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Consumer Issue: Tire Aging

Tire Aging

Issue: Should tire retailers be required to tell consumers when a tire was manufactured and warn of the dangers of aged tired?

Position: YES. Unbeknownst to most drivers, tires begin to age and weaken from the minute they are manufactured. When oxygen begins to interact with rubber, it begins to degrade. Add extreme heat to the mix and the degrading process only accelerates. When this happens, tires can fail. The outer layer of the thread can separate from the carcass of the tire as the chemical components holding the tire together start to break down.

The vast majority of people don’t know how to determine how old a tire is and the danger of a “new” tire that was manufactured years ago. That’s because Florida law permits tire manufacturers to sell tires as “new” without warning consumers how old they really are.

History: Tire manufacturers have worked to increase the number of miles the tread of the tires they produce will last, as we now see tires sold with 100,000 mile/10-year warranties. Unfortunately, the same care and attention has not been given to the internal makeup of the tire and its longevity. While studies regarding the aging of rubber date back to the 1920s, tire and vehicle manufacturers did not begin to publicly address tire aging in the United States until after horrific Ford and Firestone tire failures in the 1990s.

In early 2005, Ford Motor Company issued the first warning in the United States, in which it posted on its website a 6-year tire replacement recommendation, regardless of remaining tread depth. A year later tire manufacturers such as Michelin, Continental-General, and Cooper all issued bulletins advising of a replacement policy at 10 years.

Evidence shows tires in hot climates weaken sooner than tires in cooler climates. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in 2007 that an analysis of tire claims to insurance companies revealed that 77 percent of these claims were came from states with a hot climate, including Florida. And 84 percent of those tire claims were for tires over six years old. In June of 2008, the NHTSA issued a bulletin warning consumers to check the age of their tires, including spares kept in the trunk.

Legislative Efforts: A bill that would require tire retailers to disclose when the tire was manufactured to consumers was first considered in the 2010 Florida Legislative session. The Florida Justice Association will continue to fight for this bill in future sessions.

Safety Concerns
The NHTSA estimates that 400 deaths annually are caused by tire failure. As the Firestone recall of 6.5 million tires illustrated in 2000, car and tire manufacturers are sometimes reluctant to admit a problem until efforts by victims and their families uncover the truth about tire failures prompted the biggest national recall of tires to date. In 2000, the NHTSA said these faulty Firestone tires caused 148 deaths.

Conclusion: There is very little downside to requiring tire retailers to disclose when a tire was manufactured. Armed with this information, consumers can make an informed choice when purchasing tires. Ultimately, this proposed legislation could prevent car accidents and save lives. It helps businesses because it boosts their credibility and provides written proof they warned consumers of the dangers of aged tires.