Most everyone understands that driving on compromised tires is dangerous. It is important to inspect tires and measure tread depth on a regular basis to assure that tires are safe. There is another tire problem, though, that many drivers may not even realize is a safety issue. Old tires can be dangerous, even if the tread appears to be okay.
In many cases, old tires show no visible sign of deterioration and appear to be safe, usable tires. Because they are rubber products, tires have a limited service life, since tire rubber compounds deteriorate over time. Regardless of wear and mileage, cracks develop in the rubber as they age. These cracks can occur on both on the inside and outside of the tire. Eventually this cracking leads to the separation of the steel belts in the tread from the rest of the tire.
According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, it is not easy to put a specific expiration date on a tire since factors such as heat, driving, and storage conditions can greatly impact a tire’s usable life. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends following the guidelines established by the specific tire manufacturer when it comes to tire aging.
In situations where the origin and age of a tire are in question, you can learn something from the tire itself. Since 2000, tires are required by the U.S. Department of Transportation to have a DOT code. This code provides details about the tire, including its age. The code can be deciphered by downloading a free app offered by the Tire Safety Group. The app, available for Android and iPhone, enables you to get to get a free Tire Facts Report by entering the DOT code from your tire. The report lets you know if a tire is old, defective, or has been recalled. The app shows you where the code is located on the tire and even includes a flashlight function so you can see what you are doing!
Remember – never take any chances with your tires. Too much is riding on them!