The hidden dangers of driving with aging tires can be significant. While it may not seem like a huge deal, driving with aging tires can actually be quite dangerous, especially in inclement weather.
Tread isn’t everything
Most people rely on tread depth to determine when to replace a tire. If the tread passes the "penny test," they assume the tire still has life, regardless of how old it is, which can be a fatal mistake. Old tires are dangerous, regardless of tread depth. Transport Canada does not regulate the age, shelf life or useful life of tires but many carmakers recommend replacement at five to seven years from the date of manufacture. They do, however, require the date of manufacture to be moulded on the sidewall of every tire.
Just because your tires still have tread doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe to use. Even if the tread looks fine, the rubber compounds in a tire can still deteriorate over time – even if your car isn’t being used.Even if you haven’t driven a vehicle in a year’s time, the tires will have still aged during this period, which could turn into a safety hazard.
Hot weather plays a part
The average life span of a set of tires is roughly five years in length. However, they could wear out much sooner if they’re being exposed to the hot sun on a regular basis.
Avoid buying used
If you want to avoid the risk of driving with aging tires, it’s recommended that you always buy new. Even if your tires are just a year or two old, they can still be considerably damaged if they weren’t properly maintained.
Used tires may be cheaper, but new ones are ultimately a longer and safer investment.
Also, it’s important to note that even if a tire hasn’t been used on the road doesn’t mean it’s truly “new.” Some tires are sold as “new” tires even if they were made years ago. Be sure to check the manufacturing date prior to purchasing.
Age is important
If you want to check the date that your tires were made, you should be able to find a four-digit identification code in the sidewall of the tire. The first two numbers represent the week of the year it was made, while the last two digits signify the year it was made. For example, if the number is 1014, your tires were made in the 10th week of 2014.
Old tires can cause or contribute to accidents. Here are just two examples:
In 2008, the owner of a 1998 Ford Explorer in Georgia needed a new tire for his SUV and bought a used one. When he was driving two weeks later, the tread suddenly separated from the tire. The Explorer went out of control and hit a motorcycle, killing its rider. An analysis of the used tire revealed that it was nearly 10 years old.
The investigation into the accident that killed the actor Paul Walker in 2013 revealed that the Porsche Carrera he was riding in had 9-year-old tires. The California Highway Patrol noted that the tires' age might have compromised their drivability and handling characteristics, according to the Los Angeles Times.
These incidents illustrate the potential danger and the perils of driving on aging tires — including those that have never spent a day on the road. The rubber compounds in a tire deteriorate with time, regardless of the condition of the tread.
Unlike good wine or a fine single malt whisky, tires don't improve with age. Whether they're attached to a vehicle or stored in the shed, tires do degrade over time.
How long tires last depends on the type of driving you're doing, the conditions and how much you drive
Even if your tires are only used occasionally, or they're just sitting in the garage, the structural integrity may be weakened over time even though plenty of tread remains. They may look completely fine on first inspection but may need to be checked and possibly replaced.
For some people, old tires might never be an issue. If you drive a typical number of kilometers, somewhere around 19,000-24,000 kilometers annually, on average a tire's tread will wear out in three to four years, long before the rubber compound does. But if you drive much less than that or have a car that you only drive on weekends, aging tires could be an issue.
Similarly, if you are buying a used car, there's a chance it may be riding on old tires. The age warning also applies to spare tires and seemingly new tires that have never been used but were produced years ago.