You might be surprised to learn there are currently no laws, regulations or tire industry standards requiring an expiration date for tires. Aging tires have been dubbed “the invisible hazard” by safety advocates because unused tires that look “new” may actually be 5 or 6 years old or older yet be sold as “new” product.

And in the case of tires, looks may be deceiving…and deadly.

Tire failure is responsible for thousands of accidents each year and we applaud the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for opening its first-ever investigation into how aging tires contribute to fatal accidents.

Tire manufacturers oppose legislation requiring tires that are six years old or older be replaced, and have successfully defeated this safety legislation in 8 different states. They claim there is no data to support expiration dates on tires, and the Rubber Manufacturers Association calls the 6-year expiration date “arbitrary.”

Ford, GM and Chrysler recommend replacing tires 6 years old and older, regardless of how much the tires have been used, and even Michelin, one the leading tire manufacturers, acknowledges tires have a “shelf life” and recommend replacing tires every 10 years.

Regardless of whether a vehicle has been properly stored, and the tires barely used, tires begin to deteriorate and degrade after 6 years because they begin to lose their elasticity and do not grip the road as well.

When purchasing a vehicle, or putting on new tires, we recommend you check the manufacturing date of the tires, or ask the car or tire dealer to show you the manufacturing date before proceeding with the sale. If the tires are six years old or older, negotiate for new tires on the vehicle. And be sure to check the dates on the “new” tires as well to make sure they are actually new.

To find out the age of your tire, locate the DOT TIN (Department of Transportation Tire Identification Number), the 11 or 12 digit number on the tire sidewall. The number tells the tire’s size, and when and where it was manufactured. The manufacture date is the last 4 digits and is usually contained in a rectangular box. The manufacture date is in a week/year form rather than the more familiar month/year format. For example, if your tire reads “1307”, it was made the 13th week of 2007.

But be sure not to confuse the problems of older tires with tire tread wear due to use.

  • Regularly inspect your tire treads for wear and tear, foreign objects, gouges and punctures.
  • When the “wear bars” in the tire are level with the tire tread, you need to replace your tires.
  • Perform the Penny Test – put a penny upside down into the tread groove. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to go tire shopping.

When replacing a tire, replace in pairs or complete sets.

Remember, your tires are the ONLY part of your vehicle that touches the road so they are a critical safety component of your vehicle.