DOT Date Code: How to Know the Age of Your Tires
The condition of your tire is very important and plays an important role in how well your vehicle functions, as driving old tires is very dangerous and will cause fuel use to increase. All tires have a Tire Identification Number, or TIN, which provides information on when it was made. You can find this number on the side of the tire wall. Within the TIN are smaller codes that help identify tire information.
The first letter will usually be DOT, which stands for Department of Transportation. There will be a letter and code following DOT; this is the tire plant code, which identifies where the tire was made. Following the plant code are the tire size number and a 2-to-3 letter manufacturer code. Lastly is the tire age code, typically 4 numbers long. The numbers indicate the week and the year on which the tires were manufactured. Subtract these 4 numbers from the current date to calculate the exact age of the tire.
Most of the time old tires will still look perfectly fine. As tires age they go through a process called thermo-oxidative degradation, which is caused by the rubber being exposed to oxygen that breaks it down over time. The rubber will start to dry out from the outside; if not changed, it will continue to crack, causing blowouts, separation from the belt, and other dangerous incidents. It is often difficult to notice damage even when the tire starts separating from the tread belt, or until it causes an accident and is too late. Tires usually stay safe for 5 years after they are made. Many car manufacturers will recommend for tires to be changed 6 years after their manufacture. Checking your TIN will therefore promote personal safety and avoid the possible dangers that can occur from aged tires.
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