Tires. The word conjures up images of high performance, low profile rubber wrapped around oversized rims or large knobbies on a big truck forging through mud. Most of us think of the rim (wheel) instead of the tire itself. What tires are on your daily driver right now? For that matter, what tires are on your collector/summer car? Yeah, thought so. You're not so sure. Here's another question that will get you to wonder; how old are those tires? If they're more than five years old then you're not too far from needing a new set and if they're more than ten years old then they are dangerous to drive on and could cause an accident. Ever see a tire's tread separate from the tire? Ever see a tire separate from the rim?
No doubt some of you have recently purchase tires in the recent past and have that warm, comfortable knowledge that your tires are fresh and ready to take on the next several years. For the rest of us, we'll need to go check our daily ride and make sure there's enough tread. There's a few ways to do that; the penny test is an old standby. Make sure that some part of ol' Abe's head is covered and you're sure to have at least 2/32” of tread left. Check the wear bar in between the tread, if it's even with the tread surface then the tire is done. Another way is to use a tire depth gauge available at most auto parts stores. Once below 2/32” be sure to start shopping for tires.
What of the hot rod in the garage? Those tires have tons of tread, the car barely gets driven a thousand miles a year. True, but if Bill Clinton was still in office when they were purchased then they are a possible point of failure. Rubber compounds are so much better than they have ever been but still can break down. Over time, tires will show signs of wear not only in the tread but in the rest of the tire as well. Cracks are a sure sign of dry rot and, once rotted, the tire is a hazard on the road. Tires can separate and usually do so at speed. A shredded steel belted radial can wreak havoc on a fender or quarter panel, not to mention it will cause the car to lose control.
Tires made prior to the year 2000 are more difficult to date but tires manufactured after that time do have a date code embedded into the tire identification numbers on the sidewall. There are 12 or 13 digits following the letters DOT, they identify manufacturer as well as the “born on” date. The last four digits usually signify the year and week with the week coming first. If your last four read 3106 then it reads that the tire was made in the 31st week of 2006. More information is available at nhtsa.gov or through the manufacturers and retailers themselves.
Accidents due to faulty equipment are completely avoidable! For peace of mind, check your tires. If you find that they need replacing please do so, you'll be doing us all a favor. The life you save may be your own.