Tire troubles prompt RI consumer complaints

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Within a year of purchasing a new set of tires for his SUV, John LaPan, of Woonsocket, noticed the sidewalls splitting and cracking.

LaPan purchased the tires in 2014, but when he had them replaced, he found out the tires were actually manufactured in 2010 and 2011.

“They were sitting in the guy’s warehouse for three or four years before he sold them as brand new tires,” said LaPan.

The Target 12 Investigators took photos of the tires to Sean Kane, the president of Safety Research and Strategies.

He explained, “when you see a tire that’s four or five years old and it shows that kind of degradation, a couple things are going on. Either it’s exposed to some very extreme conditions, usually under very high heat for very long periods of time, or it may be a defect.”

Kane said there’s also another more common issue at play.

“We’re routinely seeing older tires that are being sold to consumers as new.”

There are no mandated expiration dates on tires, but Kane says there are some general guidelines for tire use.

“Vehicle manufacturers tend to recommend replacement tires, regardless of tread at six years,” he said. “That’s a recognition that tires degrade over time whether or not they’re used. If you don’t wear it out within that six to ten year period, you basically have a product that you’re paying for that you really shouldn’t be.”

You can easily check the age of your tires. 

There’s a date code printed on the sidewall of every single tire that’s manufactured. Each date code is printed in an ellipse at the end of a DOT number.

For tires manufactured in 2000 and beyond, the date code is made of up four numbers, which represents the week and the year they were made. For example, if the date code is ‘0501,’ the tire was manufactured in the fifth week of 2001.

If a tire was made before 2000, its date code is made up of 3 numbers, which also represents the week and the year of manufacture.  For example, if the date code is ‘319,’ the tire was manufactured in the thirty-first week of 1999.

While it may be easy to check, many people don’t know the date code is there.

“We’ve been asking for better disclosure about that information and a recognition that consumers don’t see that code as a date code. That needs to change,” said Kane.  “If you’re buying a product that’s as important to your safety as a tire, and the date code is buried in this long string of numeric digits on the side wall, as a consumer, that presents a real problem.”

After Target 12 got in touch with the company that sold LaPan the defective tires, the company promised to reimburse him for most of the cost to replace the tires.

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