Sunday Times motoring column gets to grips with old tyres

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Whether or not to replace old tyres based on age rather than visible signs of wear-and-tear was one of the topics the motoring column ingear was asked to get to grips with in the Sunday Times this weekend.

CS from Bristol asked the panel: “I recently bought a second-hand Ford Ka for my 17-year-old son. It has only 10,000 miles on the clock and is almost showroom condition, despite being 11 years old. It still has the original tyres, with lots of tread and no sign of cracking. It drives well, and the tyres do not lose pressure. Do I need to change them?”

The ultra-well-informed Dave Pollard replied: “If these are the original tyres, then you should definitely change them. You may not be able to see any damage, but that doesn’t mean there is no degrading of the rubber with in the tyres.

“Moreover, they’ve clearly spent more time standing around than driving, which could have created flat spots (where parts of the rubber were pressed against the ground), especially if the pressures were low. These could cause vibration through the steering wheel or even a braking imbalance.

“Most manufactures recommend 10 years as an absolute limit, though it’s all but impossible to fix an exact time period – in truth, most tyres wear out long before it becomes a problem. You can check the age of the tyres by looking for a code stamped in a box on the sidewalls. Tyres produced before 2000 have three digit, the first two being the week of production, the third being the year, so 299 would be 29th weeks of 1999. Tyres produced after 1999 have four digits, with two, rather than one, fore the year. For more information, go to

“It may seem strange to throw away tyres that look fire, but you have to consider that your son’s safety is dependent on those four small patches of rubberr – it’s a risk that isn’t worth taking. You should be able to get a replacement set starting from about £200, depending on brand, of course, and the exact model of Ka.”

Denna Bowman, Head Office

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