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Final words on tire aging

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Final words on tire aging

This is absolutely the last editorial I will write on tire aging. Not counting this one, I have written four since 2002.

The message has always been similar: Common sense tells you that tires have a shelf life. However, if they are properly cared for, that life is almost indefinite.

Little has changed over the last 12 years. Tire manufacturers are reluctant to put an expiration date on tires because they don’t know how the tires will be treated after they leave the factory. Will tire dealers stack too many tires on top of one another? Will they be stored or sit out in the sun? Will drivers run them under-inflated?

Consumer advocates, led by Sean Kane, founder and president of Safety Research & Strategies Inc., want to limit tire usage to six years from the date of manufacture. Kane has done a good job of getting his message out to the mainstream media. The American Broadcasting Co. (ABC) seems to be an ally.

A recent report on tire aging, the third I can remember on ABC, appeared on the television network’s local affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio. The Channel 5 investigation warned that the tire “you thought was new could lead to a catastrophic failure.”

In trying to prove its point, the station played fast and loose with the facts. Here are two examples.

1. “Both General Motors and Chrysler have specific guidelines in their owners manuals cautioning against tires that are beyond six years old. In addition, Bridgestone, Michelin and Continental all have similar advisories.”

The statement about General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC is true. Both recommend replacing tires older   than six years. However, I wouldn’t say the three tire manufacturers mentioned “have similar advisories.”

Both Bridgestone Americas Inc. and Michelin North America Inc. say that after five years, tires should be inspected. All three companies recommend replacing tires 10 years after the date of manufacture, not six.

I asked Yokohama Tire Corp. to send me its technical service bulletin on the matter. It says “a tire in use for five or more years should... be inspected by a qualified tire service professional at least once a year to determine whether it can continue in service.” It also says the vehicle owner “should follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for tire replacement. In the absence of recommendation from a particular vehicle manufacturer, Yokohama recommends the replacement and disposal of all passenger and light truck tires whose DOT production date is 10 or more years old.”

As part of its tire inspection guideline, Yokohama says it is also the owner’s responsibility to conduct regular inspections. Media reports conveniently leave out any mention of driver fault when it comes to tire aging. 

2. Channel 5 claimed tires more than six years old were involved in 252 incidents, 233 fatalities and 300 injuries over the last 20 years. Kane supplied the statistics.

If true, the numbers work out to 13 incidents per year and about 12 fatalities a year, which are pretty low numbers.  And they may be misleading.

We really don’t know if tire age had anything to do with the accidents. Incident reports often don’t take into account other factors, such as speeding, overloading, and I’ll bring it up again, driver responsibility. In addition, claims rates haven’t increased with the age of a tire, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).

In a study of 14,000 tires by the RMA, no correlation between the age of a tire and removal rate was found.

“There is no scientific or technical data that we are aware of that would establish or identify a minimum or maximum tire service life,” said Dan Zielinski, the RMA’s senior vice president of public affairs, in the Channel 5 report.

Under the guise of “consumer protection,” Ben Kramer and three other members of the Maryland House of Delegates have been pushing legislation limiting the sale of tires. House Bill 580 would prohibit a merchant “from selling a tire to a consumer in the state as a new tire if the tire... was manufactured more than three years before the date of sale.”

The RMA and Tire Industry Association oppose the bill. They have a perfect record when it comes to defeating tire aging legislation. Despite that, and the lack of data proving tire aging is Armageddon, I think it is time our industry sets an expiration date on tires. Until then, we will always be under attack from legislators and trial lawyers, especially during sweeps month.

Let’s take tires out of service after 10 years, regardless of their condition. That’s it from me.    ■

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at bob.ulrich@bobit.com.

For more of Bob Ulrich's editorials, see:

Premium vs. performance

ATD is OK with the FTC

Numbers of biblical proportions!

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September 2020

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