What if your "new" tires aren't really so new?

As a conscientious vehicle owner, you strive to make sure your vehicle remains roadworthy. For you, this means keeping up and regular maintenance, fixing any problems and changing out your tires when needed. You understand that the better you take care of your vehicle, the better it will take care of you.

When your tread depth gets low or your tires look otherwise worn, you replace them. You buy "new" tires that you believe will take you thousands of miles safely. What if that isn't the case?

Did you know that tires don't last forever on the shelf?

Few products last forever, and if they do, you would probably question why. Tires do have a shelf life. As time goes on, the rubber in them deteriorates. Older tires can develop cracks that could lead to a blowout or tread separation. If older tires are on a vehicle, heat and improper maintenance can make this process go faster.

The big question is how long a tire will last. Even a tire you buy new could be older and already beginning to deteriorate. You may wonder whether your tires are safe, but you would not get a definitive answer from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA leaves this type of question to tire manufacturers and automobile manufacturers. Of course, the two disagree.

Many car manufacturers will advise replacement of tires within six years of the date a company produced them. Tire manufacturers, on the other hand, will tell you that they are good for 10 years from the production date. That leaves a large amount of wiggle room for error, and since numerous factors affect whether a tire needs replacing, there is no concrete "expiration date" for tires.

What factors affect the deterioration of tires?

The following factors can affect whether your tires will fail on you regardless of age:

  • Tires in storage do deteriorate, but much more slowly than a tire in use. This includes new, used and spare tires that may sit in a shop or garage.
  • Spare tires also deteriorate, but how quickly they do depends on whether they are mounted underneath or outside the vehicle, and whether they are inflated and on a wheel. The more exposure a tire gets, the faster it will break down, and if it inflates on a wheel, it will deteriorate more quickly.
  • Heat is a tire's enemy. The more heat exposure a tire receives, the faster it ages.
  • How much use and abuse your tires get also affects how quickly they will break down and age.
  • How well you care for your tires also affects how quickly they age.

You could attempt to locate the production date on your tires, but that may be more cumbersome than you would like. The best advice would be to take care of your tires, make sure you get "fresh" tires when you buy them, and don't purchase used tires. Sadly, you may need to get rid of your unused spare tire as well. Otherwise, it may fail on you when you need it most.

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