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Check Your New Tires For This Code Before They Cause An Accident.

Ahh, the smell of burning rubber. Don’t you just love going into a tire shop and getting new tires? No? Me neither. Especially now that I have learned that a lot of the tires in those shops could be up to 12 years old already and still being sold as new. Know what happens to rubber as it ages? It starts to break down, which is exactly what you don’t want it to do while you are going 75 down the highway. And even if the tire looks fine when you buy it, the tread could actually become separated from the tire itself, causing you to get into a very bad accident. Luckily, I caught a TV show this weekend and learned to tell just how old my tires are, which will enable me to make sure I get new rather than “new” tires from now on when I go shopping. Turns out that accidents caused by old tires seem to be quite common, and I don’t want to be riding around on tires that are just waiting to shred.

We all know that the code on the sidewall of tires has the numbers for tire size, proper inflation PSI, etc, but there is also a secret code on there that will tell you the week and year that your tire was made. It is at the end of the line on your tire that starts with DOT. Here is the tire from our Subaru, and where the code is:

Just so you can see exactly what I am talking about, that piece of code that says “2607” is what tells you how old your tire is. This tire shown here was made in the 26th week of 2007, so it is a fairly new tire and probably perfectly fine as far as tires go. So the next time you go buy tires, make sure you are getting one that has not been sitting for years and years waiting for you to take it home; even though the tread still looks shiny, if it is an old tire, it could be waiting to cause a serious accident somewhere down the line.

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Comments (44)

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  1. Steven says:

    I never knew that was there, pretty cool. Thanks!

  2. Mrs. Micah says:

    Wow, I’ll have to check ours. I hate tires in general, and particularly the risk of blowing out. Looking forward to hovercraft. :)

  3. Lynnae says:

    OK, I am a nerd and actually went out to check my tires this morning, but I couldn’t find the code. There is nothing after the DOT. I looked at all the numbers on the tire, and none ended in a number that could have possibly been a year, unless my tires were manufactured in 1947. LOL

    What am I doing wrong? I’ll be the first to admit I’m not too car savvy.

  4. david says:

    Lynnae – it’s not immediately after the DOT symbol, it is at the end of that line, in the little embedded section. It does not immediately look like a date – it is just frour numbers, so it could say 2398 – which would mean the tires would have been made in the 23rd week of 1998. I looked at several of my neighbors tires as well to make sure it was on all of them, and they all had it too – I think it is a federal DOT law.

  5. Lynnae says:

    See, my DOT symbol seems to be all by itself. I’m wondering if my code is covered by my hubcap.

  6. david says:

    Maybe so Lynnae – but ours was pretty high above the hupcap level. Weird!

  7. mapgirl says:

    It’s required to put it on. When you buy a used motorcycle, that is one of the first things you have to check. You’re really not supposed to have tires more than 3 yrs old on a motorcycle. So if you are buying a vehicle, make sure you check the codes and factor in needing new ones.

    I’ve never heard of a tire shop stocking really old auto tires, but I suppose it could happen. I make it a point of buying my tires directly from a reputable source.

    FWIW, a great many things in life come with date codes. I used to work in semiconductors and computer hardware. Practically all of it has a date code if you really want to know its age.

  8. Patrick says:

    Good to know. I think I would be quite upset if someone sold me 12 year old tires as “new.”

  9. David says:

    @mapgirl – thanks for the info

    @Patrick – I guess it happens more often than we can imagine. Makes me want to go to the local tire place and check out all the tires.

  10. Bob says:

    As someone who works on tires for a living let me tell anyone who cares to read this that most of the information above is incorrect. We are not allowed to even touch a tire that is 10 years old much less sell one, also we receive almost 400 tires a week so we move our stock pretty fast and I have never seen a tire that is over a year old in our stock. Also the correct inflation for your tire is not on the tire itself, that is the maximum pressure for the tire, the correct inflation changes on each car and is located on the inside of the driver door. Most tire explosions are caused by a lack of people caring for them, taking them in to be rotated and rebalanced every 5000 to 6000 miles and not getting the air pressure checked by someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Another thing the DOT is not a secret if you asked anyone who knows anything at all about tires they will tell you what the DOT is and what to look for, you also failed to mention that tire made prior to 2000 have a completely different DOT than the tire that you show. Now if you or someone you know actually received a tire that is 12 years old then you have every right to hold every employee at that store responsible for the deaths or damage that is caused. But I know that my store gets rid of all of its stock that is over a certain age so we don’t even have tire anywhere near that old to sell to anybody. If you really want something to report about tires then how about that Dill a company that makes the valves for tires was producing bad valves for almost 2 years and everybody should take their cars in to get checked out by a professional that knows how to look for valves that could blow out and cause a horrible crash. Also as a final note to some of the other comments posted some tires are mounted so that the DOT is not visible so if you cannot see the DOT on one of your tires then check the tires on the other side of the car and if you still can’t find it then take the car in to get checked out.

  11. B-rad says:

    Bob hit it on the head. The DOT number is only molded on one side of the tire. I know a bunch of people that don’t pay attention to it, but where I work, I have to write the dot number on any new tire we mount on a car on the ticket, but I oftentimes forget to record the DOT number before starting the job, so I’ve gotten myself into the habit of mounting the tire with the DOT number facing outwards (unless the tire is directional or side-specific; BFG Long Trails can only be mounted one way, and Yokohama AS430′s are directional).

  12. mattymatt says:

    agreed. i also fix cars and mount and balance and rotate and correct inflation pressures on all vehicles and i can confirm there is definitely something known as “shelf wear”. mostly in rubber products but in other facets of the automotive trade….buyer beware!! educate yourself before you go spending money on stuff you don’t know about… i guess that could be said for just about anything though. what you don’t know CAN hurt you!!!!

  13. David says:

    True enough, just spoke with a mechanic friend of mine – said yes, the tread can come apart just from being “old”, tires are often sold as new, and the DOT might only be on the inside of the tire, but you are supposed to mount it facing out.

    Thanks everyone for your comments!

  14. philip says:

    Was this spurred by the documentary that was on recently. 60 minutes or something like that just had this on, as always they are able to find the extremes and can show that it does occur. They actually found some 10+ yr old tires at sears and other locations.

    I am about to have to purchase some tires and I know now I will take a look for it just out of curiosity from now on.

  15. Flexo says:

    Thanks for the info, David. This is good to know. I’m going to check my tires today to satisfy my newly-found curiosity.

  16. David says:

    Yes, Philip, but I cannot remember what I was watching!

  17. mjt says:

    Another “I’ve got a blog and reporting to the world”.
    This is over-hyped information that will worry some folks for no reason.

    Nothing to see here . . . move along please.

  18. david says:

    Thanks for your valuable comment!

  19. Mike says:

    Hey, thanks for the heads up. I like to buy used tires when I need them. At a cheap, grungy tire place not too far from me, I can do so for $30 including mounting. Next time I think I’ll check the date before I shell out the cash.

  20. david says:

    No problem Mike!

  21. klein says:

    I drive in mortal terror of a tire blowout. Just one of my neuroses, which this feeds into handily.

    I saw the 20/20 piece too, and they said that often this special number is written on the inside of the tires. I’ve checked the outsides of mine with no luck and until I get my own lift, I guess I’ll never know. They say to crawl under and look, but I’ve tried. I can barely get my head under, let alone my upper body.

    Anyway, still good to pass this info along.

  22. david says:

    Ah, that’s where I saw it. Thanks Klein!

  23. [...] Check New Tires for this Code Before They Cause an Accident.  Wasn’t aware tires had a “born on” date until I read this. Good info! (@My Two Dollars) [...]

  24. Steve says:

    It is all well and good for a TV show to talk about 12-year old tires, but I think you would have to search far and wide to find a tire shop that has such a thing in stock. Remember, the purpose of shows like 20/20 and their ilk is to scare you, and they are very good at what they do. Fear mongering has become a media staple. (Perhaps it always was!) After all, they have to create a sense of drama and excitement from an otherwise dull subject like tires. How better to acomplish that than to convince people they are in mortal danger from an imminent blowout? Fact is, most traffic crashes are caused by stupid drivers, not by mechanical defects. When I worked at a tire shop we used to joke that the problem was generally the “loose nut” behind the wheel.

  25. david says:

    Very true Steve, and I agree that the news has turned into a fear-factory. However, I will say that the advice is still useful to anyone buying tires…I had no idea there was a born-on date!

  26. joyce says:

    i watched this program and then my husband got tires so my question is how many years old do the dates on the tires have to be before they are not safe,and can you take them back to dealer and request them to put another set of tires on.

  27. David says:

    The program said 6 years was something to start thinking about. You would have to ask the tire store you bought them from.

  28. Keith says:

    I just checked the DOT date code on the new tires I purchased at SAM’s Club. They are 14 years old. DOT ******484. 48th Week of 1994. I am scared and discusted. I will be returning them ASAP. They are BF Goodrich Traction TA m/s T94 tires. Ride good and quite but afraid they may kill me or someone I love.

  29. J. L. Wright says:

    David:
    In recently checking tires at a Sears store it seems that the manufacturers have now changed the “date coding” on their tires. The coding, if on the tires DOT line, is now in alphabetic coding if there at all.
    Do you know the new coding system for new tires?
    It seems that all the publicity about OLD new tires has had an effect, but they now have this new coding system so we can’t check the date.
    A response about the new coding system would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    J. L.

  30. david says:

    JL, sorry, that is the only way I have heard of dating a tire. I tried looking up a new way, but I could not find anything. Anyone else know?

  31. Amy says:

    I checked my tires from Sams Club and the date code is 113S. What does the “S” indicate, and does this mean the tires I purchased as new 2 years ago were actually manufactured in 1993???? 15 years old???

  32. david says:

    Don’t know Amy, I have not seen the “S” – anyone else?

  33. Bob says:

    The DOT is still more or less exactly the same as it has been for several decades. It changed in 2000 to use 4 digits, 2 for the year and 2 for the month but prior to this they only used 3 numbers in total. The 113S you are seeing on your tire is it’s load index and speed rating of your tires. If you actually bothered to look up any of this on the manufactures website you would know what it is or even at a tire retail site, it’s not like any of this stuff is a secret it’s just nobody cares to look into it or even pay any attention to their tires. The number is your load index it tells you how much weight the tires can hold at their maximum air pressure, the letter is the speed rating telling you how fast it is safe to drive the tire at. If there’s anything else you want to know go to http://www.tires.com and check out their info center.

  34. Jeanne says:

    Very Informative. Thank You……

  35. shaman says:

    just read your comments, the tires you were talking about with the 484 code– if I remember correctly, a three digit code would be 1984. If it had a 484 with a triangle after it, it would be 1994, and if a four digit code like 4804, it would be 2004

  36. Andy says:

    have a look on the inside of the tire wall (the side facing the car), the tires may have been mounted wrong side out, if so they should be changed around too.

  37. Juan Medrano says:

    Good Info. I bought some Firestone Affinity tires and the Dot is Dot W26V A1A. Can anyone tell me what this code means?

    Appreciate any help..
    thanks.

  38. Wingman54 says:

    Juan,
    The Code you listed is simply the “abbreviated” code that tire manufacturers are permitted to put on one side of the tire while the other side of the tire has the ENTIRE code, including the LAST 4 digits (or 3 digits if manuf prior to 1999). Per the federal DOT, this is perfectly acceptable, but personally, I don’t agree with it.
    If you have a tire that can only be mounted with a given side out (like a whitewall, RWL, or omni-directional, like some high-performance tires) chances are the ENTIRE code is on the BACK (hidden) side of the tire that is normally not visible, You’d have to crawl underneath with a flashlight or put it on a lift to see it.
    I’m 99.99% sure that’s what you’re seeing on the visible side.

  39. Janet Osborne says:

    I need all new tires for my 2002 Land Cruiser, I’m worried about Toyota selling me old tires. My husband has recently bought new tires on his Lexus, is the DEF 4607 the same as the DOT?
    What brand should I look for, for my LC

    thanks,
    Janet

  40. rodo2040 says:

    well my friends if there is nothing after the letters dot then that means this tire doesnt have a serial # so this tire was made with really poor compounds, and its a bad fake tire, get rid of it asap

  41. Marg says:

    Purchased tires in 2010 – tires purchased were 2008 tires.

    When exactly are tires old? Anyone know?

  42. susanne says:

    I purchased tires mid april in FL for my smart. Replaced my old tires Moved to New England in April.Discovered today 2 large “grooves on the outside tire and same place but by the rim.The tire has 20,000 miles on. I am very upset and I am wondering if it was a flawed tire? Any help would be great,thanks

  43. We do beach weddings. I just wounder when brides and grooms travel to Destin for there beach wedding if they know how old there tires are. Good information. Thanks

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