Do remember the tragic accident that Paul Walker was in where he and his driver were killed? An investigation into that accident revealed that the Porsche Carrera he was riding in had almost ten-year-old tires on it. Is this a significant detail? The California Highway Patrol Investigative Group concluded that the tires’ age might have compromised the Porsche’s  handling characteristics and this may have played a factor in the accident.

Tires can get too old

For years, people have associated a tire’s roadworthiness with its tread depth. While this may be a factor in their usefulness, but one must remember that the rubber compounds in a tire deteriorate with time. The result is that you may have a tire that is unsafe, despite the fact it looks good.

For many people, it’s not a factor

For many drivers, old tires are never an issue. If you drive a typical number of miles, somewhere around 12,000-15,000 miles annually, a tire’s tread will wear out in three to four years. This is long before the rubber compound in the rest of the tire does. The problem comes when one drives less. Say you drive only 6,000 miles a year or have a car that you only drive on weekends, aging tires could become an issue for you.

What happens to a tire as it gets old?

Have you ever stretched an old rubber band and seen how it develops cracks? That’s essentially what happens to an old tire that’s put on a vehicle and driven. Cracks in the rubber begin to develop over time and this cracking can eventually cause the steel belts in the tread to separate from the rest of the tire. If you ever look at a pretty old tire, you will see lots of cracks in the sidewall. This obviously is the rubber starting to break down and age. The result of using this tire? It could be a complete failure of the tire under hard use.

How long does a tire last?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has no specific guidelines on tire aging. Most manufacturers, however, give a maximum life of approximately 6 years but Continental and Michelin say a tire can last up to 10 years, provided you get annual tire inspections after the fifth year.

How to determine the age of a tire

The sidewall of a tire is full of numbers and letters. Tires made after 2000 have a four-digit DOT code. The first two numbers represent the week in which the tire was made. The second two represent the year. A tire with a DOT code of 1109 was made in the 11th week of 2009. If this is confusing, go online and you will see plenty of diagrams that illustrate where this number is on the tire.

Don’t Buy Used

We get it, tires are expensive, especially when you factor in the price of mounting and balancing. However, as the folks at warn, the purchase of used tires is very much a buyer-beware situation. Even though a used tire may look great, it might be too old to use and do you want to risk that? After all, it might be a loved one or family member that drives that car too.


Of all your vehicle’s components, tires have the greatest effect on the way it handles and brakes. If you have an older car, check the build date on all your tires. If they are older than 6 or so years, consider buying a new set. Its just a smart thing to do.

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