Old tires may not show any obvious signs of deterioration. While they may appear to be safe, usable tires, cracks can develop both on the inside and the outside of the tire. Since the rubber compounds used in tires degrade over time, cracks will develop in the rubber, regardless of mileage and wear. Ultimately, this cracking leads to the steel belts in the tread separating from the rest of the tire.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association reports that putting an expiration date on a tire can be difficult since factors such as heat, driving, and storage conditions can greatly impact the usable life of a tire. The recommendation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is to refer to the guidelines set by the specific tire manufacturer when it comes to tire aging and usable life.
Not unsure how old your tires are? In the United States, the Department of Transportation requires tires to have a DOT code. With this code, you can learn details about the tire, including its age.
This Edmonds video breaks down how to interpret that code, including when your tires were manufactured:
Regularly looking at your tire tread means you’ll be more likely to notice wear trends before excessive damage can occur. Issues can be identified by visual inspection or by running your hand over the tread and feeling for problematic areas.
Keeping your tires inflated to the correct level is an important part of tire maintenance that will extend tire life, as is regularly scheduled tire maintenance, including wheel alignment and tire rotation.
If your tires are damaged, old, worn or otherwise compromised, don’t risk the dangers of a blowout or a wreck! Buy new tires as soon as possible!