Do car tyres have an expiration date? Does the age of a tyre actually matter? These are the most common questions asked by car owners thinking of replacing old tyres. Even if your tyres don't show much wear after a few years of driving, bear in mind that they are considered "new" for up to 5 years from the manufacture date. It's good to know what the tyre age is then - it's not advisable to rely only on a visual inspection of the tyre wear.
What is the tyre DOT code?
Each tyre has an imprinted DOT code on the sidewall. DOT stands for the Department of Transportation and the code is made of numbers and letters - they indicate the place and date of the tyre’s manufacture.
Read on to find out how to check the tyre’s date and place of manufacture and why the age of a tyre matters.
To begin with, watch our expert video:
Production year - how can you check the tyre age?
The DOT abbreviation is followed by numbers that indicate the tyre factory code and date, respectively. Production time is indicated by the last three or four digits.
Three-digit numbers indicate a production date before 2000; the first two digits stand for the production week and the last one indicates the year.
For example, 346 means the 34th week of 1986 or 1996. To indicate that the tyre was manufactured in the 90s and to distinguish it from products from the previous decade, the triangle symbol is shown.
The three-digit code wasn't precise in terms of decades. For that reason, in 2000 the fourth digit was added and since then, the last two digits represent the year of manufacture.
Example: 2310 means 23rd week of 2010
Here you can see the marking on a Matador tyre produced at Matador AS, Puchov, Slovakia (J3), in the 42nd week of 2008.
How can you check where your tyres were manufactured?
The place of a tyre’s manufacture is indicated by the phrase MADE IN ..., which is also located on the sidewall. Digits shown directly after the DOT code specify the factory which produced the tyre.
Below there are examples of codes for different factories:
A5 - TC Dębica S.A. factory in Debica - Poland
B5 - Michelin factory in Olsztyn - Poland
J3 - Matador AS factory, Puchov, Slovakia
HW - Barum factory, Otrokovice, Czech Republic
8C - French Firestone factory - France
Tyre age and legalities
European regulations do not impose a coherent policy on the allowed age of tyres released for sale. That's why regulations may vary depending on the country. However, the EU clearly specifies new tyres' storage time and conditions.
According to the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO), tyres are "new" for 5 years from the date of manufacture when stored in optimal conditions.
A tyre sold as a new product may be safely used for at least 5-6 years. Some sources indicate that the operational lifespan of a tyre may amount to even 10 years - with proper maintenance and storage, you can use your tyres longer.
Nevertheless, for your safety, it's better to replace the set after 5 years even if it's not approaching the legal minimum tread depth yet.
Does the age of a tyre matter?
If you have a tyre which is 5 years old and you're positive it's been stored properly, we can safely consider it as "new." However, how new the tyres are depends on a range of factors such as types of routes, load, the quality of the suspension system or your personal driving style. The natural ageing process of rubber is also going on in storage.
When storing tyres, you can minimise the rubber deterioration if you take care of the following conditions:
- Light - avoid continuous direct sunlight; the best solution is little or no lighting
- Location - keep tyres free of stress in vertical positions (special racks can be purchased to prevent deformation)
- Temperature - the best is constant room temperature without sudden fluctuations
- Moisture - tyres should be stored in ventilated or air-conditioned rooms
When checking the tyres to see if they're still safe to use, remember that the main criterion is always the technical condition and parameters of the tyre (e.g. tread depth), not its date of production.
Last but not least, when inspecting your car tyres, remember to check the spare wheel too. Drivers often forget that spare wheels are also subject to ageing. In case of an emergency, it is good to be sure that the car will manage to safely reach home or the nearest garage.