Do Car Tires Expire?

Have you ever come across a great deal on new tires only to notice they were manufactured years ago? You may have wondered – do car tires expire? It’s a reasonable question since most rubber products deteriorate over time. Well, the answer is yes – tires do have an expiration date.

Here’s a quick answer:

Yes, car tires do expire and have a limited lifespan. Unused tires should be discarded after 6 years due to the rubber compound breaking down over time. Tires in use last about 5 years on average before needing replacement. Checking the 4-digit DOT code on the sidewall indicates the week and year the tire was manufactured. Replace any tires over 5 years old even if treads seem fine, since performance and safety decline as rubber ages.

Why Tires Expire

Tires are made of rubber compounds that provide grip through friction with the road. Over time, even unused tires undergo chemical changes:

  • Oxidation – Exposure to oxygen causes the rubber to harden through a process called oxidation. This makes the compound less flexible.
  • Vulcanization – Essential chemicals needed to vulcanize the rubber evaporate, making it less durable.
  • Cracking – Hardened rubber eventually develops small cracks, which grow over time.

These aging processes impair traction and handling. And since your tires are the only part touching the road, expired rubber jeopardizes safety. So you’ll want to keep tires fresh.

Expected Tire Lifespan

Most experts consider car tires expired after 6 years from the manufacturing date. In the past, some tires lasted 10 years, but modern compounds use accelerators and antiozonants that break down faster.

The 6 year guide assumes indoor storage away from heat, moisture, and sunlight. If subjected to these elements, aging accelerates. Tires in use fare slightly better, lasting around 5 years. Movement helps ingredients permeate through the rubber.

But don’t rely solely on tread depth to gauge lifespan. Shallow treads on a new tire beats deep treads on a 10-year-old!

Checking Manufacture Date

You can easily find the age on the tire sidewall. Look for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) code, which is a 4-digit sequence, such as “2519”. The first 2 digits indicate the week number and the last 2 digits show the year (25th week of 2019, in this example).

DOT CodeManufacture Date
251925th week of 2019
02182nd week of 2018

If the tires were made over 5 years ago, have them inspected and get an expert opinion on condition and safety.

Buying Old Stock Tires

You might come across brand new tires that are 5+ years old. Some dealers sell leftover stock at huge discounts. This tempts many buyers looking to save money. But are they safe?

In most cases, properly stored tires less than 6 years old should still perform fine. However, if nearing the 5-6 year mark, be sure to inspect carefully for any cracking or deterioration before purchasing.

Ideally, you’ll use them soon instead of putting back into storage, which hastens aging. Drive regularly too – movement helps keep rubber supple for better longevity.

While scoring a bargain feels great, don’t compromise too much on safety and ride quality. If you notice any performance issues down the road, replace them.

Extending Tire Life

Here are 5 handy tips to help your tires last longer:

  • Rotate often – Tires wear unevenly if stationary in one spot for too long. Regular rotation evens out tread wear. Shoot for rotations every 5,000-8,000 miles.
  • Maintain pressure – Underinflated tires degrade faster from excessive flexing. Check pressures monthly and top up when needed.
  • Store properly – Don’t park long-term with tires touching concrete or asphalt as they can take rubber softeners. Use wheel stops or boards.
  • Drive gently – Limit hard braking and acceleration which puts more stress on tires. Also watch for curbs and potholes.
  • Wheel alignment – Improper alignment accelerates tread wear. Have it checked whenever you sense pulling or vibration.

The Takeaway

There’s no escaping the aging process when it comes to car tires. While most tires expire in 5-6 years, heat and sun exposure accelerates deterioration. Routinely check tires for signs of wear and dry rot.

Follow the handy tire lifespan extenders. And if you come across tempting deals on old new stock, inspect carefully before biting. Your safety depends on the only 4 patches of rubber gripping your 3,000 lb vehicle!

So in summary, yes – tires do perish eventually. But with sensible precautions, you can safely extract the maximum mileage before needing to replace them.

FAQ

Do I need to replace my tires if the treads are still deep?

Yes, you should replace tires that are over 5-6 years old even if tread depth remains. The rubber compounds degrade with age which affects grip and handling.

How do I read the tire date code?

Look for the DOT code on the sidewall, usually a 4-digit number. The first 2 digits represent the week and the last 2 digits show the year it was made.

Can I use a 7 year old spare tire if my current tire has a puncture?

No, it’s risky using a tire that old even as a temporary spare. Have the punctured tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible for safety.

What is the ideal storage condition for spare tires?

Store vertically on a rack away from direct sunlight, moisture and exposure to elements which accelerate aging. Stable indoor room temperature is ideal.

Do retreaded tires have the same age issues as new tires?

Yes, age degradation occurs despite new tread being applied during retreading. The old underlying rubber still oxidizes and becomes unsafe after 5-6 years total from first manufacture date.

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