Road safety: What is the shelf life of car tires?
By Grace Olson // Oct 20, 2019

Maintaining a bug-out vehicle is a must for any smart prepper. This includes keeping the gas tank close to full, buying spare parts, and tune-ups. However, it’s easy to overlook the importance of keeping your tires in tiptop shape. When disaster strikes, you might have to go unto the open road, and you wouldn't want your tires to give up on you while you're evacuating. Read on to find out more about the shelf life of car tires and how to maintain them. (h/t to


How long do car tires last?

In general, tires can last for up to 10 years if they are stored properly. For tires that are used on the road, they can be used for up to six years. People in the business call this the six or 10 rule.

However, there are many factors that affect the shelf life of tires. In fact, they can differ from one driver to another even if the tires were manufactured on the same day. Some of these factors include:

  • Conditions of use – Tires on a car that is used every day inevitably have a faster wear rate than those that are used occasionally. The tires’ decline also depends on where the car goes and how the user drives. Tires are more likely to wear on uneven and bumpy roads. If a person drives recklessly with lots of brakes and swerves, the tires will also deteriorate faster.
  • Heat – Tires age faster in warmer climates. Exposure to ultraviolet rays and coastal climates can also hasten their deterioration.
  • Storage – Tires that have never been used or sitting around in the garage will age at a slower rate than those on an actively used car. Still, these tires will age no matter what.

Checking the manufacturing date

To know when your tires were manufactured, check their sidewall. Among the letters and numbers you will see, find the DOT code.

When the tires meet the necessary safety requirements, the U.S. Department of Transportation issues it a DOT code. The DOT code starts with the prefix “DOT.” This signals that the following numbers and letters refer to the manufacturer and manufacturing date. The four numbers refer to the latter.

Tires manufactured in the 20th century have four numbers in the DOT code. The first two numbers refer to the week of the year. Meanwhile, the last two numbers refer to the year it was made. For example, a tire with a 2302 DOT code was manufactured in the 23rd week of year 2002.

Maintaining your tires

There are many kinds of tires, but for preppers, the best kind for your bug-out vehicle is all-terrain tires. These tires are designed to work in any kind of road surface aside from extremely muddy ones. Despite their functionality, they won’t be able to perform well without proper maintenance. Here are some tips to ensure that your tires are in tiptop shape:

  • Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. An under-inflated tire is more prone to wearing and cracking. Prevent this by maintaining your tires every month.
  • Inspect your tires. Check for any unusual cuts or items, like rocks or gravel, embedded in the grooves. Also look out for any cracks in the sidewall of the tire, most likely caused by sun exposure or under-inflation. If you hit any road hazard, like a sharp rock, bring your car to a mechanic’s shop to have the tires inspected. Even if they may seem fine on the outside, they could have been damaged on the inside.
  • Monitor tread depth. Tires have wear bars that appear when tires reach the 2/32 tread depth. However, there are varying tread depths that work in different weather conditions. For example, a 2/32 tread depth is still fine to use in warm climates, but for rainy areas, tires need at least 4/32 tread depth. In snowy areas, the minimum safe threshold is 6/32. Bring your car to the mechanic each month to make sure that your tires still have the proper tread depth.

When SHTF, your bug-out vehicle is not only your means of mobility, but also your temporary shelter. Maintaining its tires is a must to ensure that it’s in prime condition, especially when you need it most.

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