New Warning: 'Catastrophic Failure' Discovered in Aged Tires

After years of delay, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a consumer advisory today warning motorists that outdated tires, even if they appear to be brand new, can lead to "catastrophic failure." Critics had charged NHTSA with dragging its feet on the issue, despite the agency's past acknowledgement that aged tires are a serious safety risk. (Click here to read NHTSA's consumer alert)

"The vehicle industry, the tire industry and the government have known about this problem for years, but consumers have been kept in the dark", said auto safety expert Sean Kane. Kane had petitioned NHTSA in 2004 to issue a consumer advisory on aged tires, but until today no action was taken.

Today's advisory warns motorists as they prepare for summer travel that "Old tires also are subject to greater stress, which increases the likelihood of catastrophic failure." The advisory also informs consumers how to determine the age of their tires be reading the DOT code on the sidewall. (Click here for explanation of DOT age code.)

NHTSA's action comes on the heels of a 20/20 investigation into the dangers of aged tires. Our investigation detailed how as tires age, they can dry out and become brittle, leading to a possible catastrophic tread separation. Despite more than 100 deaths in the U.S. attributed to aged tires, NHTSA turned down a petition by Ford Motor Co. to impose a six-year shelf life on tires.

Today's advisory does note that "some tire and vehicle manufacturers have issued recommendations for replacing tires that range from six to ten years of age. Consumers are advised to check with their tire or vehicle manufacturer for specific guidance."

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