Monday, May 09, 2016

Never Buy A Tire Without Knowing the Date of Manufacture!

My motivation for writing this article was the recent tragic traffic accident death of six people, four of whom were young children. This accident occurred when a tire separated causing a blowout and the loss of control of the vehicle. The tires on the vehicle were very old...

I’ll bet you never buy milk or eggs without checking the expiration date. In fact, you exercise this same caution with all food and certainly your medication. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that food and drugs have the expiration date prominently displayed on the labels before a manufacturer or retailer can legally offer food and drugs for sale.

Would you be shocked to learn that the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) does not mandate that tire manufacturers and retailers do the same? Consensus has it that tires manufactured six or more years ago can be unsafe. The reason for this is that the rubber degrades with age from oxidation. Sometimes you can see this condition from cracking on the outside of the tire. But oxidation can also occur on the inside of your tire. In fact, because your tires are inflated under pressure, there is a lot more oxygen (which causes the oxidation) per square inch on the inside.

There are other conditions that affect the speed of oxidation such as temperature, humidity, road conditions, and even your driving habits. You should have your tires inspected, or do it yourself, every thirty days. When the inflation psi is being checked, you should also inspect for uneven wear, road hazard damage, and “cracking”. Most people think that when they buy a set of “brand new” tires, they’re perfectly safe. But, if those brand new tires were manufactured a decade ago, they’re probably unsafe. Most tire retailers will not tell you the date of manufacture of the tires you just bought. They may not know themselves and, if they do know, they’re under no obligation to tell you.

Just like any merchandise, all types and sizes of tires don’t sell at the same rate. “Slow movers” can sit on the shelves of tire stores or in warehouses for years. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m betting that some tire manufacturers sell older tires to some retailers at greatly discounted prices. This is typical behavior for all manufacturers and retailers. You can buy expensive brands at discounts in outlet stores like Loehmann’s and TJ Max and there are even shopping malls selling only merchandise the manufacturer chooses to divert from their regular retail stores. My recommendation is that you be especially careful when you buy a tire that has a “too good to be true” discount. Look at the Department of Transportation (DOT) date code. A tire with a DOT code of 1109 was made in the 11th week of 2009. Tires with a three-digit code were made prior to 2000 and are trickier to decode. The first two digits still tell you the week, but the third digit tells you the year in the decade that it was created. The hard part is knowing what decade that was!

Dr. Mark R. Rosekind is the director of the NHTSA and I’m addressing him in this paragraph:

Dr. Rosekind, I respectfully submit that your primary duty is to do whatever you can in your power to ensure the safety of American motorists. I suggest that you study the correlation between auto accidents caused by tire blowouts and the age from the date of manufacture of those tires. If you see a correlation, establish a legally enforced time limit on the selling of tires beyond their date of manufacture. Enforce that time limit with heavy fines and/or imprisonment. Furthermore, change the DOT date stamp from its current virtually indecipherable “code” to something like TIRE EXPIRATION DATE 12-11-16. This currently appears on all tires as “5216”. WHAT?

I also suggest that you contact your US Senator and Congressman. This should be a bipartisan issue and the only obstacle I can see to getting this law approved by Congress would be tire manufacturer and retail lobbyists.

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