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Tire Talk: How old is too old for tires?

Published March 8, 2013

Q: A friend of mine recently put new tires on his 1999 Acura Integra. He was quite pleased that he got brand-name tires, Firestone, for a good price (less than $300 for all four). When I saw them, the first thing I checked was the date code and was shocked to see they had been made in 2005. Although they looked OK, is an unused tire that old acceptable for use? Are there any laws or regulations governing the selling of aged tires?

A: I wish there was a law or regulation to protect consumers from old tires. Even the safety inspection on a vehicle when it is being sold does not look at tire age. If it has the minimum few millimetres of tread depth, bingo, it is certified.

There is nothing wrong with stale-dated tires as such. It depends on just how stale they are, how they were stored, and the consumer being informed. If you trust the dealer and have informed yourself about the situation, then stale tires may be OK. But the dealer should always inform the buyer before putting them on the car.

Tires have a lifespan of five to seven years from date of manufacture, even if they are never used. The rubber ages, the oils and binding chemicals dry out and the tire loses flexibility. A tire’s ability to mould itself around the texture of the road is what makes it grip. Simply put, no flex, no grip. Tread depth does not contribute to grip except in wet conditions.

Tire manufacturers store tires in climate-controlled warehouses and make sure to rotate the inventory. They do not ship tires that are close to their expiry dates, they are scrapped.

A dealer may store tires and be less fussy about rotating inventory. These tires I worry about. If stock rotation is not going on, what else is wrong at the shop?

Have the tires been properly stacked and stored and the temperatures watched, or were they stored in a steel cargo container behind the dealership?

Cargo containers can roast the tires in summer and deep freeze them in winter. These conditions cut the life of the tire drastically. Personally, when I see a steel cargo container with tires in it, I move on to the next dealership.

Q: You recommended Goodyear TripleTreds for my 2001 Subaru Outback five years ago. Great tires. I now have a 2013 Outback and the OEM Continentals are terrible. I have dedicated winter tires. What touring tire do you recommend with a premium placed on handling and noise?

A: The two characteristics you want to maximize are opposed. Handling and noise go hand in hand in a tire that grips well in wet and dry conditions. But there are some good choices available.

You were happy with Goodyear’s TripleTred. It is still the tire to beat in your category: great grip, wet and dry, but slightly noisier than average. It also has some of the best consumer reviews in this group.

The new kid on the block, the Michelin Defender, wins the silence and smooth ride contest in this group. Overall grip is fine, too, just a tad below the TripleTred.

The Firestone Precision Touring offers long mileage, good grip and a high consumer satisfaction rating.

There is one more tire to consider, the Hankook Optimo 727. It is almost as quiet as the Michelin, has almost the grip of the Firestone but comes in at a price point lower than of the others.

wheels@thestar.ca

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