Paul Walker's death highlights dangers of aging tires

Even with low miles, old tires present a safety risk

Published: March 27, 2014 04:15 PM

2005 Porsche Carrera GT

Old tires may have been a factor in the crash that ended the lives of the "Fast & Furious" actor Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas, based on the latest information from the police investigation. At least two of the tires on the crashed Porsche Carrera GT were more than nine years old.  And, according to new details from the California Highway Patrol, the "driving and handling characteristics" of the Porsche "may have been compromised" because of this.

Unfortunately, many people—particularly those who drive classic cars or seasonal vehicles—may be tempting fate the same way.

There is no clear-cut consensus on when to replace aging tires, which leads people to leave them on their vehicles too long. Consumer Reports recommends following the guidelines in the owner's manual, but not all car or tire manufacturers offer such guidance. Then what?

Certainly you should follow the car manufacturer's recommendation. As an example, some car manufacturers recommend removing tires that are six or more years old, regardless of miles. Porsche goes a step further, stating that the tires on the Carrera GT, for instance, shouldn't be used if they are more than four years old. 

See our tire buying guide and Ratings.

When not specified, we recommend removing any tire 10 years old or older.  (Michelin may be the supplier of the tire, but in this case they would follow Porche's guidelines of removal at four years.)  This is especially important for a spare tire, which can sit hidden away in your trunk, ignored for years on end. Our video shows how you can check the age of your tires.

Even if your tires have rolled up only a few thousand miles, the aging process makes the rubber less pliable and leads to deterioration of the mounted tire's internal structure, which is hidden from the outside.

Tire aging is particularly important for people who own classic cars with era-appropriate tires, owners of older cars that are used very little, and owners of campers.

The tires may look fine on the outside and have lots of tread, but the hidden aging process can compromise their integrity and performance.  Always inspect your tires routinely.

In the end, it's best to err on the side of safety, even when it's financially painful to replace a set of expensive, low-mileage tires. A tire failure at speed can be a dangerous event. Our best advice is to replace old tires regardless of appearance, even if they have never been on the road.

Read our report on when to buy new tires based on age.

Jon Linkov & Gordon Hard

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