How Old Are My Tires? Find Out How to Check
We can’t always avoid tire damage from sharp objects in the streets or from potholes, but one of the best ways to be proactive in reducing the risk of an accident is by being aware of the age of your tires.
Knowing the age and condition of your vehicle’s tires is essential to avoid blowouts that can cause serious accidents when on the highways. Even with proper care, continued driving on aged tires, that may or may not be showing signs of deterioration, could cost lives.
Safe driving habits are essential for the safety of everyone on public roads. The most important aspect of tire safety is to do regular checks, understand the DOT code on the tire sides, and change them when necessary. The first thing you need to know is ‘how old are my tires?’
Wanting to Know More About Tire Safety?
- Why you should know how old your tires are
- How to find and read the tire date code/ tire DOT code
- When to replace RV tires
- Frequent questions and answers
Why Should You Be Concerned About Tire Age?
Every year, as many as 11,000 highway accidents are caused by tire blowouts, and almost 200 of them are fatal.
Knowing the age of a tire can help to keep your wheels in good working condition. Over time, the integrity of your tires can degrade and an old and worn tire can be unsafe to drive on. You should know how to check your tire manufacture date so that you don’t put yourself and others at risk with old RV tires.
What is the DOT Date Code?
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) imprints tire codes on your tire so that you can identify the age.
The entire code acts as a form of tracking information, which includes 10 to 12 numbers or characters and represents the following information:
- Tire size
- Place of manufacturing
- Manufacturer’s unique ID code
- Week and year of manufacture
Finding The DOT Code
This tire identification number can be found on the sidewall of your tires. They are imprinted in raised or depressed rubber numbers, which will last longer than ink or paint.
Current DOT Codes
Since the year 2000, tire DOT numbers have been standardized between tire manufacturers to make them unequivocally distinct and easier to understand. Once you know how to read the date code, it becomes easy to date a tire.
Today’s tires have a four-digit DOT code to tell you when the tire was manufactured. The first two digits refer to the week of the year in which the tire was built – a number between 01 and 52. The end of the code is the last two digits of the calendar year.
For example, if the last four digits of the code are 0116, this means the tire was produced in the first week (01) of the year 2016 (16).
Tire Codes Before 2000
For tires manufactured before the year 2000, DOT codes were a little more ambiguous. Hopefully, your tire manufacture date is after the year 2000! If the answer is no then your tires are over 20 years old and you’re driving a dangerous vehicle.
The date codes before the year 2000 were written with three numbers. The first two numbers represent the week of manufacture, but the year of manufacture was written with only one digit. This can cause uncertainty, and the owner might not know the decade of the manufacture date.
For example, if the last three numbers of the codes were 016, this could mean that the tire was manufactured in the first week (01) of 1996 (6) or 1986 or even 1976!
Interpreting the DOT Code
Finding and reading the code is simple if you know what to look for. Search on the tire sidewall for a long string of characters printed in raised rubber letters and numbers that begin with the letters “DOT”.
If you are trying to determine tires’ age, you only need to read the last four digits of this code. For the year of manufacture, take the last two numbers of the code and subtract them from the last two numbers of the current year. Next, subtract the first 2-digits (the week of manufacture) from the current week of this year.
Finally, add those years and weeks to determine when they were manufactured.
For example, this article was originally written in the third week (03) of 2021. If the date code was 0116, then they would be five years (21 – 16) and two weeks (03 – 01) old.
If calculating the age seems difficult, you can use an online calculator to help figure it out.
When to Replace a Tire
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines recommend that drivers replace their tires around every six years from the purchase date, regardless of the extent of any wear on the treads. The rubber compounds in a tire dry rot faster when exposed to daily UV rays (photodegradation), ozone, or heat and even degrade when the car is in proper storage.
To extend tire life we highly recommend covering them with tire covers to protect them from harmful solar radiation, ozone, and heat. This will help slow down the tire aging process as well as the development of tiny hairline cracks.
Your tires might need to be replaced sooner if they show signs of tread wear. The usual method of determining tire wear is by inserting a quarter in the treads. The tread depth should still be deep enough to cover the date stamped on the quarter.
You should also change them if they are showing uneven tread. One or more of your wheels might show more wear on the outside than the inside, or vice versa. This is usually an indication of misalignment, and you should get them aligned by a professional and change the worn tire immediately for safety.
When you do replace tires make sure to never buy used ones. Reputable tire retailers will only sell new ones, but independent mechanics might try to save money by selling you used or recovered models.
The easiest way to make sure you are getting a fresh product is by checking the DOT identifier on the sidewall portion of the tire. You should always try to buy tires that are as new as possible, be wary, and check when you buy as some dealers will sell “new” ones that are already two years or older.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will My Set of Four Tires All Be the Same Age?
When you first purchase your vehicle, each tire should be from the same stock and therefore have the same tire age. Check the date code on every tire to make sure the dealer hasn’t switched any of them or that the manufacturer didn’t install several from different batches.
When replacing them, the best advice (although somewhat expensive) is to change all of them together. If you replace only one or some, then any older tire will be more vulnerable to blowouts. Of course, if you decide to change all of them together, check the date code to ensure they are new.
What If I Can Only See an Incomplete DOT Number?
If you can only see an incomplete DOT number on your tire, check the opposite side. Current DOT regulations only require the full code to be imprinted on one side of the tire. Checking the inside wall of the tire will commonly solve the problem.
What If a Tire Doesn’t Have a Code on It?
Tire codes are required by the Department of Transportation. A tire that doesn’t have a DOT code on it may have been manufactured by an unlicensed vendor or imported from a country without necessary tire safety regulations.
It is advisable to immediately change a tire without a code for your own safety. Never purchase new ones that do not have this code on the side.
Is There a Specific Date to Replace My Tires?
Tires should usually be replaced every six to ten years. This can vary depending on environmental conditions like exposure to oxygen, sunlight, ozone, heat, and moisture.
It can also depend on tire usage and wear condition. Check your tires every year before the winter season to make sure your treads are in good condition and deep enough to ensure traction during inclement weather conditions.
Why Do Tire Companies Hide the Tire Manufacture Date?
Tire companies might find themselves with an overstock of aging tires. These tires might be unused and look like new, but could be experiencing tire fatigue and invisible deterioration due to the environmental conditions of their storage.
It is always your right as a customer to check the DOT date code and insist on purchasing new tires. Putting old tires on your car is unsafe, not only for you but for everyone else on the road too.
Now that you know how to determine the age of your recreational vehicles tires, you can drive with renewed confidence that not only you are safe but also your passengers and other nearby drivers on the roads.
If you found this article informative, please share it with other drivers, especially friends and family members, to make sure everyone stays safe and keeps their tires new.
If you have any more advice or questions, please add them in the comment section!