The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number stamped on the tire’s sidewall contains a date code that identifies the age of your tires. This DOT number (also called the Tire Identification Number or TIN) is contained in a sequence of up to 12 letters and numbers that signify the tire size, the manufacturer, the specific plant where it was built and when it was built. In the event of a recall, tiremakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration use the DOT number to identify which defective tires are in the campaign. The date code used on tires is not a typical representation used for dates and can be easily missed by the untrained eye.
Tires built from 2000 to the present use the last four-digits of the DOT number to identify the week and year of manufacture. For example, a DOT number with 4116 at the end of the sequence would mean that the tire was manufactured in the 41st week of 2016, or sometime in the mid-October.
While it is increasingly rare to find a tire made before 2000, these tires use only three digits in the date code for the week and year. A tire with a three-digit date code like 416 means that the tire was made in the 41st week of 1996.
(Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
Be aware that the complete tire DOT number is not required to be molded on both sides of the tire. While some tire makers include the full DOT number on both sides, the date code on your tires may only be contained on one side. If the DOT number is only eight characters, you’ll need to look on the other side of the tire to find the full number with the date code.
The Dangers of Aging Tires
Why is it important to understand your tire’s age? Manufacturers have known for decades that exposure to heat and oxygen weakens rubber over time. Today’s tires are highly engineered products, with anti-aging chemicals mixed in the rubber compounds, along with others to make the rubber softer and more flexible. But, over time, the rubber and component materials within the tire changes and becomes more prone to failure. In most instances this loss of strength is invisible – and the material degradation is present regardless of tread depth and even in tires that have never even been put on a vehicle
Aged tires are more susceptible to catastrophic tread separations, which occurs when the tire’s outer layer separates from the tire body or casing. This type of failure can be much more dangerous for drivers to manage than a flat tire or blow out, particularly in trucks, SUVs and vans – particularly 15-passenger vans – because they are more prone to handling and stability problems.
While tread separations caused by manufacturing defects can occur in new tires, tires older than six years – especially those on vehicles located in hot-weather states such as if such as Arizona or Florida – are more prone to suffer a catastrophic tread separation.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Most vehicle owners can easily overlook tire aging, increasing their risk of a crash.”
Replace Your Tires After Six Years
Based on research showing that the rate of tire failures increases after six years, nearly all vehicle manufacturers recommend owners replace tires after six years, regardless of tread depth. Most tire manufacturers recommend replacement at 10 years or that owners follow the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines. Tire makers continue to insist that expiration dates are not necessary, yet, nearly all passenger and light truck tire warranties expire at six years. Some tire retailers have also adopted the tire age recommendations and will not service vehicles with tires that are beyond the manufacturers age recommendation.
Consumers should also check the DOT code when buying new replacement tires. Some retailers will sell a “new” tire that has actually been sitting in their inventory for years. That tire could have been improperly stored in a warehouse or outdoors exposed to high temperatures that reduce a tire’s robustness and useful life.
Consumers should insist on replacement tires manufactured within months of the purchase date. And, regardless of tread depth, vehicle owners should replace their tires six years and older.
Talk to an Attorney About Your Accident if Tire Failure Played a Role
Call us if you believe a defective tire caused your accident. The team at Newsome Melton can review the facts of your case and determine if we believe you have a valid claim for compensation. If we feel you have a strong defective tire case against the manufacturer, we can navigate the claims process on your behalf and potentially recover compensation to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, vehicle repair or replacement, or other losses.
Call us today at 888-808-5977 or contact us through our online chat. We offer free reviews and handle many of these claims on a contingency fee basis. This means we do not recover compensation unless you do.