Trouble for Aging Tires?

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

WSIL -- Tires feature a manufacturing date right on the side, and some companies recommend when to change them. However, many drivers don't pay attention.

An ABC News investigation released on Wednesday looks into car accidents caused by aging tires. You can view their coverage here. 
 
If you put new tires on your car and drive on a regular basis, the tread will likely wear out before tire age ever becomes an issue. However, some people are being sold "new" tires that were actually made years ago. Some drivers are using tires that have been spares or have been in storage.
 
Rolling along smooth interstates or bumpy back roads, tires handle a job that for many drivers goes unnoticed.
 
"Tires are one of the more ignored pieces of equipment on a vehicle," said Illinois State Police Trooper Joey Watson. 
 
The government estimates tire problems cause more than 10,000 accidents every year. Those are crashes that Watson may be called to investigate. His most recent one was on Interstate 57 this past winter. 
 
"He lost control of the vehicle," said Watson. "Slid off the side of the highway and turned his SUV over."
 
That case was blamed on too little tread. It's a violation of Illinois law and can easily be measured with a coin. The top of Lincoln's head to the edge of the penny is the minimum 2/32" of tread depth.
 
Other tire damage isn't as clear cut. It's also not always related to racking up miles. The rubber begins to break down and weaken over time. That can happen whether or not the tire is being used.
 
"Once the tire gets so old, it starts getting that dry rot on it. There's no repairing that," said Chris Brown with Herrin Tire and Muffler.
 
Brown has found that many customers don't keep track of their tires' age. Recommendations for when to change range from six to 10 years.
 
"The tire will look actually perfect," said Brown. "But yet, it will have all this wear on it that most people don't know to look for."
 
Locating the date stamp is simple once you can spot the DOT code. For example, one tire in the shop featured a code that ended in 1904. 
 
"There's two sets of numbers there," said Brown. "And that means it was the 19th week of 2004."
 
It's something every consumer should keep an eye on, even when you're purchasing what you believe is a new set.
 
"I don't think most people realize how old their tires are and how dangerous it can be driving on them," said Brown. 
 
ABC News claims that the Rubber Manufacturers Association has blocked legislation to set an age limit on tires. That group says that while they would benefit from having people buy more tires, an expiration date isn't supported by data.
 
You can view the Rubber Manufacturers Association's view on tire aging here. 
 
This week, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration launched a new tire safety website. It tells consumers about tire aging, but doesn't recommend an exact date to change tires.  
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