Why Should I Be Concerned About Tire Age?
Every year, as many as 11,000 highway accidents are caused by tire blowouts, and nearly 200 of them are fatal.
Knowing your tire age can help you to keep your wheels in good working condition. Over time, the integrity of your tires can degrade and old and worn tires 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 your old RV tires.
What Is the DOT Date Code?
The DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) tire codes include the date the tire was made. This is a code imprinted on your tire that you can use to identify the age of the tires.
The entire code, which may include 10 to 12 numbers or characters, is mandated by the DOT and includes the following information:
- Tire size.
- Place of manufacturing.
- Manufacturer’s unique ID code.
- Week and year of manufacture.
Finding the DOT Code on Your Tires
The date code can be found as part of the tire identification number on the sidewall of your tires. It is imprinted in raised or depressed rubber numbers, which will last longer than ink or paint.
Current DOT Codes
Since the year 2000, the DOT has standardized the tire manufacturers date format to make it easy to understand and unequivocally distinct. Once I learned how to read the date code, it became easy to date my tires.
The modern code contains four digits. 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 Prior to 2000
For tires older than the year 2000, DOT codes were a little more ambiguous. Hopefully, your tire manufacture date is after the year 2000! If the answer is over 20 years old, then I’m driving in a dangerous vehicle.
The date codes before the year 2000 were written with three digits. The first 2-digits referred to 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 digits 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 that begins with “DOT,” printed in raised rubber letters and numbers.
If I’m trying to determine tires’ age, I only need to read the last four digits of this code. First, I would subtract the last two digits from the two digits of the current year. Next, I would subtract the first 2-digits (the week of manufacture) from the current week of this year.
Finally, I would add those years and weeks to determine when they were manufactured.
For example, this article was originally written in the second week (02) of 2020. If the date code was 0116, then they would be four years old (20 – 16) and one week (02 – 01).
If calculating the age seems difficult, sometimes I find an online calculator to help find out.
When to Replace Your Tires
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines recommend that drivers replace their tires at around every six years from the date of purchase, regardless of wear on the treads. The rubber can dry rot even when the car is in storage, or even faster when exposed to daily radiation from the sun (photodegradation), or ozone or even heat.
To extend tire life we highly recommend covering your trailer tires with tire covers to protect them for the harmful radiation of the sun. This will help prevent tire aging and 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 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 replace 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 tires immediately for safety.
To make sure your wheels last for six years, make sure that when you are replacing them, to never buy used ones. Reputable stores will only sell new tires, but independent mechanics might try to save some money by selling you used or recovered tires.
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 a tire that is as new as possible, be wary and check when you buy as some dealers will sell “new” tires 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, your tires should all 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 your tires, it is always best (although somewhat expensive) to replace all of them together. If you replace only one or some, then the older tires will be more vulnerable to blowouts. Of course, if you decide to replace all of your tires 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 that the full code is imprinted on one side of the tire. Checking the inside wall of the tire will commonly solve the problem.
What If The Tires Don’t Have a Code on Them?
Tire codes are required by the Department of Transportation. Tires that do not have a DOT code on them may have been manufactured by an unlicensed vendor or imported from a country without necessary tire safety regulations.
It is advisable to replace tires without a code immediately 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 10 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 Tires 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 on the road.
Now that I know how to determine the age of my tires on my recreational vehicle, I drive with renewed confidence, knowing that I am safe as well as my 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!