The Ones for Justice: Tires Display ‘Birth Dates’ But Industry Opposes Expiration Dates

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – If you’re about to hit the road for the holiday weekend, double check your wheels.

With summer heating up, drivers should be paying extra attention to their tires.

An undercover The Ones for Justice investigation found stores across Dallas-Fort Worth selling aging tires long after consumer advocates say they should have been tossed.

Before losing control of her Jeep, the last thing Danielle Escalante heard was a “pop.”

“As my son detailed, we hit the wall, and I said, ‘Oh crap,’ and he said we rolled three times,” Escalante said.

Escalante broke her collarbone and fractured her back.

Danielle Escalante (courtesy: Escalante family)

The back tire on her Jeep blew out on the President George Bush Turnpike, even though Escalante said she never hit any debris.

Escalante said she’d just bought the used Jeep the year before with what she thought were new tires.

Danielle Escalante’s wrecked Jeep (courtesy: Danielle Escalante)

“Maybe those tires weren’t new, maybe there were sitting there,” said Escalante.

Escalante and her son, who was 12 at he time, survived.

But that same year, in 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration logged 738 deaths in tire-related crashes nationwide.

Just like food, medicine or cosmetics, tires can expire.

National safety regulators suggest replacing tires every six years, regardless of use.

Depending on the company, tire manufacturers say their tires can last anywhere between six and 10 years.

“Tires have a shelf life and they will start to dry rot over time, especially if a tire is not used often enough,” said Mark Morgello with the City Garage in Addison.

He said Texas drivers in particular face another risk: heat.

On the morning of Escalante’s crash, it was 95 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

“The temperature goes up significantly and if the tire isn’t rated for high heat, it won’t handle it,” Morgello said. “It could come apart and damage that tire, especailly cheaper tires.”

Morgello said every single tire has a “birth date” listed on its side wall. The last four digits of the DOT code indicate the week and year the tire was manufactured.

For example, the number “3515” means the tire was made during the 35th week of 2015. The number “4617” means the tire was made during the 46th week of 2017.

The Ones for Justice found aging tires being sold at places across Dallas-Fort Worth, with many tires staying on shelves years past the NHSTA recommendation of six years.

Two different used tires stores in Plano were selling tires from 2011. Another used tire store in Plano displayed tires from 2012 and 2008.

At a used tire shop in south Dallas, tires from 2011, 2009 and even 2007 were on sale.

A used tire shop in east Dallas fared no better. Among tires from 2012 and 2009, the store was also selling tires from 2006 and 2002.

But what about big box retailers?

The Ones for Justice perused two Sam’s Clubs and a Walmart in North Texas. All tires passed the age test.

Sears was a different story.

We found a 2011 tire on sale at the Mesquite location, and a tire from early 2013 on sale at the Fort Worth store.

At the Sears in Arlington, a salesman went beyond the NHSTA recommendation.

“They recommend every five years,” said the salesman, even though a tire more than six years old was on display just feet away.

A Sears spokesman did not directly respond to questions on why tires exceeding six years old were on sale at their stores.

“Our tire sale policy is that we will not sell any tires that are older than six years,” spokesman Larry Costello wrote in an email. “As an additional safeguard, our processes require technicians to check the age of the tire before installing it on a vehicle. We are reinforcing our policy with associates at all Sears Auto Center locations. Sears Auto Centers customers can be confident they are receiving high quality tires that meet Federal safety standards and are professionally installed.”

Now Escalante consistently checks her tires before getting behind the wheel. She said her life depends on it.

“Something could have happened to my son,” Escalante said. “I look everyday.”

The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association says age is not the only predictor of a tire’s life span.

Weather, storage condition and usage also play a role. A spokesman emphasized that consumers play a “primary role” in the regular care and maintenance of their tires.

Regardless of age, to see if a tire is excessively worn, place a penny in the tread of the tire. If President Lincoln’s head is visible, that means it’s time to change your tire.