Research shows that less than a fifth of us actually know how to tell how old our tyres are, even though it is, in fact, a relatively simple procedure to do so. There also appears to be a fair bit of confusion as to when we should, actually, replace them.
Contrary to popular misconception, there is no, actual, age at which point you must, legally, replace a tyre, however, they must, obviously, be of a roadworthy condition in order to be legal.
Determining The Age Of A Tyre
The age of your tyres is shown on the side wall of the tyre, and is represented by a series of four numbers, usually preceded by the letters; DOT. These four numbers represent the week number and year of manufacture, so, for example, the numbers 0915 will represent a date of manufacture of week 9 (March) 2015. It really is that simple, and will help you to ensure that your tyres will have the maximum possible usable life when you buy them.
When Do We Need To Replace A Tyre?
As already specified, there is no legal age limit for a tyre, as their degree of wear will vary significantly, depending on usage, storage etc, and the tyre’s performance will, also, deteriorate over time. Tyres contain a number of anti-oxidising chemicals, designed to slow down the ageing process, and extend the life of a tyre, however, crucially for anyone with a folding camper, caravan, trailer etc, the tyres need to be in use for these chemicals to be effective. Infrequent use, or improper storage (both potential problems in leisure applications) can, actually, accelerate the ageing process, even though the tyres are not, in fact, being used. Low mileage, older units are particularly at risk of premature ageing.
Many believe that you MUST change your tyres after five years, but this isn’t, in fact, a legal requirement. The recommendation of tyre manufacturers is that tyres should be checked annually (a simple visual check should be sufficient) once the tyre reaches five years of age. They further recommend that tyres should be replaced after ten years, but, again, this is just a recommendation, not a legal requirement, and will depend upon overall tyre condition.
This is, of course, the recommendation of the tyre manufacturers, as it relates to car tyres, in every day use. As already mentioned, above, tyres can deteriorate more quickly, if not used to any great extent, and, hence, the main caravanning organisations do recommend replacement after 7 years. The signs of deterioration are, relatively, easy to spot, so, as long as the tyres are regularly checked, for signs of damage (remembering to check the inner walls of the tyre, not just the visible areas) after they reach 5 years, it should be fine to work on the 10 year recommendation, however, there is no harm in changing them earlier, if you feel more comfortable in doing so.
It is, also, probably worth just pointing out that the recommended period of use applies from the date of fitting of the tyres, not the date of manufacture. Many are concerned when they see ‘new’ tyres being fitted which are 18 months, or so, old. This is perfectly normal. Deterioration prior to fitting is negligible, and of no cause for concern. The general consensus, though, is that after two year on the shelf, deterioration does become more marked, and probably best to insist on something a little newer, if your supplier does try to fit tyres that are, already, in excess of that age. This is, also, why the physical condition of the tyres is more important than, simply, relying on the age, as printed on the tyres. 6 year old tyres, on your recently acquired unit may have only been fitted for four years, so, unless we have had the tyres fitted ourselves, we won’t know how long the tyres have, actually, been fitted.
There are a number of key triggers that will determine when we should change our tyres;
- Following a puncture (advisable to get a professional opinion if this happens).
- When tread is down to the legal limit (currently 1.6mm).
- When a tyre shows signs of ageing (such as cracked side walls / deformation).
- If a tyre is damaged, for example, by kerbing, or hitting a pothole.
- Where there is abnormal wear. Uneven wear may be down to incorrect wheel tracking or balancing. It may, also, be down to incorrect tyre pressures.
At the end of the day, a lot of it will come down to common sense, and keeping an eye on the tyres (inside wall, as well as outer wall and main tread). If we are, also, aware of the age of the tyre, we will have an idea as to the extent it is likely to need checking, so that we can remain as safe as possible on our breaks away.