Various retailers, including Wal-Mart and Sears, could be selling aged tires as new, according to a recent ABC News Program 20/20 report. Some never used tires could be as old as 12 years and experts say they are not safe.
The British Rubber Manufacturers Association, which includes major tire makers, cautioned that “unused tyres (sic) should not be put into service if they are over 6 years old.” Ford Motor Company also asked the federal government to mandate a six year expiration date since research and tests indicate that aging tires dry out and become conceivably dangerous.
U.S. tire makers have opposed expiration date requirements. The 20/20 report said that to determine the age, consumers must check the cryptic code on tire side walls. It shows the month and year it was made, but few persons take the time or know how to decipher this writing. According to 20/20, the code is at the end of a bunch of letters and numbers on the tire and, until recently, was on the inward side necessitating motorists to scramble under the car to view it. For example, if the number was 418, the tire was manufactured in the 41st week of 1998 and is 10 years old.
Aged tires have been implicated and blamed for numerous, horrendous accidents, injuries and deaths. As of June 2008, Safety Research & Strategies (SRS) knew of 159 incidents in which tires older than six years had tread/ belt separations. Most resulted in loss-of-control crashes that caused 168 injuries and 128 deaths. The SRS count also included 10 cases with tires past five years, causing an additional 24 injuries and 14 fatalities.
In 2004, SRS petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to take action, but little was done. Critics have accused the agency with ‘dragging its feet’ regarding aged tires, despite past knowledge that these tires pose serious safety risks. In 2008, the NHTSA finally issued a consumer advisor warning motorists that outdated tires, even if they appear to be new, can lead to “catastrophic failure.”