Most people know to check their tires for tread wear and cracks or slow leaks. It’s risky to drive on bald tires, you can blow out while driving at high speeds and crash. However, many people are not aware that tires age, and even if you don’t drive your car that often and the tires look great tread-wise, they still may be dangerous to have on your vehicle.
In fact, news reports are that the one-car crash that killed actor Paul Walker of “Fast and Furious” fame was caused, at least in part, by the aging tires on the Porsche Carrera that crashed.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Highway Patrol found that the fact that the Porsche’s aging tires may have contributed to the crash by lessening the drivability of the car, especially at high speeds, as well as the ability of the driver to handle the sports car on the road.
Tires Age Over Time
The truth about tires is that they are made of rubber, and just like rubber bands, the rubber will age and deteriorate. Even if the tires set in a warehouse and never get put on a vehicle, after so many years they will be useless.
If your car has old tires, then you may be driving with a dangerous condition. The same is true for other vehicles on the road: that big rig or semi truck driving on the Interstate next to you may be a moving safety hazard if those tires are old on that huge truck.
Tires that are sold with higher mileage ratings may age slower than tires with lower mileage because the more expensive tires will have chemicals added to them that slows the rubber’s deterioration and gives the higher mileage tires more time on the road before they age out.
However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is no set standard for when tires need to be retired from use for being too old. You cannot find a table on the internet, for instance, that will list when specific makes and models of tires are too old to have on your car.
Weather Conditions and Aging of Tires
It is known that tires exposed to hotter climates will age faster. For those who drive vehicles in the southern United States, their tires will age faster than those driven in our part of the country, for instance.
Why? The heat will accelerate the deterioration of the tire. This is true even if the tire is your spare, setting unused in the trunk of your car or hoisted onto the back of your SUV.
Car Manufacturer Recommendations
Car makers include recommendations for the time to replace tires in their owner manuals. For example, Ford Motor Company has a 6-year tire replacement recommendation, regardless of tread wear, for its cars. From the Ford website:
If a tire is more than 6 years old, it is generally in need of replacement. Tires degrade over time, even when they are not being used. Heat caused by hot climates or frequent high loading conditions can accelerate the aging process. You should replace the spare tire when you replace the other road tires due to the aging of the spare tire.
Replacing Your Tires
Only use replacement tires and wheels that are the same size and type (such as P-metric versus LT-metric or all-season versus all-terrain) as those originally provided. Use of any tire or wheel not recommended by Ford can affect the safety and performance of your vehicle, which could result in an increased risk of loss of vehicle control, vehicle rollover, personal injury and death. Additionally, the use of non-recommended tires and wheels could cause steering, suspension, axle or transfer case/power transfer unit failure.
It is recommended that the two front tires or two rear tires generally be replaced as a pair.