Aged Tires Sold as New Putting Consumers at Risk

A recent report on the ABC News Program 20/20 highlighted the dangers posed by <"">aged tires. Apparently some retailers, including Wal-Mart and Sears, are selling tires that are as much as 12-years-old as new. Though the tires have never been used, they are far from safe.

Research and tests show that as tires age, they begin to dry out and become potentially dangerous. The British Rubber Manufacturers Association, which also includes the major tire makers, has warned that “unused tyres (sic) should not be put into service if they are over 6 years old.” Ford Motor Company has also urged the federal government to impose a six year expiration date for tires.

Unfortunately, tire makers in the U.S. have resisted efforts to require expiration dates on tires. According to 20/20, to determine a tire’s age, consumers must decipher the cryptic doe on tire side walls that indicates the month and year it was made. Few consumers know how to read this code.

According to 20/20, that code is at the end of a jumble of letters and numbers on the tire and, until recently, was on the inward side of the tire requiring motorists to climb under the car to read the number. For example, the number 418 would indicate that a tire was manufactured in the 41st week of 1998 and is 10 years old.

Aged tires have been implicated in scores of accidents, injuries and deaths. Aged tires have been blamed for catastrophic accidents and deaths. As of June 2008, the Safety Research & Strategies (SRS) had counted 159 incidents in which tires older than six years experienced tread / belt separations-most resulting in loss-of-control crashes. These incidents were the cause of 128 fatalities and 168 injuries. The SRS count also included an additional 10 cases involving tires older than five years at the time of failure (half of which were more than five-and-a-half years old at the time of failure). These 10 incidents accounted for an additional 14 fatalities and 24 injuries.

In 2004, SRS petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to act on aged tires, but nothing was done at the time. Critics have long charged the agency with dragging its feet on the issue of aged tires, despite its past acknowledgement that aged tires are a serious safety risk. It wasn’t until 2008 that the NHTSA finally issued a consumer advisory warning motorists that outdated tires, even if they appear to be brand new, can lead to “catastrophic failure.”

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