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?
If a tire failure causes an accident the police will check the date of the tire to see if it was cause for concern.
When the Explorers started rolling over from blowouts one of the key facts that got the NHTSA’s attention was the fact that they were fresh tires.
The authorities are very aware of older tires failing from age when investigating accidents, this in common knowledge in the industry.
I didn’t know this either. Thank you for posting the article.
Yes, but what he says is true though, People driving in Florida vs. people driving in North Dakota all drive the same tires out of the same molds wrapped with the same materials.
No way will tires subjected to subzero weather and salt show the same chemical breakdowns that a tire sold in southern Florida but they have to be made to drive in both places.
Optimally tires made for specific geographic areas could be made that would do far better than what they have now, but people won’t want to fuss with keeping track of that.
Understanding that “helium” was a joke, it would also be a poor choice from the standpoint of diffusion, eg “leaks”. Want a bigger molecule. The argon choice posted elsewhere on this thread would be fine.
I’ve still got the original tires on my ‘92 Miata that I purchased new way back in the Spring of 92. They do show a bit of weather checking, but thus far haven’t failed.
They’ve got about 32K miles on them now, just getting broken in!
Probably should shop for something that will last me until maybe 2025 - then I’ll convert to one of those Mr. Fusion powered devices!!!
Exactly, old tires driven by granny to the market on Sunday is a lot different than tires driven buy the guy who just bought granny’s car and then commutes to Detroit every day to work.
A lot of this depends on proper air and climate also. tires in Fl see a lot more sun than tires in Mi, so the sidewalls by age could be completely different with the same miles and use.
This is starting to concern me about the tires on my ride = Ford Explorer Sport (2-door) The tires were brand-new Generals when I bot the yr2001 car used in 2003. I’ve driven it maybe 30K miles since then = lightish use. The air in these tires is 95% the air they were originally inflated with, I’ve scarcely had to do anything to them and they have never tested low-pressure. Tread-wise, I simply couldn’t be happier with the barely-perceptible wear. There is tread for days left. But I can see subtle signs of cracking and drying out. Just have to keep watching, I guess.
I remember as far back as the 50’s that old tires dried out and were junk after 7 to 10 years. I always thought it was COMMON knowledge.
Here we are 50 years later and morons at the wheel are still clueless. And to add to it, most likely called the tire guy that ever even dared mention that “tires will dry rot with age” a thief, lier and unscrupulous salesmen.
But,,, the lawsuit makes news. DUH
Some cracks will be just surface cracks caused by exposure to sunlight and elements. If you drive sensible and keep them properly inflated, driven enough that they don’t sit for long in one spot you can usually get to ten years without too much a chance of failure under normal usage. I think that most people are too tight to buy new tires so they take them down to the belts, and that is one of the biggest problems.
Yep, even when he is 60 years old and works behind the counter at your local Sears store with no commission either. :-)
Tires have improved so much since the 1950’s that many people never have to deal with tire problems.
Tires used to last 25,000 miles, so you would replace them every two to three years. That doesn’t include the problems with lost tread and flats, which could force more frequent replacement.
Now, tires are rated for 70,000+ miles and they are usually problem free. Normal drivers will get more than five years out of a set of tires. If you put 70k mile tires on a car driven 5k miles a year and you have the potential for a 14 year old tire. Sometimes a catastrophic failure is the first sign of trouble.
Sorry, but I am gonna call BS on all this nitrogen in the tires argument. As a long time (now ‘retired’) race car driver/owner, I can tell you why we use(d) nitrogen in the tires. And it wasn’t to slow oxidation.
We put nitrogen in the tires for two reasons:
(1) it was very dry (i.e., very little or no water or water vapor in the tires) so tire pressure was MUCH more stable over temperature changes.
(2) it was the cheapest and safest and widely available, usable compressed gas. Geesh, guys, nitrogen is largely inert, is 80% +/- of the atmosphere; easily captured, dried and compressed into a tank.
If you want to create a number 3, race car tires (less so passenger tires) are demonstrably porous, and the smaller molecular weight gases in compressed air would leach faster and the tires would drop pressure.
ALSO ... if you own a compressor (ie for power tools) you know you ought to frequently open the water drain at the bottom of the tank to push out the water. What’s the point? The air you put in your tires at any gas station (or similar) likely has a LOT of water/water vapor in it. The inside of your tires gets wetter and wetter over time. WATER is a powerful solvent/oxidizer. So, if you really want that extra edge in tire life and stable pressure, then rent a green Nitrogen bottle and keep it in your garage. ... And keep your tires 2 pounds over recommended pressure.
Just bear in mind that the structural integrity of the tire is likely to have gone south long before the rubber if you drive at or near (or above) the speed ratings of the tire.
There was no friggin magic to our decision to use nitrogen beyond that/those.
Yes, old rubber is oxidized rubber, and thus weaker rubber. Also old beads are cracked beads, old bands are stretched bands, old sidewalls are weak and blistered, and so on.
Net: buy new tires if you can see visible small cracks in the sidewalls (like a dried mudpuddle) or any ‘bubble/blisters’. Of if your tires are more than 5 years old and you plan to drive them near their speed rating — you know, the H ... Z rating part of the tire label!?!?! Oh, and if you cannot seem to get a tire to balance, then it is very much time to buy new tires because the inner structure of the tread (and maybe the sidewall) is damaged/worn out and the tire does not maintain structural integrity.
ANYONE who expects their tires to not oxidize, weaken and get out of round with use and age is silly.
We already suffer from the faults of boutique gas mixtures; please don't compound that with boutiqe tires!
You and me both, I have known this, it seems, since I was a boy driving my 50 dollar cars around in high school. Old tires deteriorate. The tires today actually stand up better than the ones in the 50s, probably better glues and what not.
It's no goofier than the con game of filling 'em with nitrogen.
If there were only a rubber air bag that we could put in our tires to hold the air away from the tires and stabilize them if they ever failed ...
In general, when you see "signs of cracking and drying out," it's time to start thinking about replacing the tires, especially if you do any driving at highway speeds.
I'm especially sensitive to this sort of thing on my motorcycle, and I usually replace my tires every 3 years, just to be safe. I'm careful during winter storage as well, keeping the bike on stands, with the tires off the garage floor.
You’re smart to do that.
As a recent graduate from nursing school I came upon a motorcycle wreck. A guy on a Honda Goldwing had taken his twenty year old daughter for a nice ride. Beautiful sunny day, birds singing. His rear tire blew out, and when I got there I did CPR on her for what seemed like forever (till the FD got there). Poor guy was trying to help me, but she was probably gone as soon as she hit the pavement.
Changed his life in an eyeblink - hers too.
Oh please, your correct on your 2 points, but how long do race car tires last on the track? Do you think that any race tire gets old enough to show destabilization due to oxidation like a car tire does?
Performance tires used under those conditions need to be as stable as possible, a single dry gas molecule of course is better than normal air.
If your worried about humidity then do what I do here, buy a air dryer and attach it to pressure side of the air compressor. I am guaranteed that the air coming out of my compressor is 99+% dry here in my shop, it has to be or my air oiled bearings would be toast on my machines in no time.
As someone who has worked his whole life in the rubber industry I can tell you horror stories from chemists on different compounds blooming wax from oxidation of rubber. Nitrogen is superior to air over this, and is better in your tires for long life, period.
It has other benefits also like being water free, but comparing performance race tires with their incredibly soft compounds to today’s passenger tires that last 70+ thousand miles is like comparing apples to oranges.
Talk to a polymer chemist on the effects of hot oxygen with rubber over time, it will open your eyes to facts a lot deeper than convenience and dryness.
Oh, and one more thing. Nitrogen is 78% of the atmosphere, but oxygen is 21% and argon is .93%
Both oxygen and argon are larger molecules than nitrogen, N is actually at the lower end of gasses to keep from seeping through the polymer chains, but it is its inertness at temperatures found inside a hot tire with pavement reaching 1 50 degrees that is the benefit.
This is a big problem on seldom used RV's. The tires can be 20 years old and if one fails in the steering position it can be very hairy.
Most people don’t want to put down that much shiney every eight years also.
My neighbor takes his old tires that show signs of rot and puts tubes in them, like that thin layer will stop a sidewall blowout.
I refer to him as The Idiot now after watching him braze a gas tank once that he didn’t fill with water, but our kids play well together so I keep it to myself.
Our Walmart moves tires so quickly, they still smell of new car when put on...
Check them for tiny mosaic-ing (jigsaw-like patterning).....My mother had a set of tires like this -—never driven, sitting for a long time......
I use a special composition of 78% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, with the balance being several other rarer gases. Works just fine for me.
You and I actually agree, except perhaps on the % of N in the atmosphere. I was only using one significant figure - you went to 2. ;-)
I’ll stick with my point — that if you keep your tires to the point that dry N as your inflation gas matters, then you have likely kept your tires beyond the designed life of the carcass. Truck tires are an exception, as are aircraft tires.
And your clarification about a drier on the compressor is valid. I was just referring to jobsite compressors for hand tools, not shop tools.
I’ll stick with air and fresh tires ;-) and skip the N in my passenger tires.
p.s., and CO2 is about .04% of the atmosphere, but that’s for another thread. ;-)