Old Tire Blows Out, Puts Teen Driver at Risk

You could tell the father was upset, when he called CARS recently. He had purchased a 2005 Ford Excursion from a major franchised car dealership in Southern California. He checked the tires, and they had plenty of tread left, so he thought they were fine. They also looked nice and new.

But when his 16-year-old daughter drove the Excursion, one of the tires blew out. She almost lost control of the car, on a busy highway. She had barely started to learn to drive. and the experience was quite traumatic for her. Had she been driving faster, she might have lost control and crashed.

Her father had the car towed to a reputable tire shop. They informed him that the tires, which appeared to be nearly new, were in fact 10 years old. They had deteriorated to the point where the rubber was likely to crumble, when they heated up. All 4 tires had to be replaced.

When he confronted the dealer, at first the dealer refused to replace the tires. Then it tried to pressure him into paying half the replacement cost. It was only after he stood his ground and persisted that they reluctantly agreed to pay for four new tires.

Now he’s more wary, and will insist on checking the numbers on the tires before he agrees to have them installed on the Excursion.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 400 fatalities a year may have been attributed to tire failures.

Some experts recommend that you avoid tires that are 6 years or older. Even tires that have never been sold before and appear to be “brand new” might actually be old, after sitting on a warehouse shelf for years. To be safe, look for the DOT number on the inside of the tire tread. The last 4 digits are the month and year of manufacture. If the tires are more than 6 years old, it’s safest to avoid them.

NHTSA FAQs about the perils of aging tires