27 Investigates: Are your tires safe to drive on?

are your tires safe to drive on?


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – If you have ever bought or plan to buy a used tire for your car, you may want to pay close attention to it. That’s because the older a tire is, the less likely it is to keep you safe.

Many drivers bemoan the expense of buying new tires, but old tires can be a huge safety liability. Just ask Rakyna Kenyon Boyd, who sustained injuries after the tire of another car blew out. She talked to our sister station, WWLP.

“I just remember seeing the tire, and i woke up spitting up blood and saying, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God,'” Boyd said.

From the time tires are manufactured, they begin to break down.

Bob Pagley of the Pit Stop in Hubbard tries to get customers to buy new tires, but many people still buy the used ones…but even new tires that can sit on a shelf for years are not immune.

“They start to break down from UV light, they start to break down the rubber and deteriorate the rubber,” Pagley said. “Some people that only drive short distances everyday they will come in, and we will tell them their tires are dry-rotted all the way around the tire and the tire could explode at at high speeds, especially once the tire heats up.”

So how can you tell how old your tire is? All tires have a manufactures date stamped on them. It appears after a Department of Transportation number, but you have to understand how to read it. The last four digits of the number usually show the week and the year in which a tire was made.

For example, a tire number ending in “3204” means that the tire was made in the 32nd week of 2004.

Cliff Schnerr, of Triple A tells us, tires have no expiration date, and it’s not illegal to sell them.

“Triple A recommends that you replace them after ten years,” Schnerr said.

Schnerr says that’s the average shelf life in the U.S., but depending on where you live, it could be less. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that, especially in warmer states, there appears to be a relationship between tire age and the likelihood it could fail. Scherr says that’s what’s so dangerous about buying a used tire.

“You won’t know which environment that tire came from,” Scherr said. “It could be shipped in from California, New Mexico, Florida or one of those other states where the tire life is shorter and they could have been driven on the low pressure and you wouldn’t know the difference.”

Tire manufacturers recommend 10 years. They also say the life of a tire is more dependent on how it’s maintained and whether it’s been exposed to heat or sunlight. Dan Zielinski is with the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association.

“Absent those types of exposure it shouldn’t be expected that the tire isn’t going to perform simply because of the passage of time,” Zielinski said.

Bob Pagley recommends new tires every five to seven years.

“The main thing to keep in mind is that your life is riding on those four tires,” Pagley said.

In fact, WKBN began asking around, and found that many people had no ideas about the age of their tires.

“There are so many used tire places around here selling used tires by the ton you can see looking at what you just did looking at the date you can see how old they are that’s crazy..”}

According to NHTSA, between 2005 and 2006, aging tires killed 90 people in the U.S and hurt 3200 others. The National Transportation Safety Board is working on new tire safety recommendations.

In the meantime, experts say drivers need to educate themselves about maintaining their tires properly and keep an eye on other factors such as treadwear to keep them safe.

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