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Aging tires spark new safety concern

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Aging tires spark new safety concern

Michelin, Continental latest to set 10-year limit

Scott Burgess / The Detroit News

Major U.S. tire manufacturers have a new warning for consumers and dealers: Any tire made before 1996 should be swinging from a tree.

Michelin USA and Continental Tire North America Inc. have become the latest manufacturers to issue technical bulletins to dealers calling for the replacement of all tires 10 years or older.

Some automakers -- including Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG -- advise owners that tires be replaced after six years.

Industry and safety experts agree that most tires are replaced long before any unofficial expiration date.

But some tire and safety experts say there is no concrete evidence showing tires aren't safe after a certain age.

Safety advocates, however, contend that tires degrade over time and can become dangerous even if they look new.

"It's an invisible hazard," said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies, which tracks auto safety issues.

The latest warnings -- Bridgestone Firestone issued a service bulletin in October, while Michelin and Continental sent advisories this month -- suggest a turning point for the tire makers, Kane said.

"The manufacturers signify that there is an issue and they have to address it," Kane said. "It's just the beginning. Consumers still don't know."

But are they at risk?

Seasonal and recreational vehicles, as well as their trailers, may hit the highways only a few weeks a year, allowing tires to age long past the time it could be safe, experts said.

Spare tires, in particular, pose a problem because they may still appear new six years after they were manufactured.

However, the latest service bulletins issued by the tire makers do not address tire degradation.

All of the warnings echo Bridgestone Firestone's inspection guidelines: "Although (Bridgestone Firestone) is not aware of technical data that supports a specific tire service life, the replacement of tires 10 years after the date of production is an important consideration," the company told dealers in a bulletin last October.

Bridgestone Firestone spokesman Dan MacDonald said the memo follows the Japan Automotive Tire Manufacturers Association's recommendation.

"It's common sense," he said. "We can't say it's based on any in-depth research. There really isn't data that would give you a lifespan for a tire."

Dan Zielinski, a spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which represents the tire industry, said more research needs to be done.

"We certainly think this is an issue that should be examined. To set a date (to discard the tire), you have to correlate its age to its safety performance. So many conditions impact tires."

Zielinski and others in the tire industry contend there is still no evidence to merit giving tires an expiration date.

Additionally, the Rubber Manufacturers Association and many tire companies are working with federal regulators to develop a test to monitor tire age and degradation.

Ford, however, says its research into a tire's age degradation suggests it loses strength over time. The company began including warnings in owner manuals for new vehicles last year, said Dan Jarvis, a company spokesman.

"They are a perishable item," Jarvis said. "We recommend to all of our customers to replace the spare tire after six years."

DaimlerChrysler began advising owners last year through owner manuals to replace tires after six years, a Chrysler Group spokesman said Wednesday.

In the early 1990s, Kane said Mercedes Benz became the first automaker to include a tire warning -- they should be replaced after 6 years -- for cars sold in Germany.

There is no federal regulation stipulating when a tire is no longer serviceable due to age, said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesman Rae Tyson, adding that the recent bulletins were welcome.

"I'm glad to see that the tire manufacturers are stepping forward and giving consumers some guidance," Tyson said.

"There's no question that a performance standard is needed."

The agency is working on ways to test tires for age degradation and could begin testing in the next few years.

Link: http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artic.../602230368/1148

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Well here we go- another forced mandate coming down the pike like a loaded tri-axle Peterbilt with no brakes. I can hear the rumble and rush- can you?

Repeatedly- 'not based on any research' is quoted, yet watch it become an inspection & ticketable offense by 2016.

Tire degredation is a result of UV exposure, chemical exposure, proper inflation, useage, material composition and time. And undoubtedly a few other factors. This only seeks to address the time factor. Unilaterally. It's baseless.

In protest, I may merely replace the tubes on my 1960s Atlas PlyCord 10-ply 7.00x20s on my COE and drive it.

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