people are educated to check tire age and to be cognizant of the dangers associated with it.

The American public is not warned about aging tires; that old tires can be dangerous; or that “brand new” tires on the store shelves may be 2, 3, or 6 years old when they are sold and put on our car.

A recent article posted by a colleague at Injury Board, Mike Bryant, provides some very useful links to an older 20/20 report that I have to confess I had completely forgotten about.

In Florida, apparently the heat fosters more than just mosquitoes, humidity and hurricanes. Down here in Florida, the heat also causes tires to wear at a higher rate; something that tire manufacturers have known for some time.

If the higher ambient temperatures subject tires to a higher failure rate, the age of the tire also figures importantly into the failures. Again, something tire manufacturers have known and have apparently been waiting patiently for years to be regulated about, well, by someone.

When you buy a “brand new” tire from a retailer you expect, well, a “brand new” tire. You may not get what you expect. Apparently tires can sit on shelves for 2, 3, 6 or more years before being sold. All that time, the tires are being exposed to the air, drying the rubber out and aging while they sit there on the shelf. They still look brand new; they still have great tread depth; and they still smell new; but they have been degrading the whole time.

So, how can you tell the age of your tires? Not easy with many tire manufacturers. The special coding used on many tires can only be found by crawling under the car and looking at the inside of the tire. The codes will give you tire size, location of manufacture, and the date of manufacture. The date is the important part.

Tire Code

Everyone should pay close attention to tire health and age, but clearly, based on studies by the National Highway Safety Administration, people in states where the ambient temperatures remain warm to hot all year should pay special attention:

  • When you purchase tires ask the retailer to show you the date of manufacture.
  • Do not purchase tires, which are already 3 to 6 years old.
  • Check tire pressure often.
  • Maintain manufacturer recommended levels of tire pressure.
  • Return to the tire dealer anytime you have repeated loss of pressure in tires.
  • Avoid petroleum based tire “cleaners”.
  • Inspect your tires, both the exterior and interior, for wear or damage.
  • If you hit something while motoring down the road, inspect your tires at your next opportunity to verify any damage.

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