ABC News Hidden Camera Investigation: Aged Tires Sold as 'New' by Big Retailers

ABC News cameras went undercover at the largest tire retailers in the U.S.

ByABC News
May 9, 2008, 12:34 PM

May 9, 2008— -- Some of the biggest tire retailers in the U.S. are selling tires that are well beyond the age limit recommended by consumer groups and some automakers, according to the results of a hidden camera investigation by "20/20" and ABC News affiliates around the country.

Research and tests show that as tires age, they begin to dry out and become potentially dangerous, leading to calls for a six-year age limit for tires from Ford Motor Co. and other car companies.

"20/20" teamed up with our ABC News affiliates to see if tires older than six years were being sold as "new" by major tire retailers. Unlike most consumers, we knew how to read the industry's convoluted date code, which reveals the week and year when a tire was made.

In San Francisco, Calif., reporters from KGO-TV found a tire made in 1999 and two from 2002 being sold as new by Goodyear, the seventh largest tire retailer in the U.S.

In Indianapolis, Ind., affiliate WRTV-TV went tire shopping at Wal-Mart, the country's third largest tire seller, and found a tire made in 2001 and one from 1999. In Orlando, Fla., affiliate WFTV-TV also found two aged tires dating back to 1999 and 2000 for sale at a Wal-Mart store.

At Sears, the fifth largest tire retailer in the U.S., our undercover "20/20" shoppers found nearly a dozen aged tires being sold as new as part of a special "manager's clearance sale." At three different stores in New Jersey, we found tires ranging from seven years old to one that was manufactured 12 years ago in 1996.

At a Sear's store in Watchung, N.J., a salesman warned us before we purchased a 2002 tire, saying, "You're supposed to get rid of them every six or seven matter what condition it is." He, however, still sold us the tire, saying to only use it as a spare. At the Sears stores we visited in Union and Jersey City, N.J., we were told the aged tires we purchased were safe.

At at Sears store in Houston, Texas, ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV also found an aged tire dating back to 2001.