MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Your tires may be the most important pieces of safety equipment on your vehicle. If they're not in good condition, you're just waiting for an accident to happen.
But the old trick of checking your tread depth with a coin isn't enough anymore. Now, manufacturers say the age of your tire is just as important.
"A tire is like any other product," explained attorney Rick Morrison of the Beasley-Allen law firm. "Over time, it's going to deteriorate. It's going to ware out."
Morrison showed us a tire, which by all accounts, looked brand new when it was installed on his client's car. But he says it was actually 10 years old.
"72 hours later it failed and caused a rollover wreck," he said. "And a little girl is now paralyzed."
The problem is oxidation -- air, heat and sunlight all cause the rubber in tires to break down. That's why car companies now suggest never driving on tires older than 6 years. Some tire manufacturers give a slightly longer window, recommending that tires be replaced before 10 years.
WSFA 12 News went undercover to check the age of tires for sale at local stores. None of the tires we found were past the 6-year mark, but we did find tires as old as 3 years. That means that the moment its installed, you've already lost 3 years of the tire's life.
And when it comes to our hidden camera investigation, remember that many shops keep their tires in the back and out of the view of our cameras.
That's why it's important for YOU to check your tire's date of manufacture.
How to find the date your tire was made:
Look for the "DOT" number. It's a long series of numbers and letters on one side of the tire. Then look for the last four digits, which represent the week and year of manufacture.
For example, if the last four digits of the "DOT" number are 2312, then the tire was made in the 23rd week of 2012.
If it's older than 6 years, replace it.
"The tire can look brand new. It may never have been used," Morrison told us. "Get it off the vehicle."
It's also important to do basic maintenance on your tires. You should check the tread depth and air pressure regularly. And rotate the tires when necessary.
More safety tips: