WASHINGTON (Feb. 26, 2010)—Ask for tires that are less than one year old, the 2010 Car Book advises consumers in a boxed warning at the end of the book's section on tires. But other groups contend such advice.
“As tires age, they naturally dry out and can become potentially dangerous,” states the 30th anniversary edition of the Car Book, edited by Jack Gillis and published by the Center for Auto Safety. “Some experts recommend getting rid of a six-year-old tire, no matter what condition it is in. Recently, a national news organization went undercover and found 12-year-old tires for sale, so be sure to check your tire date before purchasing.”
Tire aging has been a contentious issue for years. Safety Research & Strategies Inc., a Rehoboth, Mass.-based safety watchdog group with close ties to trial lawyers, has consistently advocated a federal requirement for a non-coded date of manufacture molded on tire sidewalls and a NHTSA consumer advisory containing tire removal recommendations similar to those of such auto makers as Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler L.L.C. Tire manufacturers, according to SRS, should label their tires with an “expiration date” that in their determination is suitable for their products.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association, most of its tire-making members and the Tire Industry Association insist there are too many variables in tire aging to make the tire's date of manufacture the sole criterion.
NHTSA issued a consumer advisory in June 2008 mentioning tire age along with underinflation and excessive wear as factors tire owners should monitor. Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler L.L.C. began advising car buyers in 2005 to replace tires after six years. In that same year, Bridgestone Corp. adopted the position of the Japan Automotive Tire Manufacturers Association to recommend replacing tires after 10 years.
Responding to the new Car Book entry, RMA and TIA officials reiterated their stand that how a tire is maintained, driven and stored is at least as important as its chronological age in determining its safety.
“It's a shame this kind of misinformation is passed on to consumers as credible,” said Paul Fiore, TIA director of government and business relations. “Our challenge is to counteract this propaganda with factual information that age is only one factor in assessing a tire's usefulness.”
In its tire section, the Car Book recommends checking tire pressure monthly and using the “Lincoln penny” test to measure tread depth. It advises motorists to use the tire's Uniform Tire Quality Grading treadwear grade like a “unit price” in a supermarket, and also never to pay the list price for a tire. “A good rule of thumb is to pay at least 30-40 percent off the list price,” the book states. The section concludes with a list of more than 50 tires with treadwear grades of 700 or higher.