Where are tires made?

Identifying where your tires are made before you purchase them isn’t always an easy question to answer. There are plenty of tire manufacturers with plants in the U.S. that also have plants across the globe. So while one brand’s style of tire might be manufactured in a U.S.-based plant, that same style might also be made abroad. After you’ve purchased the tire, you can identify the country of origin by referencing the plant code that is printed on the sidewall.

In 2015, Consumer Reports fielded a study regarding tires and their country of origin. They researched where tires were made on the 72 cars they tested, and found 21 tire brands were built in 19 countries. While performance types are built around the globe, Consumer Reports found that 40% of the all-season tires were manufactured in the U.S., while only one of 23 winter tires were made here.

Where to find the Tire Identification Number  

The federally-mandated Tire Identification Number (TIN) molded into the sidewall has the code. The TIN will tell you the tire plant, the tire size code, the manufacturer’s code and the date of manufacturer code. For tires approved for sale in the U.S., the code begins with DOT to signify it has met Department of Transportation regulations.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Tire Manufacturers’ Association
  • In this example, MA is the manufacturer plant code for Zhejiang Zhongchi Rubber Co., Ltd. in Zhejiang, China. In 2016, the plant codes went to three places, so you may have to add a 1 in front of a two-letter code get a result.
  • The tire size code is L9. There aren’t national standards for tire size codes – NHTSA allows manufacturers to determine their own codes.
  • The Manufacturer Construction Code is also up to the discretion of the manufacturer. There is no standardized data coded into the number. It’s usually related to the tire batch to help track it down in case of a recall.
  • The final four digits are the date of construction. The first two indicate the week of the year out of 52, and the last two numbers are the year. So this tire was made in the third week of 2009.

The full number is required to be shown only on one side of the tire; the other side of the tire may have a shorter number.

How to identify tire plant code

The NHTSA has a handy tool to help: The Manufacturer’s Information Database.

Here are step-by-step instructions to use this database:

  • The link takes you to a search page with several search boxes.
  • Check the box that shows “Equipment Plants (Tires, Brake Hoses, Retread and Glazing).” Make sure no other boxes on the pages are checked.
  • Select Equipment Type as tires
  • Enter the two or three digit code in the DOT code box. Then click the search button in the lower left corner.

The plant that made your tires should come up in the search results. You can click on the links there to see details about the plant’s location and contact information.

In 2018, the U.S. DOT issued 65 new plant identification codes for tire factories, including five in the U.S. and 35 in China. That brings the total up to 1,040 plants worldwide with at least one DOT code. Of that number, about 80 are for plants that are closed or no longer make tires, while another 30 or so are for retread plants, factories that don’t make tires or turn out only bicycle tires and/or tubes.

If you’re in the market for new tires, the question of where a tire is made isn’t easy to answer. If it’s important for you to buy American, Cooper has four manufacturing facilities in the United States and a fair amount of their tires are made in U.S.-based plants.

If you’re in the market for new tires or wheels, shop easily at TireBuyer. If you have any questions about what type of tire you need, give us a call at 800-324-9535.

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