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CBS tackles the issue of tire aging

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The report on The Early Show on CBS this morning had an ominous title: "Good Tires Gone Bad."

Then co-anchor Harry Smith added to the potential hysteria: "Are the tires on your car an accident waiting to happen?"

The four-and-a-half minute report that followed, by consumer corresondent Susan Koeppen, talked with three sources: Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies Inc.; Don Shea, CEO and president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association; and a family that had experienced a problem with "new" tires manufactured years earlier.

On three occasions, Koeppen reported information from "some experts," "safety experts" and "these safety experts," although only Kane was interviewed on camera.

"Some experts have a warning," she said: "Tires that look good can be dangerous if they´re too old."

The couple suffered a tread separation that ultimately revealed one of the tires had been manufactured more than 12 years earlier.

"Safety experts say you could be driving on old tires and not even know it, and that could put you and your family at risk," said Koeppen.

Kane, who on Nov. 8 petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about helping consumers determine the age of their tires, also is pushing to force tire manufacturers to mold a six-year expiration date on tires in addition to the D.O.T. code.

Kane linked 50 serious accidents and 37 fatalities on tires at least six years of age or older. Most of them had "no visible appearance of any problem."

He then made the claim that "as tires age, they start to break down on the inside."

Shea says the RMA does not believe in expiration dates for tires.

"We may lull consumers into complacency and they may come away saying, ´Well, up to x-years, I don´t have to worry about this tire.´ And nothing could be farther from the truth," he said.

Koeppen then relayed the view of the tire industry on the subject.

1. "Proper maintenance is the key to safe tires."

2. "There is no reliable data showing tires become dangerous after the six-year mark."

The Early Show piece also reported that a number of auto makers, including Toyota and Volkswagen, have warnings in their owner´s manuals about aged tires. Volkswagen in particular advises the tires be replaced after six years, said Koeppen.

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