In Risky Business

Are Your Tires Ticking Time Bombs?

Most people never give a second thought to the age of their tires. Recent tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that after a tire reaches six years of age, the chances of catastrophic tread separation increase substantially. In the United States, more than 100 deaths have been attributed to old tires.

Tires, like any other rubber product, have a limited service life regardless of tread depth and use. The rubber in the tires dries out over time, and this can lead to cracking, increased stress on the tires infrastructure and possible sudden and violent failure as the tread separates from the tire. As you can imagine, this can be disastrous – even deadly.

Heat and oxygen are a tires greatest enemy. Over time, they can cause the bond between the internal layers of the tire to break down. Environmental factors, such as sunlight exposure and rainy climates, as well as poor storage and infrequent use of your vehicle can accelerate tire age.

What can you do?

Whether you’re riding on new tires, or have tires that are several years old, you should check the actual age of your tires. Fortunately this isn’t hard to do if you know where to look and how to translate the Tire Identification Number that identifies the week and year the tire was produced.

Every tire manufactured since 2000 has a code stamped on it. The last 4 digits show the week and year of manufacture. For example, LMLR5107 means the tire was manufactured in the 51st week of the year 2007.

For tires manufactured before 2000, the last three digits of the Tire ID show the week and year the tire was produced. For example, DFM408 means the tire was manufactured in the 40th week of the 8th decade.

So, you have old tires. What next?

Even though a tire may look fine on the outside, internally, it could be falling apart. If your tires are more than six years old, they may be unsafe and should be replaced. Check your spare too. It may look brand new, but if its more than six years old, it could pose a significant safety risk. For the safety of you and your passengers, don’t ride on ticking time bombs.