Age before Beauty: Why tire age matters more than tread depth

In my hunt for some spare parts online to finish off the restoration of my own car, I started looking at some used tires. I just needed one tire to fill the role as a spare, given that the one on my spare wheel is almost old enough to order at a bar.

Looking amongst the classifieds on ad sites as well as the For Sale posts on the various social media groups, it’s clear that used tires are advertised on the basis of tread thickness more than anything else.

Ads often mention things like 90% tread life or 80% thread life, so on and so forth. Some are surplus tires from countries like Japan and Korea, and some of them have been repaired with a patch up kit. Most -if not all- are accompanied by photos of a 1 Peso coin tucked in the groove for reference, and some even look almost brand new. Some even use the word thread instead of tread; the latter is the correct word, FYI.

But all of the classified fail to mention or show what the actual age of the tire is; a piece of information that is perhaps the single most important fact you need to know about a certain tire. Sellers don’t want to mention that critical bit of info, and with good reason: if you knew how old a tire really is, would you even consider it?

Tires -like food- are perishable products; they get consumed when used, and they age quickly. Most tire manufacturers and retailers recommend that tires are at their best up to 6 years from their date of manufacture. As tires age beyond that point (depending on their condition, use, wear pattern, weather, etc.) they are prone to becoming brittle, cracking, deforming, blowouts, and de-lamination; all of which you don’t want to take place if you’re on the road, especially when you’re at speed.

Telling at tire’s age is surprisingly easy as tire manufacturers put the production period of a particular tire right there on the sidewall, and here’s how you can spot it:

On the sidewall of the tire, you need to look for a sequence of four numbers called the Manufacturer Date Code. The design does vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally speaking, it looks like a stamped oval with the four numbers inside.

Once you locate it, it tells you two bits of information. The first two numbers is the week; and it’s only from 01 to 52. The last two numbers however is critical because it tells the last two digits of the year. To simplify, a tire produced on January 3, 2017 will have 0117 (1st week, 2017) indicated on the side, while a tire produced on December 31, 2001 will have 5201 (52nd week, 2001) on the sidewall.  In the case of the tire above, it was produced on the 13th week of 2011.

We would always recommend that you get a set of new tires from a reputable company that stands by their products. In the end, I opted for a brand new standard to fill my need for a spare, given that it should last for a good 6 years.

That said, how old are the tires on your car now?

Executive Editor