Tire maintenance & safety

Tire care: How to check the age of a tire

Last updated 10/17/2022 - Originally published 9/23/2020
Written by SimpleTire

You may know quite a bit about your tires, but do you know how old they are? Regardless of the brand name, materials, or construction style of a tire, they will not be safe to use forever. All tires have natural rubber in them. The rubber oxidizes and breaks down over time, just like other organic things do. Even if your tires still have a safe amount of tread, you may need to replace them if they get too old.

SimpleTire.com recommends that you learn how to check the age of your tires so you can make sure they are safe to use.

Tire Safety and Age

Once tires reach a certain age, driving on them becomes a safety hazard. Rubber compounds that have lost their spring and elasticity are more likely to suffer damage from hazards inside and outside the tire. Road hazards are more likely to puncture old tires that no longer meet manufacturing standards. Inner components can also result in hazardous conditions. These can come in the form of exposed cable plies, blisters, tears, and cracks within the tread and the sidewalls. Even excess heat that builds up inside a tire because of under-inflation can cause severe damage to an old tire.

You should replace tires that are 10 or more years old or risk significant damage, which could lead to an accident at highway speeds. Some automotive manufacturers even suggest replacing tires once they reach six years of age. Talk to your automotive dealership service advisor to see what your vehicle manufacturer recommends.

How to Find Tire Age

The sidewall of a tire tells you a lot about it-everything from its name to its size. To check the age of your tire, you need to find the DOT number. The Department of Transportation puts a DOT number on every tire manufactured for sale in the United States. It's next to the size information. The DOT number appears in a smaller type than the size code.

Reading the DOT Number

Find the letters DOT on the tire's sidewall. You will see several numbers and letters following DOT. The final four numbers represent the date the tire was made. If there are only three numbers, then you know the tire was manufactured before the year 2000. On all tires manufactured after 1999, the code includes the week the tire was manufactured as well as the last two digits of the year. For example, 3304 means that the tire was made in the 33rd week of 2004. The rest of the characters in the DOT number tell you which manufacturer made the tire and which plant produced it.

Make sure you check the DOT number on all four of your tires. Just because you bought them in a set does not mean they are all the same age. If you have trouble finding the DOT number, ask the service department at your dealership. The certified technicians can help you through the process of making sure you are driving on safe tires.

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