Skip to comments.Tire Secret Could Prove Catastrophic
Posted on 05/10/2008 9:13:09 AM PDT by Abathar
Auto Safety Expert: Check Age Of Tires
The tires motorists depend on every day to help get them from here to there might be holding a secret that could prove catastrophic.
Not many people think about the age of their tires. Most think mileage ratings are the only determining factor in how long tires will last. Drivers should also consider how old their tires are -- not when they were bought, but when they were made, Call 6's Rafael Sanchez reported.
Safety advocate Sean Kane has spent years investigating tire failures. His group, Safety and Research Strategies Inc., documented 140 crashes involving death or serious injuries that he claims were caused by tires made at least six years before the wrecks. Click here to find out more!
"An old tire is like a ticking time bomb in many ways," Kane said. "You don't know what's going on inside it. That's what makes it so dangerous."
The parents of Bobby Crane believe their son died because of an old tire. The day before his 18th birthday, Crane and his brother were in the family's SUV when it flipped.
Police blamed tire tread separation. The tire in question was a spare that the Cranes put on the SUV less than a month before the crash.
A tire expert hired by the family determined that the tire failed because it was 14 years old.
"If I knew a tire could age to the point it was unsafe, I would never have allowed my sons to take that trip with that tire on their car," said Jack Crane, Bobby's father.
The Cranes settled out of court with Firestone.
The crux of the concern is that as tires age, the chemicals and glue that holds the layers together degrade, along with the rubber. That means the layers can come apart, leading to failure on the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration knows rubber tires ultimately break down, so the government agency is currently developing a test to determine how aging changes tire performance.
Kane said he hopes the NHTSA mandates expiration dates on tires six years after it was manufactured.
Five major automakers, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen/Audi, already warn against using tires beyond the six-year point, and three tire producers -- Bridgestone-Firestone, Continental and Michelin -- recommend a 10-year age limit.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association, which represents tire makers, disagrees with age limits. They contend that factors such as storage, maintenance and weather are more important.
"Tires are safe. They're one of the most highly engineered products in existence today," said Dan Zelinski of the Rubber Manufacturers Association. "There is no information that can tell you exactly when, just because of its age, that a tire should be removed for performance reasons."
Call 6 found numerous tires on central Indiana store racks that were made more than six years ago.
At a Wal-Mart on Indianapolis' south side, Call 6 found non-used tires that were made in 2001 and 1999. A Car-X store on North Michigan Road was selling three non-used tires made in 2001.
At a Big O Tires shop on Indianapolis' northwest side, Call 6 bought two non-used tires that were made in 2001.
Call 6 also found plenty of used tires that were well beyond 6 years old.
At two Goodyear stores, Call 6 found tires that were made in 1998 and 1997. Some of the tires had cracks in the sidewalls and treads.
The stores have done nothing wrong, and there is nothing that prevents them from selling the tires. However, Car-X managers quickly took action after Call 6 brought concerns to them.
The company said it ordered all stores to check each tire and "return or destroy any tire in their inventory over six years of age."
In a statement sent to Call 6, Wal-Mart said it follows all National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration standards.
"Should the NHTSA create a ruling related to age of tires and its effect on the safety of our customers, we would of course comply," Wal-Mart said in the statement.
Big O Tires provided a similar response. It also referred Call 6 to a 2006 news release from the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
The tires that most tire shops put on cars are stored in areas to which consumers typically don't have access -- where they can't easily be checked before a consumer has them put on their vehicle.
Even if a consumer does see the tire, it isn't exactly easy to decode the manufacturing date, which is printed on one side.
The manufacture date can be determined from a code with 10 to 12 characters. The last grouping of numbers from that code discloses the week and year the tire was made.
For example, a tire coded with 4807 means it was made in the 48th week of 2007. Tires made before 2000 end with just three numbers. A tire coded with 447 means it was made in the 44th week of 1997.
"Tire age is one of those issues that's completely under the radar screen for the average Joe," Kane said.
Many tire companies advise customers to get rid of tires when they are 10 years old, regardless of condition.
If you can afford it and have the option go with a nitrogen purge and fill on new tires. Eliminating the oxygen on the inside rubber can make a big difference in the rubber breaking down, also helps maintain constant pressure during temperature variations when driving.
New tires ride better and have better handling characteristics. Nothing like fresh tires for the weekly expedition to the grocers.
I’m going to buy a new car this summer and was thinking about getting nitrogen-filled tires. Trouble is, if the dealer doesn’t offer nitrogen-filled tires, how do I go about finding a shop that will? For once, my Google-Fu is weak.
My tires are 7 years old. Maybe they should be replaced? There are only about 40k miles on them, though.
“If you can afford it and have the option go with a nitrogen purge and fill on new tires”
Excellent point, the airlines & military have been doing this for decades.
To my knowledge, ALL petroleum products eventually break down over time.
And what might those $$$ be?
Well, maybe the Air Force is, but on my Army post, we use air.
How does a tire sit on the rack for 10 years. They lost the time value of money.
Storage method is key to the debate, imo. Example - UV rays coming through a service station window will deteriorate a sidewall much faster than a climately controlled environment at Sears. I am surprised storage wasn’t mentioned.
You can take them to any tire shop that offers it, the best way by far is when they mount the tire to use pressurized nitrogen though.
Instead of just depressurizing them and re-pressuring them with N, most of the air will still have humidity and O in them. Best to find a place that uses N in the machine that sets the bead also, it purges a lot of the normal air out when they do it.
True story, I needed to add “air” to my tires so I plumbed my TIG welding line to a tire filler and popped it on the tire, then just dialed the pressure off the argon tank and filled them with my welder.
My old man walked by while I had the welder on and stepping on the pedal and thought I was nuts, but it worked just fine.
Depends, maybe $15 a tire, a lot of places will throw it in for free if you buy new tires from them and you can “negotiate” it in the deal also.
How about filling your tires with Helium? A floating car would get far better gas mileage. Just stick some sails on it, and your good to go!
(yes that was a joke)
Yes they do, but there are a lot of factors that can cause them to do it much faster than “normal”.
Put a drop or two of Tyulene (sic) in a tire and watch it come apart in hours, same thing with ether. Nitrogen won’t react with the rubber like oxygen does, it doesn’t “bloom” the wax out of it as fast.
Hmmm. I have a camper trailer that is 10 years old, and has the original tires on it (we never took long trips with it, so it has low mileage). I have been wondering to myself if I should replace them, and this confirms my suspicions.
Buy only fresh tires. The tire has many things in the code including date of manufacture.
I never knew the code on the sidewall for determining the age, most of my tires are used up or sold before 8 years so I never really needed to know.
Those tires might have been sitting for a few years before you bought them also, and if they sit for long periods of time they are more prone to cracks than tires rolled often are.
Expert witness for hire?
Does anybody else see the self-contradiction of this idiot's statement?