You Should Put New Tires on Your Car Every Once in a While

This is hardly the most important topic in the world, but this story from ABC News sure left me scratching my head:

American tire companies have helped to defeat proposed laws in eight states that would require inspection of tires for age….”We oppose legislation that have some sort of age limit on tires,” said Dan Zielinski, executive director of the [Rubber Manufacturers of America].

In the most recent case, the trade group spent $36,000 on lobbyists to defeat proposed legislation in the state of Massachusetts that would have included the age of tires on regular vehicle inspections, according to ABC News’ Boston affiliate WCVB, which joined other top ABC News affiliate investigative teams around the country in a national hidden camera investigation into tire safety.

….For consumers, determining the age of a tire can be a daunting task. The date of production can be found in a unique code at the end of 11- or 12-digit identification number on the tire’s sidewall. But instead of the standard month/year display, the tire industry uses a week/year display. For example, a tire produced in early June of 2010 (in the 21st week of the year) would be displayed as 2110, instead of the more common 06/10 that most consumers are accustomed to seeing.

“They did not want to put a date code on tires, specifically because they did not want to give the impression that tires might actually have a service life,” said Kane, the safety consultant.

OK, but why do tire manufacturers oppose the idea that tires have a service life? Wouldn’t a recognized service life lead to more tire sales? I can think of dozens of industries that have successfully run ad campaigns urging consumers to replace items more often than they’re accustomed to, with the goal of selling more stuff. So what’s the difference here?


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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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