A Guide to the Shelf Life of Motorcycle Tires
When the rubber hits the road, you want to be sure that your new motorcycle tires are up to snuff. The condition of your tires is crucial to safety and performance. So, it’s no surprise when some riders worry about the age of their new skins. No one wants their new-to-them tires to actually be expired. Many feel that they need the newest or “freshest” tires possible.
But what constitutes a fresh tire? Does a tire have to be manufactured within the past year to be considered fresh? Do tires become “stale” over longer periods of time? With a myriad of differing arguments from consumers, the real answer may surprise you.
Like your perishable groceries, your motorcycle tires have a “sell by” date. Fortunately, though, your tires won’t spoil as fast as produce and eggs. In fact, they can sit on a climate-controlled shelf for many years without a problem. More like your canned goods.
Most manufacturers recommend that their tires are still good up to around six years from the manufacture date. That is if the tire has been sitting on a dry, climate-controlled shelf.
How Motorcycle Tires Age
Oxidation and wear are a tire’s worst enemy, not necessarily time. According to Pirelli, “The mere passage of time (age) does not cause tires to deteriorate, but rather exposure to outside forces.”
While a tiny amount of oxidation does occur while a tire sits on a shelf, the amount is almost negligible. A tire is fine as long as it is in a temperature-controlled environment. Being improperly stored will speed up oxidation. This includes long periods of time sitting on concrete and/or storage in extreme temperatures. Being in contact with chemicals, like gasoline and solvents, also deteriorate tires.
Oxidation increases once air pressure is applied after the tire has been mounted and filled. As a tire oxidizes, the rubber compound becomes more and more brittle. Eventually, you will see weather cracking. At this point, it is time to replace that tire.
How to Read a Tire Manufacture Date
Depending on the age of your tire, the date code can be in one of two forms. If manufactured after the year 2000, it will read as the last four digits of the DOT code. The first two digits represent the week it was manufactured, while the last two represent the year.
An example would be 0415, which would mean that tire was manufactured in the 4th week of 2015.
The date codes for tires manufactured before the year 2000 are represented a bit differently. These will appear as the last three digits of the DOT code. The first two digits represent the week of the year, while the last digit represents the year of the decade is was produced.
Let’s look at the example of 103. That would be the 10th week of the 3rd year in the decade the tire was manufactured. Unfortunately, we don’t know if that is the 3rd year of the 90’s or 80’s or so on. With the confusion that format causes, it’s easy to see why the DOT revised the date code.
How Old is Too Old
If your tires are showing a three-digit code, it’s safe to say it’s time for some new skins.
But what about more recently manufactured tires? Most motorcycle tire manufacturers will warranty their newly purchased tires up to around six years after the manufacture date (give or take a year or two).
If you have bought your tires from a reputable dealer, it should be safe to install your tire if it falls within that warranty period. You should contact the dealer with anything older.