Lawyers in our firm who handle defective tire litigation are well-familiar with the term “tire aging.” They learned early on that the public was unaware of the dangers created by old tires. The issue of “tire aging” is discussed quite often behind closed doors by tire and automobile manufacturers. Rarely is information ever distributed to the public to make consumers aware of potential tire aging problems that could lead to a catastrophic failure of the tire while being used. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has examined this issue, but its finding and discussions of the issue are rarely publicized or revealed to the public. To date, the federal government has taken no action to regulate or limit the age of tires that can be used by consumers.
How do you know how old your tire is? Each tire sold to the public contains a serial number known as the DOT number. This number is stamped on the side wall of all tires. Unfortunately, the DOT number is often stamped on the side of the tire that is turned inward to the vehicle so it is not readily accessible. The DOT number contains information related to the identity of the manufacturer of the tire and the manufacturer’s plant of origin for the tire. The last four digits of the DOT number will indicate the week and year the tire was manufactured. For example, a tire with a DOT number with the last four digits of 3613 indicates that the tire was manufactured during the 36th week of 2013.
The manufacturing date is important because a number of automobile manufacturers have determined that tires with a certain age should be removed from a vehicle for safety reasons. For example, Ford Motor Company and others now warn that tires more than six years old should be removed from a vehicle even if there is significant tread on the tire. This is especially true of a spare tire that may have been placed on the vehicle when it was new but never used. The tire may have all its tread but due to its age, it may be unsafe to use on the vehicle. Some tire manufacturers provide information through their websites that state that their tires should not be used if more than 10 years old, but in the event an automobile manufacturer has a lower age, the auto manufacturer’s tire age should be followed to determine if a tire should be removed a vehicle.
Federal databases show that in recent years that there have been more than 17,000 crashes per year caused by “blow-outs or flat tires.” These same statistics show that these wrecks resulted in nearly 400 fatalities per year and over 11,000 non-fatal injuries per year. Therefore, tire aging that may be linked to catastrophic tire failure, such as tread belt separations, which can cause loss of control or a blow-out, are a significant risk to consumers.
Even though consumer information related to tire aging is not readily available, tire manufacturers do provide the information to their retailers and it is also available to tire service centers. Unfortunately, tire service centers often fail to review the DOT numbers of tires that they are servicing. Retailers also sometimes sell tires as new that are past the age requirements set forth by automobile manufacturers. Retailers sometimes sell used tires that are too old to be put into service. For this reason, it is not unusual for consumers to have tires that are too old to be in service on a vehicle due to the failure of a tire service center or tire retailer to recognize that tires are too old. If you need more information on this subject, contact Ben Baker at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Baker@beasleyallen.com.
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