To offer up a metaphor, tires can be like a good beer, in the sense that they are stamped with a “Born On Date” at the time of manufacturing. Continuing the idea, all tires also have an expected shelf life and also age very differently on an uncontrolled shelf compared to a temperature-controlled environment.
How to Read It
The numbers engraved on the tire, commonly known as a “Date Code” represent a standardized 4 digit number indicating the week and the year of the tire’s manufacture. This standardization was created and set in effect in 2000, so older bikes kept in a moto storage shed, which still have their original wheels might have aged a little differently.
The reason for the change was because even though older models still showed the week and year of a decade, people would usually have problems identifying the exact decade so they needed a more exact system in place.
From 2000, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) require that the tire Identification Numbers follow a combination of the letters DOT continued by eight to thirteen letters and/or numbers which show the manufacturer’s location, code, the tire size and the week and year the tire was produced.
So How Long Do They Last?
Same as with beer and many other products, a tire’s shelf life can greatly differ depending on the conditions it is stored in. If you leave it outside at the mercy of the sun and the elements, a beer should be good for a week and a tire for about a year.
Situated on a pantry or warehouse shelf where it can be subject to temperature changes, your favorite drink can last a few months and your favorite tire several years. However, a properly stored beer that is comfortably sitting in a refrigerator can stay fresh and drinkable for years while a tire stored in a temperature-controlled warehouse can stay in top condition for up to 6 years.
If you are thinking about what brand to choose for your new tires, here’s how the top ones market the lifespan of their products:
Michelin announces that their tires come with a limited warranty which can cover defects in workmanship and materials for the life of the usable tread (worn down to the top of the built-in indicators in the tread grooves) or 6 years from the purchase date, depending on which one comes first.
Bridgestone states they can replace a tire on the basis set in the Limited Warranty if it becomes unusable for any reason within the manufacturer’s control before wearing down to 1/32 inch of remaining original thread depth and within 4 years from the date of purchase, with proof of purchase. Keep that in mind and make sure to keep your tire receipt well guarded and behind closed doors.
Metzeler likes to keep things simple, with its motorcycle tires being covered for the life of the tire, 4 years from the manufacturer Date Code or until the thread reaches the already-famous depth of 1/32”.
Common Myths and Problems
It’s completely normal that motorcycle tires wear out both from usage as well as age. Keeping tabs on their age is also very good if you want to ensure you enjoy the best rides, but what is not okay is assuming your tires need to be as fresh as the contents of your fridge.
While it’s good to be cautious, there have been reports of riders refusing to buy tires that are more than a year old, which in rubber-world is actually considered to be very, very fresh. You can see why since most tire companies put the “sell by” date somewhere around five years from the date they were made. Unless you plan to wear out the tire in that time, don’t sweat it.
The problem is that when a product is considered top-notch by the manufacturer but consumers mistakenly disagree with that opinion, retailers and distributors are left in a limbo, not knowing how and where to move. Moreover, local dealers that like to keep a well-stocked inventory may not move product as quickly as a large retailer that can also sell online.
Therefore, when a consumer will demand a newer tire than the perfectly good one that is already offered to him, this creates a wave of problems that have a ripple effect back to distributors and even all the way back to the manufacturer by forming a back stock of good, unused products.
If this behavior continues, dealers will probably have to raise prices to cover for their losses, and this is something no rider wants to see.
How Exactly Do Tires Get Old?
When they age, tires are subject to a process called oxidation, where oxygen makes contact with the compounds in the rubber and causes them to harden and eventually become brittle. As this process further increases over time, the tire’s performance will decrease until you can no longer use it in a satisfactory way. Thankfully, this is a relatively slow process.
Another thing you should know is that oxidation will happen more rapidly at higher temperatures, so try to store your bike in a cool location if you can. Furthermore, if you have not been riding in the past couple of weeks, it’s probably a good idea to raise it off the ground a little to prevent flat spots from forming on your tires.
That being said, don’t forget the five-year rule about buying new wheels for your ride. If you get a tire from a dealer and it is a couple of years old, remember there’s plenty of life left in it and plenty of safe miles for riding ahead for you!
Tips to preserve motorcycle tires
The lifespan of a motorcycle tire is somewhere around 5-7 years. The way you store the motorcycle tires can shorten this lifespan, though. Inappropriate storage conditions can cause damage; therefore, it is best to take a few simple steps to make sure that the way you store the tires for winter, for example, won’t affect their quality and you won’t need to replace them.
The first thing to do before giving your bike a rest for the cold season is to clean it thoroughly, tires and wheels included. Make sure you use a safe product to carry out this task. Go for something that was specifically formulated for motorcycles in order not to damage your motorcycle tire.
Car shampoo is a good option. The market now offers special foams that were formulated to clean and maintain rubber. Pair this with a soft brush and you’re ready to go. Clean and wipe the wheels in order to protect their rims from corrosion.
Also, if there are any objects, stones, or other such items that got stuck in the tread grooves, make sure you remove them because even the smallest of them can deform the tire. Once the cleaning part is over, you can move on to taking the necessary measures to store the motorcycle properly and avoid conditions that could affect the tire wear life.
Storing the bike in a safe place can help you slow down the rubber aging process and reduce the loss of tire traction properties. A closed and dry garage is ideal to store your ride as it will protect the motorcycle from the water-caused damages. Even if you use a quality waterproof cover to protect your bike when storing it outdoors, it is still not as safe as storing it in a closed and dry room.
Significant temperature variations are another enemy that can affect the wear life of your bike tires. If your ride is stored for a long time and exposed to excessive heat, irreversible changes may occur in the molecular structure of the rubber used for the tire construction. That’s why you should avoid parking the bike next to a heat source such as heating pipes or a furnace.
The motorcycle should not contact any substance that could alter the rubber and damage it. If you don’t have a stand to help you keep it off the ground, use a piece of cardboard or wood to make sure the tires are not contaminated with fuel or grease. Otherwise, you might find yourself forced to replace them if significant damage has occurred.
The bike position during storage also impacts the tires and their condition. If you have a motorcycle with a central base, then all you have to do is to reduce their pressure. However, too low pressure can also facilitate tire deformation.
It is recommended to position your ride in such a way to allow for the wheels to hang freely in the air. You can thus prevent the tire carcass from deforming. If you leave the bike on the ground without moving it for a long time, it is more likely for carcass deformation to occur.
Motorcycle stands will help you with this. Buying one before the cold season settles in is an inspired thing to do. By mounting the motorcycle on it, the tires are separated from the ground.
Prices vary when it comes to stands for motorcycles. A set that will help you mount both the front and rear wheels is somewhere between $50-$250 depending on its size, quality, capacity, and brand.
As we’ve said before, to make sure that your tires are good to go for a ride when the warm season comes, you need to make sure that you store your bike somewhere safe, warm, and dry during winter.
If you have friends on the lookout for a motorcycle storage place for winter, you could rent a garage as a group as it is less expensive. Plus, you can always go and check the bike, the motorcycle tire pressure, and its overall condition. Some companies offer motorcycle storing services for the off-season.
What’s great about using such services is that they provide safe conditions for motorcycles storing them at a stable temperature and away from substances that could cause damage. In most cases, we talk about warehouses that are not only protected but also monitored and insured.
Moreover, some companies also offer various treatments besides storing bikes. If you don’t have the time to check the bike, wash it, or warm it up, they will do it for you. In some cases, these offers include even discounts on oil or tire change.
How to check your tires
If you have a garage where you can store the bike for the off-season, there are some things you need to include in your bike maintenance routine. Checking the tires is a part of it, especially when it’s time to get your two-wheeler out for a ride.
Make sure that you check them cold at ambient or room temperature because when they warm the pressure will rise. Do so even if you’ve recently replaced the tires. A quality gauge will help you check the tire pressure. Look for the recommended pressure in the motorcycle owner’s manual.
Bikes come with different pressure specifications for high and low-speed use, front and rear wheels, or light and heavy loads. There will come a time when tires will need to be replaced. Sometimes the signs that highlight this need are obvious, but other times a thorough check-up is required.
Usually, the rear tires will lose their shape and square up as their tread center wears faster than the rest of them. Inspect the tires not only for tread wear signs but also for cuts, punctures, flat spots, and any other sign that could affect their performance and do so frequently.
Always see a mechanic if you’re not sure about your tire condition. You will thus know for sure if you need to replace them.