Learning when were your tires manufactured is crucial! Driving your vehicle on "expired" tires is not ideal. Well, tires can't actually expire, but we will come to that later.
The DOT number is essential! Tires without DOT codes should not be used. This code indicates that the tire can be used on highways, as the model was approved by the Department of Transportation.
But, what exactly is the tire date code? Let's take a closer look.
What is the Tire Manufacturer Date Code (DOT)?
The tire manufacturer date code, or DOT number for short, indicates the tire's date of manufacture, among other things. You will need to look at the last four digits since these numbers represent the week and year of when the tire was produced.
While the DOT symbol does not have just the manufacturing date in it, this is the most important part for consumers. Internal codes are necessary in the tire industry as these characters represent the factory, country, date, etc. of the specific tire manufactured.
Where to Find the DOT Tire Date Code on Tires?
The DOT code is located on the tire sidewall. However, finding it can be a bit challenging.
There is no regulation dictating where the tire identification number needs to be placed. Regardless of the tire type, it can be located on both sidewalls. Usually, the DOT symbol is placed on the inner tire sidewall, but this is not a general rule.
Furthermore, often the entire DOT code is not located on one sidewall. The tire age may be on one side, while the rest of the tire identification number is on the other sidewall.
How to Read the Date Code on Tires?
The DOT code is part of the tire identification number, it is the final four digits. Learning how to read tire date codes is not hard. These numbers on tires are fairly easy to understand. To know when a specific tire was manufactured, all one needs to do is to look at these numbers.
In other words, the first two digits of the tire manufacture date are the week, while the last digit pair is the year. Therefore, if your tire states 1022 that means it was manufactured in the 10th week of 2022. This will give you an estimate of how old your tires are.
Why do You Need the Tire DOT Code?
Today's tires are manufactured with an expiration date. Well, not exactly.
While tires do not have an expiration date code like food products do, manufacturers still recommend changing them after a few years. While brands do not provide the same information regarding the tire age, they definitely should not be used for longer than ten years.
But, how do you know when tires were manufactured? This is where the DOT code comes into play.
As mentioned earlier its first two numbers show the week of manufacture, while the second two identify the year. This gives an insight into when the tire was produced. Owners, as a result, can easily calculate the tire age based on the DOT number.
Tire Date Coding Before and After 2000
With the improvement of rubber compound blends, tires can now stay in service for longer than ten years. However, that was not always the case.
Before 2000, the general assumption was that tires would be changed before reaching that 10-year mark. For this reason, their tire identification number looked different.
In order to identify the week and year of the tire manufacture, one had to look at the last three digits of the DOT code. While the first two characters still showed the week, only a single digit was designated to the year of production.
However, when 2000 rolled around the date code on tires had to change. Instead of the last three digits, now we need to look at the last four to identify when the tires were manufactured.
Tire Expiration Date - Is Your Tire Too Old?
The age-old question is: how often to replace tires to ensure a safe drive?
The answer is not that simple. Many tire manufacturers will recommend not using their tires for more than five years, others would suggest ten. But, the truth is a bit more complicated.
While it is true that old tires are not of the best quality, even new tires can malfunction. From trailer tires to summer tires, this unwritten rule applies to all. Yet, tire aging should also be taken into the equation.
Tire size, tread depth, rubber compounds, and tire applications all play a significant role in determining if your tires are too old or not. However, as long as tires are stored correctly, have enough tread depth, and don't show signs of irregular wear or damage (often caused by UV rays), they can be safely used.
How Often Should You Replace Tires?
If a tire was manufactured ages ago, of course, you need a new tire set. However, other factors need to be considered when determining how often you should replace tires.
Age is just one aspect you need to look at. Apart from this, damage and incorrect wear should be identified on time. Dry rot caused by UV rays and irregular tread wear (no matter what causes it) significantly shorten the tire's service life.
Additionally, many brands will offer tire warranty with versatile models. This gives a bit of reassurance for vehicle owners that they won't be left with the bill in case a tire fails prematurely.
Yet, we still have not answered the question. The short answer is that the NHTSA strongly suggests replacing tires every six years. The longer answer is: it depends on everything we have mentioned before.
How are Tires Showing Signs of Breaking Down?
When your vehicle vibrates and becomes hard to control, the issue might lay with the tires. Tires, no matter when they were manufactured, will start showing signs of breaking down over time.
While damage can immediately cause tires to become useless, often signs of breakdown can be noticed weeks before the tire actually fails. Tires can show their age and other signs of nearing the end of their lifespan in different ways.
The most common first signs are:
- TPMS warnings or low PSI levels
- Irregular or premature tread wear
- Cracked rubber or dry rot
- Vibrations in the vehicle cabin
- Strange noise
- Sidewall bulges or bubbles
Common Misconceptions about the Date Stamp on Tires
As with all things, sadly, a few misunderstandings have made their way to the public concerning the date stamp on tires.
Firstly, many believe that these codes identify when specific tires were approved for use by the Department of Transportation. Tires that have the DOT code on their sidewall mean that the tire was approved, but the four-digit number only shows the manufacturing date of the tires.
Secondly, consumers tend to focus on only getting the new tires with current (same year) DOT numbers. Often, especially when talking about foreign-manufactured tires, products take a while to actually reach the market. This, plus the modern durability of tires, makes sure that even tires with older DOT codes perform well when mounted on a vehicle.
Slow Down Tire Aging with Proper Storage
Learning how to store tires correctly is crucial to protect them from external factors. When switching your winter set to summer tires, or vice versa, it is important that you safely store tires away.
Regardless of the tire size or age, tires stored correctly will have lengthened service lives. But, how can you prolong their usability with storage?
Here are the things you need to keep in mind:
- UV rays are harmful, keep tires out of direct sunlight
- Cool and dry environments will prevent damage
- Moisture and humidity are also bad
- Temperature-regulated garages are the best (yes, tires can both melt and freeze under specific conditions)
Will Your Tires Expire Before the Tread Runs Out?
In most cases, vehicle owners do not need to worry about the tire age. This is because often the tread depth will run out before the tire "expires", especially when the vehicle is frequently used.
The only exception to this might be your spare tires. Whether you own a full-sized or donut spare, in most cases they will not see much use. These tires are only used in emergencies, so often they are neglected during inspections. Do not forget about them since they will save you when the time comes.
Where is the Date Code on a Tire?
The date code on a tire is located on one of the sidewalls. Often the full DOT code is not in one place, so be sure to check both sidewalls, usually near the tire size. Look for the letters DOT and a 4-digit number, which will tell how old the tire is.
How to Read a Tire Date Code?
The tire date code consists of four numbers. The first two digits indicate the week, while the second two identify the year when a specific tire was manufactured. So, if the number is 1221, that means it was produced in the 21st week of 2021.
How to Tell How Old a Tire is?
You can tell how old a tire is by checking its DOT number. This number is located on one of the sidewalls and shows the week and year when a tire was produced. By knowing this information, you can calculate the tire age without issues.
When to Replace Tires?
Tires should be replaced when their tread depth reaches 2/32". This is when manufacturers will consider tires to be worn out. Another reason to replace tires is when you notice signs of aging. Aging tires should be switched before they fail completely.
How Many Miles do Tires Last?
Average tires will last about 50,000 miles. However, there are many factors that can influence this. The tire's performance category, compound materials, different driving conditions, etc can significantly shorten or lengthen a tire's service life.