Post Office Box 8116
Mobile, AL 36689
Dear Mr. Sharpe:
This responds to your letter to the Department of Transportation, Legal Division, which was forwarded to this agency for reply. You asked whether there are regulations addressing the sale as new of a tire that was manufactured five years previously, and whether we are aware of any studies or information regarding the effects of aging on an unused tire.
By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority under Chapter 301 of Title 49, U.S. Code, to establish Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment, including tires. This statute requires each person selling a new vehicle, or item of equipment covered by an FMVSS, to ensure that the new vehicle or equipment item is certified as meeting all applicable FMVSSs. Once a vehicle or item of equipment has been sold to its first retail customer, the seller's responsibility to sell a certified product terminates. See 49 U.S.C. '30112. Regulation of the sale and use of a used product becomes a matter of state jurisdiction.
We understand your first question to ask whether NHTSA regulations were violated when a tire manufactured in 1986 was purchased as "new" in 1991. The answer is no. NHTSA has no regulation requiring a tire to be sold within a certain amount of time from its date of manufacture. You might wish to contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for information on the appropriateness of such a sale under consumer protection regulations. The telephone number for the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection is (202) 326-2476.
With regard to your second question, NHTSA does not have or know of any studies specifically addressing the effects of aging on a new tire. It is known, however, that heat, ultra-violet and ozone in particular can, over time, degrade rubber. Thus, although tire manufacturers blend antioxidants,
antiozonants, waxes and carbon blacks with their natural rubber compounds to resist tire degradation, what is most important are the conditions under which the new tires are stored. For example, if tires are stored in direct sunlight, in extreme heat or cold, or in close proximity to air filters, the rubber in the tires will degrade faster than if they are wrapped and kept in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment.
For additional reference sources, you may be interested in a comprehensive manual published under the auspices of NHTSA entitled, Mechanics of Pneumatic Tires, DOT HS 805 952, August 1981, available from
Superintendent of Documents U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, D.C. 20402 (202) 783-3238
This volume is a highly detailed compilation of sources discussing every aspect of tire production. It does not specifically discuss the aging of tires once they have been manufactured, but it does discuss the various factors that contribute to the degradation of the rubber compounds in tires. In addition, you may call or write
Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) 1400 K Street N.W. Washington, DC 20005 (202) 682-4800
The RMA is an association of various tire manufacturers and may have available some industry data on this issue.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact Walter Myers of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel