How do you gauge if your vehicle’s tyres are safe? How much tread there is, or are there any bulges or tears? Finding out their age could be just as important.
Read on as we reveal how to check a tyre’s age, why it matters so much and how it could end up saving you from an accident that’s just waiting to happen.
From what to check to making sure you’re not ripped off by tyre retailers and car sellers, we reveal the little-known secrets behind how the date of your tyres’ manufacture could impact on your motoring safety and costs. Here’s all you need to know…
So how do I find out how old my tyres are?
As you can see from our infographic, above, the four-digit number is typically contained within its own ‘box’ on the tyre’s sidewall. However, it could be three digits (see below) or the digits could well also be preceded by some letters, often highlighted as the DOT code. The DOT code is required by the US Department of Transportation. An example of this would be DOT U2LL LMLR 5107 – where the final four digits reveal the tyre’s age.
My code only has three digits – what does that mean?
If there are just three digits it means the tyres were manufactured before the year 2000 and should be replaced straight away. For example, a code of 408 reveals a tyre manufactured in week 40 of 1998. Tyres that are this old are highly likely to have deteriorated to an unsafe level.
Why does the age of a tyre matter – mine has loads of tread?
Tyres that are left lying around can be damaged by UV light, which oxidises the rubber and causes it to dry out. This can cause small cracks and leave the tyres in a potentially dangerous condition.
Buying a new car? Make sure it has tyres that match its age:
If you’re spending out on a new motor, make sure the rubber is equally young. A new car could have been sitting around in an open compound for a long period of time, leaving the tyres to degrade in the UV light without the essential movement to release the anti-oxidising chemicals that prevent rubber drying out and cracking. It’s also possible that some dealers may swap tyres around on a ‘stock rotation’. Make sure you check the date before you buy and demand new (or virtually new) tyres before you buy.
What about buying a used car? Do I need to check its tyre age?
We’ve all seen the ‘low-mileage’ used cars being sold and while they might make a reliable purchase, the lack of driving might also mean the tyres are a good reason to knock the price down so they can be replaced. Check the date stamped on the tyre and adjust your offer accordingly. One AA man was checking over a nearly new car for a customer – only to find the ’63-plate motor was actually fitted with tyres showing plenty of tread but a combined age of 64 years old!
What about the spare tyres?
Good question! If your car has a spare then check it now. While your car will have burned rubber and had its ‘boots’ replaced over the years, it likely the spare has not been updated. Check the date now and replace if it’s more than six years old – less if you can spare the cash. Don’t get a flat, only to replace it with a tyre that could also fail.
What about buying new tyres?
Once again, make sure you check the manufacture date when buying a new set of tyres. The tyre ‘industry’ considers tyres to be “new” and fit to sell for up to five years from the date of production – but that doesn’t mean you have to. Many tyre centres and wholesalers will buy in bulk and stockpile their rubber to get better prices, so make sure you get a product that really is new. New rubber is never cheap, so why pay full price for what could, in fact, be old-spec or age-damaged tyres. Simply go elsewhere if the retailer won’t give you the tyres you want.
Why you should extra careful with caravans and motorhomes:
Have you got a caravan, or perhaps you’re thinking of buying one? Make sure you check the tyres even if they have deep crevasses of tread. These vehicles will often only cover a few miles each year, so despite looking safe – they could be extremely old and liable to fail. Ever noticed how many caravans you see with blown rubber?
What about part worn tyres?
Research from the AA has revealed more than four million Brits will buy part-worn tyres over the coming year. These are old tyres that have previously been fitter to a vehicle and often cost from just £20. Selling and using them is legal, but it’s especially important to check the age on these tyres, as it’s likely they’ve been hanging around for a period of time. Don’t forget, anything over six years old is considered to be borderline. It’s likely to be a false economy, too, as research by Tyresafe found that buyers will pay £6.33 per mm of usable rubber on a part-worn tyre, compared with £5.32 for a new product.
How old is too old for a tyre?
If your tyres are getting a regular run-out, many experts suggest that six years old is a good time to replace them. If you’re not keen, make sure you get them inspected by experts after five. However, if your car or the tyres have been laid up for long periods without any movement, you should get them inspected by experts before returning to the road.
What should I look for to see if a tyre is suffering age-related defects?
Check for ageing on a tyre by inspecting the sidewall for small cracks. This is called crazing and proves a good indicator of the rubber hardening. If you see these little cracks, open your wallet and take the pain of buying new rubber (just check it really is new, though).