A Few Things to Know When Buying New Tires

Could those brand-new tires you bought actually be old and dangerous?

ABC News recently broadcast a rather alarming report about tire dealers selling aged tires as brand new, a potentially dangerous — even lethal — practice. Tires can sit on store shelves for years, and even if a tire has never been driven a single mile, the rubber can dry out and make it more prone to blowouts. Anyone who has ever had to pilot a car after a tire has blown out knows how extremely dangerous this can be.

Tire dealers say they dispose of old products after four years. Jaime Salgado of Just Tires in Chicago said, “If a tire’s older than four years, we have it recycled. We pay a service to come take them away.”

Yet the ABC report sent undercover reporters to numerous tire dealers and found plenty of examples of tires older than four years, and even managed to buy a few.

The tire industry and the Rubber Manufacturers’ Association have resisted calls for a tire expiration date, claiming there is no scientific evidence to suggest that old tires are dangerous. However, across the pond in Great Britain, the government has instituted a strict six-year expiration date for tires.

Stateside, tracking the age of a tire is a bit more complicated. After a long, cryptic manufacturer’s code on the inside rim of the tire (that’s the side facing the underside of the car, not out), there’s a number that tells you what week and year a tire was made, similar to a born-on date. For instance, if the tire’s number is “1701,” that means the tire was built in the 17th week of 2001, and you probably shouldn’t buy it.

The government does not keep statistical data on the number of deaths that might have been caused by aged tires or blowouts, so it’s difficult to know how widespread a problem this may be, but as a consumer it’s important to know what to check when buying new tires. Anything older than four years, and it’s best to steer clear. If a dealer tries to sell you an old tire, take your business someplace else.

Aged Tires: A Driving Hazard? (ABC News)