The ABC News program 20/20 which aired on May 9th, had an interesting investigative report on the safety of older tires. The contention of the report was that tires older than 6 years may be unsafe even if they have never been used:
Research and tests show that as tires age, they begin to dry out and become potentially dangerous, leading to calls for a six-year age limit for tires from Ford Motor Co. and other car companies.
The story also claims:.
More than 100 deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to aged tires which dried out and lost their treads, even though they appeared to be safe, according to Sean Kane, who heads a private auto safety firm and consults with the federal government.
The program conducted random shopping at some major tire retailers throughout the US and found numerous cases of tires being sold that were manufactured more than 6 years ago. They even found one case where a tire manufactured in 1996 was available for sale. Now there is a difference of opinion as to whether older tires are a safety issue. The US tire trade association and several retailers claim that the shelf life of tires is not an issue. The British Rubber Manufacturers Association claims that tires should not be put into service if they are over 6 years old. Now is this story simply an inflammatory ratings grab or perhaps an issue being flogged by hungry class-action lawyers? We don’t know, but you should protect yourself the next time you go tire shopping. Every tire has a code stamped on the sidewall which shows the week and year that the unit was produced. This ABC News article on tire production date codes will show you how to protect yourself from buying ancient tires when you think you are buying brand new rubber. If you are spending big bucks on new tires, you may as well buy fresh (just in case).