A lot is riding on your car’s tires, most importantly the safety of you and your family. That’s why it’s important to replace tires if they’ve been damaged beyond repair or the tread level reaches 2/32”.
But if neither are issues, how do you know when to replace tires simply because of old age?
In this article, we’ll explore how long tires typically last and answer the question: Do car tires have expiration dates?
Do Car Tires Have an Expiration Date?
There are no DOT regulations that deal directly with a tire’s expiration date. However, there are several studies written by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that recommend replacing tires when they turn 6 years old.
Several of the country’s largest automobile manufacturers – including Ford, Toyota, and GMC – agree with the NHTSA’s findings and have issued warnings in their owner’s manuals about the importance of replacing tires after 6 years.
According to the 2013 Jeep owner’s manual: Tires and spare tires should be replaced after 6 years, regardless of the remaining tread.
Failure to follow this warning can result in sudden tire failure. You could lose control and have a collision resulting in serious injury or death.
Ford mentions the following on its website:
“Tires degrade over time depending on many factors such as weather, storage conditions, and conditions of use. Replace your tires if they are more than 6 years old.”
Many tire manufacturers also recommend replacing tires after 6 years, while others give them a shelf life of about 5 to 10 years based on several factors, most notably, the type of rubber compounds that are used in manufacturing tires.
How Long Do Tires Last in Storage?
Some people believe that properly storing tires in a climate-controlled area will make them last forever. This simply isn’t true, though.
Tires age and degrade whether they see the road every day, or are stored safely for several years.
Some tire manufacturers say that tires can last 6 to 10 years in storage, while others recommend replacing them after 6 years even if they haven’t been used.
Always check with your car’s owner’s manual or with the tire manufacturer for specific recommendations about how long tires should last if they’re properly stored, but the 6-year rule is the safest bet.
Stationary tires that are improperly stored can be subject to dry rot in as little as several months to several years.
Dry rot is typically characterized by visible cracks on the tire caused when the rubber compounds used to manufacture the tire break down over time. Check our article here on when cracks are so deep you need to replace your tires.
Driving a car with tire rot is extremely dangerous, as it can lead to holes and leaks in the tire, as well as complete blowouts on the highway.
If you’re storing tires – whether it’s because you won’t be using the vehicle, or because you own winter tires – follow these tips to prevent them from aging prematurely:
- Use soapy water and a tire brush to clean the tires thoroughly of any dirt, dust, or grime. Make sure the tires are completely dry before storing them.
- Place each tire in an airtight bag and then close the bag tightly with heavy-duty tape to ensure no air enters. Leaf and lawn bags work well for storing tires.
- Find a dry and cool spot such as a climate-controlled space or a basement to store your tires, and ensure they’re not exposed to sunlight that can be harmful to rubber. Avoid storing tires in areas of the house that may be exposed to large temperature fluctuations, such as the attic or garage.
- Store tires upright individually, if possible, and avoid stacking them horizontally, as that can put added pressure on the tires that can lead to tire distortion and additional stress.
How to Inspect a Tire for Dry Rot?
If your tires are under 6 years old, and you think they’ve been properly stored using the tips above, it’s still a good idea to thoroughly examine them for any signs of dry rot.
Some of the most common signs of dry rot include:
- Cracks on the tread.
Tire tread refers to the rubber on the tire that grips the road to ensure proper traction. Dry rot can lead to small cracks on the tread that can negatively affect your car’s handling ability.
- Cracks on the sidewall.
Cracks on the sidewall can be small or large. They indicate the tire’s rubber is starting to break down due to exposure to sunlight or other elements.
- Faded color.
Fading is another common sign of dry rot. If your tires start to look more gray than black, there could be dry rot issues.
Dry rot causes the oils in the rubber to seep out, leading tires to become more brittle. You may notice small pieces of rubber breaking off the tire.
Can I Use 10-Year-Old Tires with Good Tread and No Cracks?
If your car’s tires are 10 years or older and appear to be in great condition (good tread, no cracks), you should still replace them immediately.
Their integrity is more than likely already compromised and they are more prone to dry rot that can lead to holes and cracks.
Over time – especially with tires that are rarely used or stored away – the rubber can begin to break down, with factors such as heat, improper storage, and fluctuating temperatures being some of the common causes.
In a past analysis of car crashes, the NHTSA estimated that 90 people die and more than 3,000 people are injured each year from crashes where tire aging was cited as a factor.
In total, there are about 11,000 tire-related crashes in the United States every year, leading to more than 600 fatalities.
If your tires have reached their 10th birthday, there’s no logical explanation for keeping them on the road. Search online for a tire recycling center that can take them off your hands.
Is it Illegal to Sell Expired Tires?
Because there are currently no laws or regulations in place that prevent the sale of tires that are older than 6 years or even 10 years old, it’s not illegal to sell them.
However, any tire or automotive business worth its salt would not sell a customer aging tires, especially if they’re more than 6 years old.
Selling customers older tires can lead to serious injury or even death if the tire malfunctions or blows out on the highway.
It may also lead to legal action if a victim in the crash sues the company he or she bought the tire from.
Be wary of buying tires that are advertised as being “new” on an online site or with a shady tire dealer without first inspecting the tire.
At first glance, the tire may appear to be in pristine condition because there’s no wear or tread loss; but in some cases, they’re ticking time bombs due to dry rot and can blow out or break down once they hit the road.
Although simply selling old tires to customers is not illegal, several states have enacted laws that make it illegal to install tires that are knowingly unsafe to the public.
In Ohio, the criteria for an unsafe tire include:
- Damage that exposes the reinforcing plies of the tire, including cracks, punctures, cuts, and scrapes.
- A tread depth of less than 2/32”.
- Tire damage that’s not repaired to industry standards.
- Damage to the inner liner or indication of internal separation, such as bulges or local areas of irregular tread wear indicating possible tread or belt separation.
Do Car Tires Have a Shelf Life?
According to Tire Rack, most tire manufacturers’ warranties cover tires for 6 years, but that date doesn’t start when you purchase them.
For example, if you purchased new tires that were manufactured one year earlier, the warranty will cover the tires for an additional five years (or 6 years from the date they were manufactured).
Reputable tire dealers or auto store employees should tell you when the tire was manufactured.
You can also look at the manufacturing date on the tire, which we’ll discuss in detail in our next section.
Do Car Tires Have a Manufacturing Date on Them?
The Department of Transportation’s NHTSA safety standards requires that all tire manufacturers list the date tires were manufactured on the side of the tire.
Finding the correct date can be a little confusing because there are several numbers and letters listed that start with “DOT.”
Look at the last four digits at the end of the DOT code to find the tire’s manufacturing date.
The first two digits indicate the week, and the last two digits show the year the tire was manufactured. For example, if the number “1620” is listed, the tire was manufactured during the 16th week of 2020. The number “4218”, meanwhile, indicates the tire was manufactured during the 42nd week of 2018, and so on.
Don’t buy car tires unless you read the manufacturer’s date first.
If you research online whether tires have expiration dates, you may come across some conflicting information. To play it safe, it’s best to listen to the experts.
Although there are no laws regulating when tires should be considered “expired,” the NHTSA and many of the top auto and tire manufacturers in the country recommend not using tires once they turn 6 – no matter whether they’ve spent 50,000 miles on the road or have been stored away in the basement for several years.
Keep you, your loved ones, and other drivers safe by only using tires that are under 6 years of age and in good condition.