TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The tires that help motorists get to work, school and home, could be more dangerous than they appear -- and it depends on the age, according to one group. And those older tires are still being sold at tire shops across East Texas.
While the tread and appearance of your tire may be stellar, the age of your tire could create a hidden danger, according to Sean Kane, president at Safety Research and Strategies.
"Tire aging is one of those issues we've been studying for a long time," Kane said.
H said one of the main factors in the aging of a tire is the effect oxidation has on the tire. Oxidation occurs when air, heat and sunlight cause the rubber in tires to start to break down. Oxidation frequently occurs in southern states with warmer climates, including Texas.
"You take a rubber band brand - a new fresh rubber band - you stretch it when its new it's elastic, you take an older one that's been sitting around a while you stretch it you get cracks in the rubber, very much the same thing with a tire," Kane said.
Our investigative team set out to see the age of tires being sold in East Texas and found some tires were dormant for years. We found tires in Longview from 2004, 2007 and one tire from 2001 - thirteen years old. One shop in Tyler offered a tire made in 2005, nine years ago. The salesperson said there is nothing wrong with the tire.
"They've been sitting up in warehouses and there's nothing wrong with them," the salesperson said.
When asked if he would put it on his own car, the salesperson replied, "Yeah, I'd put it on my car."
"The year doesn't really matter. What matters is how much tread life is on the tire and making sure there's no nails or anything like that."
Kane disagrees, saying the appearance does not always accurately reflect the condition of the tire.
"There's no easy way for you to determine the tire is aged that needs to change," Kane said. "When you look at a tire that looks perfectly fine, it's perfectly sound, and you can't see the internal material is no longer safe; you've got an issue."
To spot the issue, tire owners can look at their tire for the DOT number, a series of codes that indicate where a tire was made and the date the tire was manufactured.
The four digit number at the end of the tire indicates when the tire was made. If a DOT code ends with '4213' it means the tire was made in the 42nd week of 2013.
"At a minimum, what we're asking to have done - and what we've been asking to have done for some time - is a simple thing: put a non-coded date of manufacture on the sidewall of the tire as a bare minimum," Kane said. "Ideally we'd like to see an expiration date and that would make a lot of sense."
At this time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said they are sticking with the current DOT code. NHTSA said the number of crashes attributed to tire failure has decreased in their latest data.
The Rubber Manufacturer's Association, a group made up of tire makers across the industry, said the current code is fine and aging alone does not affect a tire's safety.
"Chronological age is not a concern consumers should have; they should be concerned about their maintenance, how they use the tire and how it is stored," Dan Zielinski, senior vice president for public affairs at the RMA, said. "What data does support is that proper maintenance and the use of a tire have a much stronger impact on a tire's safety performance."
Many car companies like Ford and Jeep recommend owners of vehicles not use tires older than six years of age. Meanwhile, the Rubber Manufacturers Association suggested that ten years is a good point to replace a tire. However, they suggested that with good maintenance and upkeep, tires can still be used past ten years.
The problem is not only one with used tires, but also, if a customer were to buy a new tire that had been sitting on the shelf since 2012, they have already lost two years off that tire.