Deadly, Aged Tires Still on Shelves, ABC News Uncovers

Federal standards are still absent though carmakers have issued warnings.

ByBy Enjoli Francis
November 04, 2010, 10:01 PM

Nov. 5, 2010 — -- Dangerous, aged tires are still being sold across the country, even as a major rubber supplier recently urged the U.S. government to beef up labeling standards for tire safety, an ABC News investigation has found.

ABC News visited tire shops outside of New York City and San Francisco this week. Of the five locations in New York, ABC News found that two shops had a pair of tires from 2006. At one location, a tire from 1996 was on display for sale.

Check the end of this story to get tips on tire safety.

In San Francisco, ABC News went to four tire sellers. The last one visited had an entire set of tires made in 2005 and one tire that was 10 years old.

As previously reported by ABC News, aged tires can present a hidden danger even if their treads are unworn and they haven't been driven a mile. According to consumer and industry sources, as tires age the rubber can deteriorate and become brittle, leading to a possible tread separation.

Tires are coded with a U.S. Department of Transportation or DOT stamp followed by a four-digit number. The first two numbers indicate the week the tire was made; the second two, the year.

In May 2006, 11-year-old Willie Moreno was killed when his family's Explorer rolled over on a highway in Riverside, Calif. The left rear tire, which had experienced a catastrophic tread separation, was later found to be 12 years old at the time of the accident. A California jury awarded $18 million in March to the family. American Tire Depot (ATD), a Southern California tire-store chain, was found negligent for installing the tire in the Ford Explorer involved in the accident. .

The NHTSA Issues Tire Warning

In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association issued a consumer advisory warning motorists that outdated tires, even if they appear to be brand new, can lead to "catastrophic failure."

Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group have advocated that tires more than 6 years old should not be used, and this week major rubber supplier Lanxess Corp. urged the U.S. government to beef up labeling standards for tire safety.

"I would not drive in tires older than six years," said Sean Kane of Safety Research.

But the Rubber Manufacturers Association disagrees. "There's no scientific information that can point to when a tire should be removed because of age," said the association's Dan Zielinkski.

Currently there are no federal standards setting an "expiration" date for tires. Tire industry trade groups have come out strongly against such a measure, arguing that factors such as excessive use, and poor maintenance and storage are more important in determining whether or not a tire will fail.

"There has been no change in labeling, no legislation about the length of time tires can sit on the shelf," Kane said.

Tire Tread Tips:

Here are some tips to help you make sure your tires are safe:

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