ASK THE MASTER TECH
Q: How often do I need to think about getting new tires? If they still have tread on them, and appear to be in good condition, is there any reason to replace them? When is a tire considered “old”?
A: As automobile tires (or any rubber tire for that matter) age, the rubber deteriorates and eventually develops cracks. Definitely, when a tire gets to the point of having cracks in the rubber, it needs to be replaced as soon as possible. The likelihood of a tire failure increases with age and is even more likely to occur when cracks are visible. Cracks can be hidden between the tire treads, so taking a closer look periodically is important.
In general, the life of a tire is 8 to 10 years. But this depends on the environment
the tire operates in. For example, a climate such as an Arizona summer with 110 degree
heat is very hard on tires. So is not having the correct air pressure level in the tires. Too little air pressure causes the tires to become much hotter when driven at freeway speeds. This extra heat leads to faster tire degradation, and can cause even a good tire to fail. Over inflation is also bad and can result in the tires not being able to stop within a safe distance or failing due to exceeding the tire design pressure.
A “new” tire can be 6 to 12 months old before it is installed. So, how do you know what you got or what you are getting? As of the year 2000, there is a four number birth date molded into the side wall of the tire. This date represents the week of the year and the year that the tire was made. Barring the deciphering of the birth date, where can you feel confident about buying new tires?
First, DO NOT buy tires from any business or person that has them sitting out in the sun. The sun’s ultra violet light deteriorates the rubber.
DO buy tires from a business that sells a lot of tires and stores them inside out of direct sunlight. This way, you can be more confident that the tires have not been sitting on the shelf for years, such as might be the case at a gas station or discount store. An independent repair shop or auto dealer that orders tires as needed from large, wholesale warehouses can also be a good choice.
Lastly, the quality of the tire (buy only well-known brands) affects the length of its service and the effect it will have on your gas mileage. At each vehicle service, tire tread depth, tire pressures, evenness of tire tread wear and condition of the rubber should be checked.
The most important thing to remember is that it is extremely unsafe to drive with either under-inflated, over-inflated and/or cracked tires. Check them regularly, and replace them as soon as possible when needed.
Warren McCord, Owner/ASE Certified Master Technician
Dean’s Automotive, Inc.