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6 year old tires ok to patch?

I have a Subaru Outback that is a third car, and therefore not used much, low miles, always garaged and kept out of the sun. The tires are 6 years, one month old, look great, and have maybe 25-30k miles on them. They are Goodyear Integrity tires with 6/year 50,000 mile warranty. One tire had a small nail in it and had to be patched.

I got into an argument with the tire shop where I bought the tires: even though there is plenty of tread left, he said no one would patch a tire older than 5 years, it was a death trap, and I had to replace my tires. I got a huge whiff of salesman scare tactics from him, and the place is known (thanks, Yelp!) for being somewhat shady with their upsell practices. “Tires aren’t meant to last more than 5 years” is a direct quote.

I left and got the tire patched for free at another tire shop (one that gets great reviews). They didn’t have a problem with it.

So, my question is: who’s right, and when should I replace these tires? The car only gets 4-5k miles per year, so it’ll be several more years before I would replace them solely based on the tread wear. At what point is a tire unsafe due to age? I realize sun damage, extreme conditions make a difference, but I live in San Diego and keep the car garaged most of the time. Thanks!

Well, you’ve reached the 6 year part of the warranty. And the reason there’s a 6 year warranty is because just like the rubber used in timing belts breaks down over time and not mileage, the rubber in tires can break down over time.

So Goodyear figured that in 6 years the rubber would degrade to the point that the tire would no longer be warranted no matter the tread wear.

So driving on tires past their age warranty is like driving on time bombs.


6 years is the start of the ‘grey area’, 10 years no doubt, replace. First, decode the serial number to see how old the tires are (google tire decoder).

Recent bulletins from the tire industry indicate that tires degrade simply due to time. The age of a tire is important even if the tire is unused. There some disagreement over how to best express this age limitation, but my take is:

If you live in a hot climate (AZ, CA, NV, TX, and FL) then the limit is six years. If you live in a cold climate (MN, ND, WI, MT, etc), then the limit is 10 years. States in between are … ah … in between.

Here’s how to tell how old the tires are:

First locate the letters “DOT” on the sidewall of the tire. Nearby will be the DOT code. DOT codes are 10 to 12 digits long. BTW the digits can be numbers or letters.

The first 2 digits are a code for the manufacturing plant.

The next 2 digits are a code for the tire size.

The next 3 or 4 digits are a code for the type of tire.

The last 3 or 4 digits are the date code. The format is week/week/year/year or week/week/year. These are always numbers.

Starting in the year 2000, the date coding used was 4 digits. That means the largest number you should see for the year is 10. Before 1999 the format was 3 digits. 1999 and 2000 are transition years, so you will find both 3 and 4 digits.

The date code only has to be on one side – and it is permissible for there to be a partial DOT code, so long as one side has the complete code. If you don’t find the complete code on the side you are looking at, look on the other side.

While tires must degrade with age, what doesn’t? I think you have to factor in some other variables. Such as where the car lives, how loaded are the tires, are the tires kept at the proper air pressure, etc.? I’d patch a 5 year old tire as long as the nail was in the tread area, not the sidewall. I also run tires up to and perhaps beyond 10 years. I won’t race on old tires, and if I frequently carried heavy loads I might not go 10 years. My cars are all low miles per year cars now that I retired. New tires every 5 years would be rough on the budget. The T’bird and Sequoia tires are $150+ ea.

Given your low use of the car I’d say patch the tire. The most common reason for tire blowouts is running hot from too little air pressure. Since you use the car infrequently, checking the air pressure when you do take it out for a jaunt is even more important. Tire neglect will cause more problems than tire age.

Find another place to get it patched and keep an eye on proper tire air pressure.

There are some risks but I think mostly due to unknowing car owners who never open the hood to check oil/fluids and air tire pressure.

Even if the guy was just trying to sell you tires, there’s also the CYA factor. Patching a six year old tire would be a tacit endorsement of the safety of the tire, and if you had a blowout, you might sue. It’s better for him and you if neither of you take that risk.

On a car that gets driven so infrequently, a set of young but used tires might be more cost effective, but I stopped buying used tires years ago because my car gets enough miles put on it that the cost of mounting and balancing the tires alone makes new tires cheaper per mile, but for you, I am not so sure.

The salesman may be bound by corporate rules, or by the owner’s policy. They are concerned about liability issues. Technically, they have solid grounds. Some OSHA-like agency recommends a six-year lifespan for tires.

Of course, this one-size-fits-all policy can hardly apply to everyone. From the description of your car usage, you can probably ignore the six-year limit and have no concerns. If you have already got the tire repaired, fine. But it doesn’t mean that the first dealer was shady.

One more consideration. Years ago I purchased a DIY tire repair kit from Wal-Mart for about $6-$8. I only used it one time, but my patch lasted until the tires wore out. You ought to consider owning such a kit for any future tire patching.

Patching a tire and its age are two completely separate factors. The patch will hold just as well in an old tire as it would in a new one, in fact, on an old tire, a properly installed patch will probably be the strongest part of the tire.

Other than that, I have no argument with any of the posts above.

First let me thank you for a complete description of the sitiuation. I wish all posters would do that.

Under your circumstances I’d have patched them without concern, just as the second shop did. And I’m guessing that they now have your future tire business.

As far as when to change them, I’d watch for evidence of surface cracking. If you begin to see that or a slow leak develops, then it’ll be time. Or, if they get to an age when you begin to wonder, change them then. A sound nights sleep is worth a few hundred bucks.

Personally, I’m not convinced that tires are only good for 5 or 6 years unless they’ve been parked in the sun in the Arizona desert the whole time. I think the tire industry is being way too conservative in saying that…with vested interest, of course.

The tire/auto industries are rethinking at what age tires can become dangerous.


20 incidents? In how many years? How old were the tires? Was there evidence of improper inflation?

There are an estimated 2.7 trillion miles driven every year in the U.S. Some percentage of these is going to be on very old tires. Occasionally one of those very old tires is going to fail. Old tires showing evidence of surface cracking are dangerous, I’ve no doubt. But to extrapolate from just the data that’s available that tires have a life expectancy of five or six years is, I think, unrealistic.

Don’t get me wrong, I know tires age and I’ve no doubt that old tires can become unsafe, but I’ve yet to see any real evidence that the lifespan is only 6 years except in extreme conditions.

I think the age factor also has a lot to do with the accumulated damage from just driving. Add that to, say, underinflation and there’s a blowout.

OP here: Appreciate all the comments. I also found some articles from Consumer Reports and others that corroborate the consensus here: 10 years is too old, 6 years is maybe too old, depends on circumstances. I’ll keep the tires for a couple more years, check them frequently, and change them at 8 years assuming relevant factors don’t make me change them earlier. This seems like a reasonable plan. I looked at the DOT stamp and they were manufactured 10/05, so that would be March 2005, and I bought them a couple months later.

Skip the fight next time. Plugging tires is not rocket science. Get what you need at a car parts store and plug the nail hole yourself next time. I live in the northern US and have run tires to 12 years with no problem. In San Diego 6 years may be better but if the tires are out of the direct sunshine most of the time, I would be inclined to push the time a little. That’s how I got to 12 years here.

CS will also use a CYA factor.