Not many things can endanger you and your vehicle like a set of old, worn tires on the road. Identifying the right time to make a change is an underrated skill.

Tires use a DOT code to indicate when they were made to help you identify their age. Tires made after 2000 use a four-digit DOT code indicating the week and the year of creation. Older tires before 2000 only use three digits, making it much harder to decipher the age.

Tire age can also be determined by a visual inspection. However, this is a less accurate method and only gives you a rough estimate of the tire’s age. But because of the advancements made by industry-leading tire manufacturers, treads are starting to last longer and provide better performance. It is always best to analyze the tire’s exterior treads closely before making the final decision.

The positive to getting older is experience. Fortunately, we have a team that embraces their years of experience in this industry analyzing and testing tires. Tire age is second nature to these experts and ever since the DOT code change in 2000, they have been even more diligent to the impacts it has had on tire longevity. Use this guide to become an expert yourself in tire age.  

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What is the Tire DOT Code?

The DOT code on the tire represents the U.S. Department of Transportation safety standards. It is placed on your tire to indicate that the tire manufacturer complied with the safety laws in place for manufacturing this product. The DOT code tells you exactly where the tire was created and other related information to its origin.

On the tire, you will see DOT followed by other characters and at the very end is a three or four-digit number that is circled. This is the most important number to remember when trying to determine your tire age.

How to Find the DOT Code on Your Tire

The regulations do not have any specific rules determining where the manufacturers must put the DOT code on the tire. This sometimes results in the location of the DOT code changing based on the type of tire or the manufacturer.

Despite this, the most popular location to find the DOT code is on the inner sidewall of the tire. It is always in large enough lettering for you to see with ease in the proper lighting. Most tires made in the USA will place right along this sidewall near the rim for easy access.

Tire Aging Process Explained

Tire manufacturers include certain elements during production in a tire to make it last longer and remain stable throughout the expected life span. These anti-aging properties are antiozonants used inside as an organic compound to effectively help a tire last longer and increase the durability against external damages.

What Are Antiozonants?

The purpose is right in the name. Antiozonants are compounds in rubber that allow a tire to remain pliable, soft, and conducive when attempting to maintain road traction. When rubber is exposed to the environment, air will permeate the rubber and cause the structure to fail over time. Antiozonants prevent damage caused by the ozone.

This means that the rubber can handle different elements like cold air, heat, snow, and oxidation and still perform above average for a long length of time. Without antiozonants in a tire’s rubber, they would be unable to hold up when exposed to the ozone.

How Do Tires Age?

All sorts of external elements related to the weather play an important role when discussing the aging of a tire. Things like sunlight and temperature can cause tires to produce a wide range of lifespans that can be difficult to predict.

However, by controlling things like inflation you can make sure that the tire does not experience any severe damage. Driving on an over or under-inflated tire is one of the surest ways to limit a tire’s capacity and cause it to blow out much quicker.

The way you store your vehicle matters too. If you consistently park your vehicle in the garage when you get home, you will notice that your tires last much longer than someone storing a vehicle outdoors at all times.

Otherwise, tires age traditionally. The type of tire plays a critical role in tire life too. Winter tires and summer tires will have shorter life spans because of their exposure to different elements and the design of their treads.  

How Long Does a Tire Last?

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average person in the United States drives about 15,000 miles per year. For some, this may seem extremely low and the opposite may be true for others. But based on this number, all drivers should expect to get at least 3-4 years of performance from their tires.

The average tire lasts for about 60,000 miles and many can last even longer. Some critical factors influence how long exactly a tire will last.

1. Brand

Like all industries, high-quality brands exist and play a role in how long your tire will last. The industry average is about 60,000 miles and these numbers can be backed up by manufacturer warranties. Others are much shorter or longer, between 30,000 to 90,000 miles.

Keep an eye on the warranty a brand offers you. This typically equals the estimated number of miles they expect a tire to last.

2. Vehicle Type

The vehicle you drive plays a major role in determining the life of a tire. SUVs and bigger trucks ask much more of a tire in terms of performance than small sedans. With extra weight, the tire treads will wear down much quicker and deteriorate in shorter spans.

This makes it extremely important to put the right tires on a specific vehicle. If you fail to do so, you can see severe damages or tire blowouts occur.  

3. Tire Type

The tire type determines many things about a tire. There are different types of tires like touring tires, winter tires, summer tires, and more. Tires are graded performance tires too.

It is estimated that ultra-high-performance tires last half as long as the average touring tire will last. This all depends on the types of technology and rubber compounds used in production.

4. Region You Live

As discussed earlier, the ozone and the environment impact the longevity of tires. If you live in a place that experiences extreme weather like high heat or freezing temperatures your tire will suffer too.

This is why many people opt for summer or winter tires as temporary options if they experience an extreme season. These tires can last multiple seasons and you can get the most use out of your tires this way.  

5. Driving Manner

Tires wear much quicker when they are driven in different ways. For example, extreme acceleration or braking consistently will seriously deteriorate the rubber compounds in a tire.

Those drivers that proceed with more caution and care for their vehicle tend to get the most usage out of their tires too. The amount of miles you drive per year is also an essential factor to consider when analyzing the potential life span of a tire.  

6. Tire Maintenance

Taking care of both your tires and your vehicle is extremely important to ensure your safety when on the road. It is recommended to rotate your tires every 7,000 miles to maintain vehicle balance and even road wear.

You should also regularly check your tire PSI levels and treadwear to spot any significant issues before they happen.

7. Tire Age

The most obvious factor is the tire age. Check that DOT code on your vehicle and make sure you are not riding on an old set of tires. Anything older than six years is an immediate red flag, with the estimates for replacement sitting between 6-10 years old.  

How Does Tire Age Affect Driving Performance?

Old tires have caused many accidents in the past and we are here to help lower these incidents and show drivers the proper way to treat tire age. When a tire gets older, things like cracks in the treads can happen to seriously decrease overall driving performance.

If the treads begin to crack, you start to lose your ability to brake, steer, and accelerate accurately on the pavement. Without these abilities, you become a liability on the road because you no longer have complete control over your vehicle. This puts both you and other drivers at risk for serious accidents.

When cracks occur, the steel belts will separate from the internal structure of the tire. These belts are responsible for the majority of your tire stability and responsiveness. It is best to keep an eye on tire age to ensure your vehicle can still perform at optimal levels on the road.

Performance issues like driving speeds are another problem. Each tire is given a speed rating to indicate the maximum speed it can reach safely. As the tire ages, this number drops significantly and when a tire is too old it becomes a liability in these speed ranges.  

How Does Tire Age Affect Gas Mileage?

Tires have a massive impact on gas mileage based on the rolling resistance on a specific tire. This directly correlates to the fuel efficiency you will get from your tires. As your tire ages, things tend to change too.

The tire age does not directly impact gas mileage. However, as the tire gets older it tends to wear down more which can cause uneven driving and a lack of performance. These are factors that can absolutely impact your gas mileage.

The optimal gas mileage is experienced after a tire has been driven for a while though. A brand new tire has the deepest treads, causing more road traction and rolling resistance to start. This means less gas mileage as the new tire settles in.

Older tires can be more efficient because treads are shallower from being worn down on the road. Rolling resistance can slightly increase when this happens and results in better fuel efficiency too. This does not last long though.

After longer, a tire becomes too worn and old. This will result in an uneven tread pattern that causes your vehicle to work much harder for road grip. By consistently having your tires rotated and balanced, you can extend them longer and keep fuel efficiency near peak performance though.

Should I Buy Used Tires?

One of the most common questions we see is whether you should buy used tires or not. It is a difficult question to answer directly without knowing the exact circumstances you as a driver are facing such as vehicle type, age, and budget. Especially for someone faced with an emergency replacement that doesn’t have the money to spend on four brand new tires.

The overall safety of a used tire can vary greatly and all potential buyers must proceed with caution. It is always best to inquire about any previous flats or patches required to fix the tire so you know exactly what you are getting yourself into if you proceed to buy the tire.

Ultimately, the biggest risks with used tires all come back to the unknown factors you cannot predict. A seller can assure you all types of things about a tire, but you never truly know what the history that this tire has experienced.

The savings can be significant with a nearly 50% savings in the total price for a new set of four tires. However, if they are unsafe you could be paying much more in the future on tire and vehicle repairs.

It is best to avoid used tires and find a way to buy brand new tires for your vehicle when necessary.

Pros

  • Cheaper than brand new tires.
  • If you buy the right ones, used tires can outlast new tires if the treadwear is still strong.

Cons

  • Used tires are unregulated.
  • Treadwear can be invisible.
  • Previous repairs increase the tire risk.
  • No access to product recalls.
  • So many unknown factors.  

How Can I Make My Tires Last Longer?

Making your tires last longer all starts with taking good care of them with constant checkups and routine maintenance to ensure everything is running smoothly. Changing the way to drive on them is another way to add extra time to your tire’s life too.

Here are some key ways to make your tires last longer.

1. Check PSI levels monthly

Some recommend checking the PSI levels every 3,000 to 4,000 miles. However, it is easier to just check the PSI once a month and make note of where you are. By keeping your tires properly inflated you will see better gas mileage and vehicle performance.

2. Rotate tires regularly

We recommend you rotate your tires every 7,000 to make sure you are driving with a better balance to encourage more accurate and even treadwear on the road.

3. Analyze your tire treads often

Set aside one day a month to look at your tires carefully. It is best to make sure there are no punctures, debris, or damages that would otherwise go unnoticed.

4. Never overload your vehicle

All tires come with a maximum load capacity that indicates exactly how much way your tire can handle. Exceeding this number not only puts you at risk but wears the tire down much quicker too.

It can cause the tire to deflate too much too. Always be mindful of the maximum load capacity when you are tasked with hauling a bigger load than usual.

5. Check your tire alignment

If you ever notice your car drifting in a different direction on its own, this is an alignment problem. It can also cause your car to shake or vibrate uncomfortably and damages the driving experience. When the alignment is off, your tire must work harder to control the vehicle and wear down quicker.

It is recommended to have the alignment on your tires checked and adjusted two times per year. By correcting the alignment, things like tire wear and fuel efficiency can dramatically improve along with the overall driving feel of your vehicle.

When Should I Replace My Tires?

Determining exactly when you should replace your tires requires a bit of expertise to either spot a dip in performance or realize your tire is far too old to still be driving. Using this guide, you can figure out from the DOT code exactly how old your tire is.

If you are adding extended miles to your car every year and have seen a dip in performance or fuel-efficiency, it may be time to consider an upgrade. New advancements in treads have made it possible to get up to 90,000 miles from your tire depending on various factors. However, this does not mean all tires can last this long.

Always check your warranty and see what the estimates about your specific tire are for overall tread life. Using miles as a key indicator is just as important because someone who drives often will not get the same amount of years from a tire as a driver who is never on the road.

As a rule of thumb, always replace a tire after it has eclipsed the six-year mark. It is better to act in advance than overuse a tire and end up in a situation where more damage can be caused. Many service shops will not even touch a tire if it is 10 years old or more.

About THE AUTHOR

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

Read More About Charles Redding