Tyre date codes explained

They may look fine at first glance but an old tyre could be subject to unseen ageing that makes it unsafe. Learn how to read your tyres with our handy guide.

It is easy to assume that your car tyres just wear out and need replacing, and otherwise are happy to live on as long as the car does. But in truth, your tyres are susceptible to external influences and usage patterns, not just how many miles they have covered. One of the most important means of assessing the condition of your tyres is to know their age, which is easy when you know how.

How do I check the age of my tyres?

Amongst the wealth of information on the side of your tyres including dimensions and ratings for speed and load you will see a series of digits marked out with a raised line around them. Ideally there will be four digits - the first two represent the week of manufacturer and the last two are the year of manufacturer. So a tyre marked with ‘1816’ would show that the tyres were made in the 18th week of 2016. If your tyres only show a three-digit number this means your tyres were made before the year 2000 and are long past their best - replace them immediately.

How long will my tyres last?

There are no hard and fast rules relating to the age of tyres; in most instances, tyres wear out before they get too old, but if you have a car that covers very few miles a year or even a classic it is possible that the tread won’t wear sufficiently to need replacing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean your tyres will last forever; tyres are made up of a complex mix of chemicals to maximise their lifespan but ultimately they can degrade over time.

The most obvious sign of degradation is small cracks in the sidewall, indicating that the tyre has dried out over the years and has become less supple. Tyres in this condition are far more prone to failure including blowouts, and should be replaced before the vehicle is used. You can have your vehicle’s tyres inspected, but even this is not foolproof as the carcass can suffer from unseen damage. If in doubt, play safe and replace.

How can I make my tyres last longer?

Aside from the natural ageing process, looking after your tyres will help them to last longer. Checking your tyre pressures frequently will help them to wear evenly and keeping a tyre inflator at home makes this even easier. Aside from obvious things such as avoiding kerb damage and potholes, your driving style can contribute to the life of your tyres too; harsh braking, acceleration and cornering all put additional loads through your tyres.

Another key tyre maintenance area is ensuring that your vehicle tracking is correctly set up. This should be carried out when you fit new tyres, but also once or twice a year is a sensible precaution. Incorrect tracking will cause uneven wear as well as reduce the performance of your vehicle and could cause unwelcome handling characteristics.

The best way to ensure your tyres have a long life is to give them a winter holiday. Fitting winter tyres between October and March will require an additional outlay, but you can store your summer tyres away from the sun’s harmful rays (or pay someone else to store them for you) and use winter rubber in its ideal conditions.

205/55 H 16 Winter

Avon WV7 Snow

Michelin Cross Climate+

Tyre-shopper.co.uk

£65.37*

N/A

Blackcircles.com

£63.48*

£82.15*

Tyresonthedrive.com

N/A

N/A

Motokiki.com

£64.55*

£85.87*

Halfords Auto Centre

N/A

N/A

ATS Euromaster

£63.49*

£89.99*

Ask HJ

Am I entitled to a refund for prematurely cracked tires?

I bought four new Bridgestone Potenzas for my 2004 BMW Z4 around 14 months ago from a big name tire company. I've noticed both rear tires have started to develop cracks around the outer part of the tread. I've done less than 3000 miles on the tires and they have always been at the correct pressure. The date stamps are February 2016 on the rear tires. After speaking to them, they want me to purchase two new tires and they will send the old tires off to the manufacturer for inspection. This is under the BTMA guidelines apparently. They say if the tires are found to be faulty I will get a refund. Surely the tires have proven themselves as not fit for purpose and I should be entitled to a replacement.
Not necessarily "not of satisfactory quality" because the cracks may merely be superficial. Puts you in a dilemma. What I'd do is get a second and maybe a third opinion from other tyre specialists before making a decision.
Answered by Honest John
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