How To Determine The Age Of Your Tires

Along with understanding tire basics like pressures, tread depth, and tire type, you should know the age of your tires.

Similar to other tire wear and performance factors, age can and will affect the performance of tires, and therefore overall vehicle safety and capability.

Not sure how old your current tires are? No worries, we’ll show you how to easily find out.

Tires manufactured after 2000

“Stamped” on the outer sidewall of each tire is its birth date in a straightforward week/year format.

Scan the tire sidewall in a clockwise pattern and find the letters “DOT” (which signifies the tire’s compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation’s laws & regulations).

Just to the right of “DOT” (going clockwise) are a series of letters and numbers, followed by an encircled group of four, tightly spaced numbers – these are the numbers you need.

The first two numbers represent the week of manufacture, the last two numbers indicate the year.

On this Michelin tire, the date code is “2118.” Which indicates the tire was manufactured in the 21st week of the year. The number “18” represents the year 2018.

This tire was manufactured in the 21st week of 2018

Why does tire age matter?

Tires are constructed of many organic, natural materials. Like other organic materials, the rubber compounds in a tire degrade with time. Exposure to environmental oxidation, sunlight, weather, “the elements,” all contribute to slow but unavoidable degradation of the materials that comprise your tires.

The ingredients that make up a tire
The ingredients that make up a tire. Click for larger image.

How old is too old?

A general rule of thumb is a tire has a maximum life of about ten years. Beginning at five years, tires should be annually inspected for condition and signs of age-related degradation.

“If the tires haven't been replaced 10 years after their date of manufacture, as a precaution, Michelin recommends replacing them with new tires. Even if they appear to be in usable condition and have not worn down to the tread wear indicator. This applies to spare tires as well.” – MichelinMan.com

What happens when tires are too old? Are there visual signs?

Yes, there can be. Dry rotting and cracking are common with aged tires. As the tire materials degrade, they show the visual signs of breaking down.

Check the tire sidewall and tread for any pitting, discoloration (a lightening of color associated with drying out) or splintering/cracking.

Close-up of a tire showing degradation
Close-up of a tire showing degradation

However, while overly aged tires sometimes provide visual cues about their compromised condition, that isn’t always the case. This is especially true due to the immense quality and durability of modern tires, and the advancing, age-resistant materials used to construct them. Even if your tires aren’t showing signs of breaking down, tire age should take priority. Don’t use tires beyond their maximum service life even if they still appear to be “good.”

In some cases, a drop in performance and grip associated with aged tires is perceptible to the driver. If your tires still have sufficient tread depth and don’t show visual signs of degradation, it could still be tire age that’s contributing to that sense of compromised traction.

What about the performance of aged tires? Is performance compromised?

Yes, older tires are likely to deliver compromised, deficient performance, especially if they’re dry rotting, pitting, or cracking. These are signs that the rubber compound has lost its elasticity, and therefore its ability to properly interact with the road surface.

Close-up of a tire showing its age
Close-up of a tire showing its age

Tires are often thought of as hard, inflexible objects, but that isn’t the case at all. The pliability, flex, and tread-to-road surface interaction as the tire rolls are critical to its traction and performance.

Won’t my tread run out long before my tires expire?

Most likely. Tire tread wear associated with typical driving and use will probably expire your tires long before they expire due to age.

Exceptions include vehicles that are used only occasionally, such as classic or show cars. And don’t forget spare tires, which are often not replaced over the lifetime of the vehicle. Under usual spare tire storage conditions (like in the trunk), these unused tires may still be mounted in emergency circumstances some years past usual tire life. However, particularly if your vehicle mounts its spare tire on the exterior of the vehicle, it’s a good idea to check on condition at least once per year.

My tires are rarely used – how can I prolong their life?

The best solution for occasional use is inside tire storage that avoids degrading environmental factors like UV rays, ozone, and widely fluctuating temperatures. If you’re familiar with the freeze-thaw seasonal damage that occurs on roadways, the same basic process can occur with tires subjected to a range of sub-freezing and hot summer temperatures.

Tires that are stored in temperate conditions away from direct sunlight and ozone will suffer less degradation than parked (loaded) tires that are subject to fluctuating temperatures, humidity, direct light, and so on.

If dismounting your wheels and tires prior to long-term storage isn’t possible, do your best to control the environment in which the vehicle is parked. Avoid direct sunlight, exposure to precipitation, and certainly avoid tires being parked/stationary in wet conditions.

For more information, see How To Keep Tires From Dry Rotting and Cracking.

I’m looking but can’t find the tire age numbers shown above. What am I missing?

Make sure you’re looking at the outer tire sidewall, the one that faces “out” from the vehicle. The inner tire sidewall does display DOT information as well, but typically not the tire manufacture date.

If you’re sure you’re examining the correct tire sidewall – under very abnormal wear conditions or repeat “scuffing” of the tire sidewall when driving, it could be possible to wear the tire age figures beyond readability. Check any of your other tires for a clearer print.

What about tires that seem to be aging too early? Can I make a warranty claim?

Most modern tires come with a “Workmanship and Materials” warranty, which covers drivers in the event of abnormal, premature material degradation. In the case of Michelin, this warranty extends six years from the date of purchase.

“If there is a defect in workmanship and materials during the life of the original usable tread, or six (6) years from date of purchase (whichever comes first), your tire may be replaced on a pro rata basis under this warranty.”

– MichelinMan.com

Be sure to activate your tire warranty and hang on to your purchase receipt.

The warranty can be called on in the unlikely event that premature tire aging does occur. The purchase receipt (sent to you via email with any TireBuyer purchase) will back up your warranty claim – not to mention, serve as an approximate indication of the age of your tires if you're unable to check the tire sidewall in person.

Are your tires getting up there in age?

Now that you know the age of your tires and maximum tire life, is it about time for a new set?

Plug in your vehicle or tire size information on TireBuyer and shop for a new set of tires. Or, give us a call at 866-961-8668 and we’ll be happy to help you find some high quality, long-lasting, and economical new tires for your vehicle.

 

Get the right tires for your car or truck!

Tell us what you drive and we’ll show you all the best options.

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Get the right tires for your car or truck.

Tell us what you drive and we’ll show you all the best options.