Tire Expiration Date

When you buy new tires for your vehicle, chances are they’ve been sitting on the shelf for years and they’re not new at all. All tires have an expiration date and if it’s been six-years or longer since their date of manufacture, safety becomes a gamble.

Aaron Yoder is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health at the University of Nebraska. He says the manufacture date is a Department of Transportation code of 10 or eleven numbers embossed on the inside of the tire. The last four numbers include a two-digit week code and a two-digit year code.

"So, if it was 3601, it would be week 36 of 2001 when it was manufactured," he says. "They’re not always installed as soon as they’re manufactured, but that’s sort of when the degradation of the rubber starts. As it just sits there, newer rubber is a little softer and it starts to harden over time, some of the oils come out of it and that sort of thing, so that’s why they’ve come up with these dates."

Yoder says not all retailers understand these codes so when you’re buying tires, ask for the newest tires they have, or ask to look at the codes. 

If the tires currently on your vehicle are in good shape but at or beyond that expiration date, it’s wise to replace them.

"It’s still going to be a hazard of a blowout or a sidewall breaking, even though there’s plenty of tread on them," says Yoder. "The recommendation is to still have them replaced at that time, because other parts of the tire could be failing."

No matter how old the tires are when you buy them, the most important aspect of tire safety is regular maintenance and inspection.