Most people understand that tires wear out. After months and miles of time on pavement (and off of it), tires begin to lose their tread and with it, their traction. This is especially true of all-terrain tires, which often have softer rubber compounds for better off-road grip. Those compounds don’t last as long on pavement when compared to all-season or touring tires. So quite often, all-terrain tires require replacement more often than do more on-road-specific tires.
Most all-terrain tires are rated at about 20,000 of usage. That’s about the average for the more capable A/T options on the tire rack. Weekend and occasional off-roaders can get tires with longer road wear ratings by sacrificing some of that off-pavement capability. And some people keep both on- and off-road tires for their rigs and swap out when hitting the trail and hitting the streets.
What most people are not aware of is that tires also have a usable shelf life. They can “go bad” after their “use by” date. That date, per Department of Transportation standards, is five years from the week of manufacture. To find out if your tires are out of date, look for the raised DOT numbers on the sidewall. These are required by law and consist of three sets of four numbers each. The first two sets indicate compounds and other information. The third set is the date of manufacture. The first two numbers are the week the tire was made and the second two are the year. A date code of 3217, for example, indicates the tire was manufactured in the 37th week of 2017 (between September 11 and 17th).
More information about your tires can be learned from other inclusions on the sidewall and sales information. Tires are printed with Uniform Tire Quality Grade (UTQG) ratings. These are a voluntary standard tire manufacturers have created to give quick indicators of how the tire is expected to be used. The UTQG usually appears after the tire’s name as a three-digit code. This code usually looks like “300 A B” or similar. The number is a durability rating, the first letter is the traction rating for wet pavement, and the third letter is the tire’s high-temperature resistance rating.
Using our example:
Things to remember about all-terrain tires are that first, their date code is often more important than mileage totals. After a tire gets beyond five years of age, the compounds in it begin to change. Especially those which protect the tire from ultraviolet sunlight and other rubber-destroying things in the environment. This can be far more detrimental to A/T tires than can tread wear. Further, many all-terrain tires do not have a UTQG rating at all, as they often have low life expectations or aren’t subjected to wet pavement tests. Many manufacturers also do not include road hazard warranties with all-terrain tires as they are more likely to be punctured due to rough use than are street tires.
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