The U.S. tire industry is refusing to give American motorists the same warnings given to car owners in Europe and Asia about the possible dangers of tires six years old or older. More than 100 deaths in the United States have been attributed to aged tires which dried out and lost their treads, even though the tires appeared to be safe. With no warning from the industry or the federal government, safety experts say the only way for consumers to protect themselves is to learn how to read the cryptic code embedded on a tire’s sidewall which reveals the year and week a tire was manufactured. The code is at the end of a set of letters and numbers on the tire. Until recently, the code was on the inward side of the tire requiring motorists to climb under the car to read the number. For example, the number 418 indicates the tire was manufactured in the 41st week of 1998 and is ten years old. A tire older than six years old, even if it’s never been driven a mile, can be very dangerous. You don’t know what’s going on inside. That’s what makes it so dangerous.
Members of the British Rubber Manufacturers Association, which include Goodyear, Firestone and Michelin, warned in 2001 that “unused tires” should not be put into service if they are over six years old. Interestingly, the U.S. Tire Industry Association, representing many of the same companies, says it has no plans to issue a similar warning. In fact, the Association says there is no scientific information that can point to when a tire should be removed because of age. Safety experts contend there is extensive research showing tires begin to deteriorate in “critical” ways even if they remain unused or unsold in store inventories. A tire can remain in a store’s inventory for eight to ten years – look good – and be very dangerous.
In most cases, a visual inspection or check of tread depth will not reveal the problem. The Ford Motor Company has urged the federal government to adopt a six-year expiration date, citing “comprehensive research” and “defendable data driven by analysis.” Ford, BMW, Chrysler, Toyota and VW/Audi now carry warnings about aged tires in manuals given to car owners. Even some tire companies have begun to issue warnings. Bridgestone/Firestone, Michelin and Continental now recommend that tires older than ten years should not be used, even if they appear safe by visual inspection. Our firm has handled a number of cases where “bad tires” caused injury or death. Based on our experience, I can tell you “aged tires” are a real hazard.
Source: ABC News
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