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What’s Up With That? Those Numbers On Tires’ Sidewalls

Government agents are sending coded messages

No, it’s not the CIA sending secret transmissions to agents in the field. It’s not the combination to the lock on the door of some top secret government facility. It’s just that the Department of Transportation (DOT) really wants you to drive safely. So much so, that they put vital information that will tell you when it’s time to get new tires, right at your fingertips. You just have to decode it.

We’re not talking about tread wear, here. The quarter test (put a quarter in your tire’s tread with Washington’s head pointing toward the tire, if the tread doesn’t reach to his head, you need new tires), takes care of that.

We’re talking about your tire’s age. Even if you only drive on weekends. Even if that quarter reaches all the way up to George’s schnoz, your tires degrade over time.

How long does a tire last? About five years. How can you know how old your tires are? That’s where the code comes in.

How to read your tire’s DOT code

It packs a lot of information. It will tell you where the tire was made, what size it is, and who made it. But the info you want is the last four digits. They tell you the week and year it was made.

Start by looking for the letters “DOT” on the sidewall. Next comes the two digit plant code that tells you where the tire was made. Then you’ll see a two-number size code.  Sometimes, that will be followed by three digits that are used by manufacturers in the event of a recall.

You want to focus on the last four digits, the ones that tell you when it was made. For example, if the last four digits are “1520”, your tire was made in the 15th week — or about April 10 — of 2020. As soon as we pass the 15th week (April 10) of 2025, you want new tires, no matter how thick the tread might be.

Do you really need to worry about your tire’s age? It depends.

The average American drives about 16,000 miles per year. The average tires these days will go about 60,000 miles. So, the average American will wear out their tread in less than four years, and will never have to worry about this code. The quarter test will tell them that their tread has worn too thin.

But we’re not all average. Some of us drive a whole lot, and may want tires that can give us 80,000 miles or more of tread life.

Some of us don’t drive very much at all. We’ll want to take a look at the last four digits of that DOT code. And if the last two digits are five years less than the current year, we’ll want to start thinking about new tires.

Is it Time for New Tires? We’ll Check for You

And some of us don’t want to check our tire tread or decode that DOT number. But we sure do want to know if our tires are safe. If you have any doubts about your tires’ age, tread, or driving ability, just stop by and ask us to check them for you.

Our technicians will be happy to take a look at your tires and tell you how much life they have left. We won’t even charge you a quarter. And if it is time to get some new tires, our Price Beat Guarantee makes sure you get the best price on exactly the ones you want.

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