Maybe an expiration date is needed

Are your tires tired? Check the date of manufacture to know for sure

By looking at the calendar, taking off my snow tires seems long overdue. However, Mother Nature appears to be taunting us, especially those in southern Ontario.

Several weeks ago, I pulled my tires out of the shed, but the snow ast week I walked past the pile of tires and, for some strange reason, I kicked them.

“Kick the tires” has long been an expression used to imply assessing the quality of a car, so what then is the correct expression to assess the quality of tires?

I had understood that you use a coin, or looked at wear bars, to visually check remaining tire depth. Then ABC news program 20/20 ran a report last May about the dangers of old tires, even those never used.

I didn’t understand the seeming importance of the date of manufacture, until the report called older tires “ticking time bombs.” I had assumed that the only dangerous tires were those that were worn too thin or worn highly unevenly, but this is not the case.

As rubber ages, regardless of whether it has been driven on or not, the tire is drying out and decomposing–even if it looks brand new. This can cause tire blowout and loss of vehicular control, especially at high speed or in hot weather, which has resulted in fatalities and serious injuries.

There is no North American consensus on how old is too old. Regardless of tread wear, BMW and Volkswagen recommend replacing tires after six years.

The British Rubber Manufacturer’s Association stated that tires should be retired if they are stored for six years or get to be 10 years old.

In the 20/20 piece, tires being sold as new were shown to have a manufacture date of up to 14 years earlier. Who knew that “new” could be so old? So I decided to check my tires.

To determine the age of a tire, the tire identification numbers have to be deciphered to understand the month and year of manufacture. The last two numbers following the Department of Transportation (DOT) on tires indicates the week and year of manufacture.

My snow tires purchased from Canadian Tire in early winter 2007, read DOT ED7R RALX 1806 signifying they were manufactured in the 18th week of 2006 (so my tires had not been waiting long on the company’s shelves). Complicating my work was that the date was not printed on both sides of the tire, so I had to crawl under with a flashlight to see the date. (As of September 2009, the code will have to be printed on both sides).

If you only have three numbers at the end of the DOT code, like, DOTW2HY AWA 049, your tires are made in 2000 or earlier. The first two digits represent the week again, and the last digit represents the year of manufacture (my example would be end of January 1999).

One can only take away from this that manufacturers assumed, with good reason, that tires would not be used for more than 10 years. So, if you have a three digit number–it is time to change your tires, even if they appear safe on the surface.

ConsumerReports.org states that “most consumers will wear out tires before age becomes an issue.” Perhaps I simply don’t want to be the person (or know anyone) who that is the unfortunate exception to the rule.

Even if experts are fighting about the “expiry date,” consumers deserve a “best before date” like on the side of a Lay’s potato chip bag.

From sour cream to sunscreen, soft drinks and prescription medicines, expiry dates have been surfacing more and more.

I get the sour cream date: pass it by too many days and there are little green or black spheres of mold growing on the surface. Contrary to this, I am still using sunscreen that is two years old with no sunburn. Similarly, many doctors send their “expired” prescriptions to developing countries for use there.

My cynical side says that the new trend of “best before” dates (very different than expiry dates) are used to make us buy more products faster. Does Pepsi really require a best before date?

So why aren’t manufacturers putting expiry or at least best before dates on their tires? Seems they only have more sales to gain, and peoples’ lives to save. Sounds win-win to me.

Given that tire manufacturers assumed that tires wouldn’t stay in circulation 10 years, 10 years seems like a logical expiry date, and perhaps six would be the “best before date” (like European vehicle manufacturers recommend).

Please check your tire manufacture date.

If it is much older than your purchase date, ask your retailer to replace them.

Also, check your warranty, since some cover from the date of manufacture, not purchase, so buyers beware.

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