Cracking the tire code: How to make sure your new tires are actually new

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MILWAUKEE -- When you buy a set of tires, you expect them to be new -- but how long they've been sitting on the shelf might surprise you!

In one case, FOX6's Contact 6 found a set of tires being sold as new, and they were 17 years old!

Kelly Ramirez bought tires she thought were new for her daughter Amanda in 2013. She recently got a flat tire because of a nail -- and they were shocked by what the service guy had to say.

He indicated they don't normally work on her type of tire because it is so old.

"That's not possible," Ramirez said. "How would you know?"

He knew, because a Department of Transportation code is printed on every tire.

dot tire code highlight

The DOT code printed on a tire -- this one showing a tire produced in the 18th week of 2014.

It contains a ton of information -- including the age of the tire.

Brett Matschke, owner of Richlonn's Tire & Service Center and former board member of the Tire Industry Association, shows us how to crack the tire code.

"It can be very confusing when you start looking at a code," Matschke said. "But there's a couple of key pieces that make it very easy."

Most of the numbers are for the DOT and the manufacturers, but what's important to you is the "final four."

"The last four numbers are going to be the week and the year the tire was produced," Matschke said.

For example -- if you see the numbers 1814, that means the tire was produced during the 18th week of 2014.

"We complained about the tires and I said 'I'm shocked that you would have the audacity to charge us after you sold us really old tires,'" Ramirez said.

She asked for replacement tires, and the company said "no."

That's when Contact 6 got involved -- and helped her get a full refund.

Contact 6 is not naming the company involved because after sending in a hidden camera, there wasn't another old tire on shelves.

The manager also told Contact 6 what happened to Ramirez was a fluke. He said they bought a lot of inventory from a company that went out of business and was shocked to find a tire from 1996.

Matschke says it's hard to say exactly how old is too old when it comes to tires, but generally anything older than 10 years is potentially dangerous -- so be on the lookout for any tires with numbers that end in "05."

"As those tires even just sit on a shelf, they can start to deteriorate after a long period of time, especially as you put tires into service on the road," Matschke said.

Kelly Ramirez is just happy nothing horrible happened to her daughter Amanda.

"I was so angry and I thought, you know what? This is a great story for Contact 6. I'm gonna call them and see if there's anything they can do to help out," Ramirez said.

Contact 6 got Ramirez her $370 back and her complaint can now help *you* crack the tire code.


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