Consumer alert: tire safety

Consumer alert: tire safety

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - We rely on our tires everyday to get us from one destination to another safely. Often times they are an afterthought when we perform maintenance on our vehicle and experts say that lack of attention is very dangerous.

"An aged tire is nothing more than a ticking time bomb," said Matt Wetherington.

Wetherington is a Georgia attorney who specializes in defective product litigation. He's also the founder of the tire safety group, an organization aiming to prevent wrecks due to bad tires.

"Tires age dangerously and they age from the chemical process called oxidation. They also age from the mechanical process of the tires flexing and fatiguing over time. A tire that is in use will have a cumulative effect for every impact it ever encounters. And so over time, tires are absolutely dangerous as they reached an advanced age," he said.

Researchers say you can't always tell a tire's condition just by looking at it. A tire that appears to be new or low mileage could fail for a number of reasons, such as under-inflation, tires used in hot conditions for a long period of time and tires more than six years old.

There is a way to determine when the tire was made. It requires finding and reading a four digit code on the sidewall, contained in an oval to the right of the letters dot.

The first two numbers tell you the week the tire was manufactured, the second two indicate the year. As an example the code, 0407 means the tire was produced in the fourth week of 2007.

"Now this is an old one. Here we go. Here we go. DOT number, second week of '04," said Sean Kane while rummaging through old tires.

Kane is with Massachusetts-based safety research and strategies and is among experts who say tires six years or older start to become risky, even if they've spent much of that time sitting in a warehouse.

"No one is saying that at six years and one day, your tire is going to fail. But at six years, those tires represent a much increased risk. And that is based in science," he said.

Tire makers disagree.

"There's no data to support that chronological age is a primary factor in tire safety performance. What data does support is that proper maintenance and the use of a tire have a much stronger impact on a tire's safety performance," said Dan Zielinski. He is a spokesman for the rubber manufacturers association.

"Tire failures can occur regardless of the age of the tire. A ten year old tire can be perfectly safe if it's been properly used and maintained. A one year old tire can be an accident waiting to happen if it's not been maintained, or if it's been damaged and not removed from service," he said.

But Kane says there is a simple explanation.

"Take a rubber band; take a brand-new fresh rubber band. You stretch that rubber band, ok, when it's new. And it's very elastic. You take an older one that's been sitting around a while, you stretch it. You start to get cracks in the rubber; it's very much the same thing with a tire. What's happening in the high-stress areas of the tire is that same process. You can't see it. And that's what makes it dangerous."

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