Tires start aging instantly
There is a world of chemical reactions just beneath the surface of our perception. One of these reactions is oxidation. It’s the reason metal rusts, fruit browns, and we’re told to eat our antioxidants. Oxidation is the aging of matter. It’s the gradual weakening of the forces that hold atoms together. The thing about oxidation is that it is not always apparent. Take the tires on your car for example. Tires start aging the moment they are made. The adhesive rubber holding the tread and steel belts together breaks down, dries out, and becomes brittle. Only, unlike orange rust or brown spots on a banana, the signs of oxidation within a tire cannot be easily seen.
Tire aging has been dubbed an “invisible killer.” This is because of its role in countless tread separation crashes. Studies show that the risk of tread separation increases dramatically after 6 years, regardless of tread wear. Most people are unaware of this hidden hazard. Owner’s manuals contain warnings along the lines of: “Tires degrade over time, even when they are not being used. It is recommended that tires be replaced after six years.” But few people read the entire owner’s manual. Tire makers warn their distributors about tire aging, but provide no consumer warnings. Safety advocates have been asking tire makers to provide warnings for years, without success.
You should replace your tires before they turn 6 years old.
This includes any spare tires, even if they have never been used and look brand new. Tire makers don’t make it easy to check a tire’s age, because they don’t want customers passing over older stock for the freshest tires. You can find the year a tire was made by looking at the last two digits of the DOT number on the sidewall. For example, a DOT number with 4116 at the end means the tire was made in 2016. You should buy tires made within a year of the date you are purchasing them. There are numerous accounts of tire shops selling older tires that appear new.
You should know that tread separations often occur at high speed. This can cause loss of vehicle control. In a detread case with catastrophic injury, it is crucial to consider whether tire age was a factor. If the failed tire was more than 6 years old, it almost certainly was.
Here are five signs it’s time to buy new tires.
Tires may seem to have a simple purpose, but everyone drives differently.
Some need adventure in their drive, and some just need to get to work each day. The one true similarity is that aging tires can affect your ability to do the kind of driving you prefer. The older the tires, the less performance you’ll get, the less comfortable you’ll feel, and the less safe you’ll be.
Here are some of the most important signs to look for in aging tires. Many of them are simple observations that require the occasional check.
It is no surprise that bald tires pose a significant risk and hamper performance. While you would notice your tires being completely bald, it is good to make the switch before things reach that point. To gauge where your tread is at, try the commonly used penny test or quarter test, which we’ve previously broken down when discussing used tires.
If a penny — or a quarter to be even safer — is placed head down in the tread rows and you can still see the president’s head fully, the tire is too worn. That means replacements might be just around the corner.
Cracks or Bulges
These could be the result of a number of issues. For example, tires that aren’t specifically designed for winter can stiffen in cold temperatures. Over time and through several winter seasons, that might result in some cracks in the sidewall. Bulges may also occur when air gets between the lining of the tire and the outer rubber. Though not necessarily an everyday occurrence, this could happen after hitting a curb or a pothole.
Be sure to check the sidewalls of your tires, especially when they are older. You have at least a passing idea of what the tire should look like, and if you notice cracks or bulges, it could signify real issues on the horizon.
Frequent Air Pressure Issues
While having low tire pressure is fairly common. Especially in the winter months when temperatures drop. It could be a sign of a puncture or worse if you are frequently noticing the issue. While a puncture could be a simple issue with a relatively easy fix, prolonged driving on an underinflated tire could result in uneven wear. As mentioned above, that can result in a shorter lifespan for the tire.
Discomfort and Vibrations
Not every vibration is created equal. While there are certainly times you may feel a rough ride (on poorly paved roads, for instance), drivers can often feel when something is truly off. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is the tire. There could be an alignment issue or a problem with the suspension. However, major vibrations may be due to damaged tires. Either way, be sure to have your vehicle and tires checked immediately if you feel such an uncomfortable ride.
General Age of the Tires
For the most part, new tires are expected to last at least three to four years. Of course, all tires are made differently. However, it is a good idea to remind yourself to do regular checks for any issues stated above if you are beyond that mark. Tires generally come with a treadwear warranty, which is often a good indicator of their expected lifespan for miles driven. Knowing when to replace tires can be a tricky call. Overall, though, the key is staying proactive. It is far better to replace aging tires a little too early than run the risk of driving on them for a prolonged period.