Many of us think of a set of used tires when the time comes to replace the existing ones that are already completely worn out. While many bloggers, influencers, and Google articles teach us how to identify a set of good tires in the multitude of used ones, the age of the tires can be a tricky thing many times. On one hand, it may seem to us that used tires look quite good. From another point of view, if we are not attentive to details, we risk finding ourselves in a very unpleasant situation.
Let's take another scenario. We buy new tires and wear them for a long time disregarding the manufacturer's age recommendations. We ignore all signs of worn tires in the hope that maybe things are not as bad as they seem.
In both scenarios, the consequences can be very pessimistic. It is a real art to be able to identify when it is time to definitively retire the tires from use. And not every one of us can do it.
There are at least 2 simple methods to identify that the tires have already wasted their potential. The first method targets the indications on the tire sidewall. Each manufacturer must indicate the production dates of the tire. That way, wherever this tire goes around the world, anyone can identify its year of production.
Another method, even if it is not so precise, is tire visual inspection. This method is more estimative than confirmatory. However, if you pay attention to details, you can pretty much deduce the approximate age of the tire. In the end, the year of production does not matter as much as the quality of the treads. Some tires look terrible only after 2 years of use, being improperly cared for and subjected to extreme driving conditions.
And yet, why is it so important to take into account the age of the tire? What is its impact on vehicle performance? How to identify the signs of a tire being too worn to avoid potential risks? I propose to debate these questions in today's article.
How to identify the tire age?
Before explaining how the tire's age impacts the car's performance, let's find out more about its age. I suggest that you, first of all, know how to identify the exact age. For this, what you need to look for is the DOT code on your tires. What does this mean? This means a certain standard that is required by the U.S. Department of Transportation through which manufacturers must indicate the year of tire production. This information usually comes in the form of 3 or 4-digit codes and tells you in detail all you need to know about the age of the tire.
Different manufacturers place this information in different places on the tire because there is no certain official rule about the placement. In most cases, you can find them on the inner sidewall of the tire or near the rim for easy visibility. The 3 or 4 digits indicate the number of the week as well as the last 2 digits of the year in which the tires were produced. For example, if you find a tire with the age marker "2118" this is talking about the 21st week of the 2018 year. More than clear.
Why do tires generally age?
I got this question from several car lovers. Many of them believe that being produced from consistent and durable materials, tires should not undergo the aging process. Probably, it would have been too good to be true, wouldn't it? But the tires, like any other part of the car, are subject to the natural process of deterioration over time.
The truth is that tire manufacturers do keep in mind the extension of tire life. Their goal is to produce tires that last as long as possible. Consequently, they use antiozonants, which are a kind of organic compound that have anti-aging effects on tires. An advantageous bonus is that these components also contribute to the tires' resistance against various factors that could damage them.
In the same context, antiozonants protect everything that ozone destroys in the structure of a tire. They play an important role in keeping the tires in a pliable and elastic condition while assuring high-performance traction at the same time. Matter-of-factly, these "micro-friends" are the ones that help the tire withstand all kinds of road conditions.
Considering the antiozonants, what makes them age?
Antiozonants cannot ensure perfect tire condition forever. Their role is to extend the life of the tires, not to make them "perpetual". Even with the help of antiozonants, the tires are still prone to damage, which can take a different form.
One of the potential damages comes in the form of unstable weather conditions. Direct sunlight or high humidity influences the structure and wear of tires over time, whether we like it or not.
The pressure within tires is also potential damage to their life. Every time you decide to go with hyper-inflated or under-inflated tires, you consciously choose to reduce their life, regardless of their expiry term recommended by the manufacturer.
One way or another, we must understand that tire aging is an absolutely natural process that takes place even if we take all the protective measures. What we can do is prolong their good condition as much as possible until their final expiration. At the same time, we need to know how their age affects the performance of our car, to avoid all the associated risks.
What is the validity period of a tire?
Specialists in the field have done many investigations and tests to provide the most correct prognosis. The conclusion they reached is that the tires offer optimal and decent performance around 60,000 miles. This equates to approximately 3-4 years, in the context where the driver runs about 15,000 miles per year, on average. These data are estimates because the way a driver operates his vehicle is also a very important criterion. In the same context, we must take into account the fact that there are many other aspects that directly or indirectly influence tire use.
- the way you take care of the tires and the frequency with which you rotate them;
- the way you use the vehicle. Sudden accelerations and braking greatly affect the performance of the tires, reducing their lifespan;
- climate conditions. Both high heat and low temperatures have a long-term impact on tire resistance over time. Even if we are talking about summer or winter tires, the influence of cold or hot weather conditions has its effect on them;
- the weight of the vehicle. The larger and heavier the vehicle body, the greater the pressure on the tires, leading to premature wear off;
- manufacturers' instructions. This aspect is one of the most relevant. Manufacturers can offer different warranties ranging from 30,000 to 90,000 miles. Don't expect tires with a 30,000-mile warranty to perform like 90,000 ones. And you should never cross the recommended limit. Otherwise, you risk putting your life and the condition of your car in danger.
How does tire age affect car safety and performance?
I think you would be shocked to know the statistics about road accidents caused by old tires. So, tires that have already served their purpose must necessarily be removed from use. Moreover, they become a silent enemy of our vehicle. Let's see how exactly these impact the car's performance.
A frequent phenomenon for old tires is that they begin to crack between the treads. This effect seems insignificant, but it leads to a whole chain of negative consequences.
With treat cracking, the tire severely loses its ability to establish a secure and stable grip on the road surface. As a result of grip deficit, the car becomes unresponsive to tasks like breaking, accelerating, and even steering the wheel. As a result, the car becomes very vulnerable on the road and even an experienced driver finds it difficult to handle it stably.
In the same context...
Tread cracks lead to the separation between the steel belts and the internal system of the tire. I think it is unnecessary to tell you that these belts are directly responsible for the agility and stability of the tires when the driver tries to make different maneuvers on the road.
Last but not least, tires affected by time directly impact the speed rating of the vehicle. In the first years after production, the tires have a very high-speed rating. Along with their wear, this rating gradually decreases. In the context of advanced age, the tire speed rating becomes very poor. Another problem refers to the fact that each tire develops a different speed rating, generating fluctuations between all 4 tires. This imbalance is directly proportional to the instability of the car on the road, as well as the loss of driving control over the vehicle.
What about fuel consumption? Do aged tires have any influence on it?
In short, yes, the general condition of the tires directly influences the way the vehicle consumes fuel. And the explanation lies in the rolling resistance index of each tire. When they are still "young", tires tend to provide less rolling resistance, improving fuel efficiency. Over time, the resistance increases, generating more effort on the vehicle, and increasing, respectively, the gas mileage.
The effect on fuel consumption is not exactly direct. Worn and old tires impact the overall performance of the vehicle. In order to cope with the request to maintain the performance as high as possible, the engine uses fuel as an additional source of energy.
Does this mean that a brand-new tire is the most fuel-efficient?
You will be surprised to find out that it is not exactly like that. Taking into account the fact that the treads of a new tire are in their deepest possible shape, they generate increased traction. The engine needs more sustained rolling resistance to move things forward. So, fuel consumption is also quite demanding.
Specialists claim that the car becomes the most fuel-efficient after it manages to cover a few thousand initial miles.
On the other hand...
It would seem that old tires should be more fuel-efficient, considering that the tire treads are much shallower, isn't it? Here is when things get tricky. In fact, there is a point where old tires are more fuel-efficient than new ones. But this point lasts only a short time because from worn shallow tires to uneven tread patterns it is only a couple of thousands of miles. S, you better opt for the most fuel-efficient tires to keep fuel consumption under control.
How can you keep your tires in good condition over the years?
This is a frequent question among conscious drivers who are in love with their 4-wheel friends. The good part is that there are actually some recommendations that directly influence the way tires age. In general terms, everything depends on the care you give them and the periodic checkup led by a technical expert. What measures could you take?
I am sure that some recommendations will seem so useless that you will be tempted to skip them. But try not to do it if your goal is really to keep your tires in optimal condition.
So, things to consider:
-regular tire rotation is a must. Many drivers ignore this practice, which leads directly to uneven tread wear and premature aging;
- periodic visual inspection of the tire. When I say "periodic" I mean a stable intermittent checkup, and not one once every 3 years followed by another once every 5 years;
- PSI checkup on a monthly basis. There are so many factors that can affect the tire pressure level that I don't think it's okay to check them once every 3,000-4,000 miles. It costs you nothing to ensure an optimal level;
-avoid overloading the vehicle. Do not turn your car into a storage tool and remove everything that makes it heavier than it should be. Excessive weight causes additional stress on the tires as well as their premature damage;
- just like tire rotation, wheel alignment must be an intermittent mandatory procedure. Wheel misalignment is one of the main reasons for tire wear, which usually refers to the extremely poor stability of the vehicle on the road.