The 4 levels of tire protection

TIRE GUY Let's take a few moments to talk about tire protection. To me this is pretty routine stuff, but if you're not up to speed on it, there may be a few things here that could come in handy at a critical moment.

The kind of protection we're going to consider is in the area of "consumer tire protection". If you're more interested in physical protection against damages, you might be more interested in an article like: tire sidewall deterioration.

Did you know that as a consumer, you have 4 levels of protection? Looking at them from the point of view of how frequently these are subject to change and starting with the most permanent we would have:

  • Consumer Laws
  • Manufacturer Guarantees
  • Dealer Warranties
  • Insurance.

This is a somewhat arbitrary ranking and may not always hold true, but most of the time it seems that laws are the most inflexible and longest enduring kinds of tire protection (not subject to changes) whereas insurance which you can tailor to your taste is the most easily adaptable in the short run

Consumer Laws

Although we cannot give you specifics about the laws which pertain to consumers where you live, you should make inquiries to determine what rights and protection might apply to you. Often consumer protection laws will establish certain minimum rights which you have in terms of suitability, rights to complaints against unsatisfactory products or services, time periods in which you are entitled to legal protection, access to advice and information, and other conditions. Sometimes a casual inquiry at your local tire dealer, will help you find out where you can get details of the laws in your particular area -- after all if they are subject to being controlled by those laws, they are likely to know who is doing the controlling.

Manufacturer Guarantees

In general terms, the kind of guarantees which a manufacturer is most likely to make is with respect to the quality of the materials and the manufacturing process since these are the areas which they have most able to control.

 Typically, a manufacturer will guarantee the quality of their product for as long as 5 years after the date it was made.

 How do you tell when it was made? It is stamped on the sidewall of the tire at the end of a sequence of letters and numbers which start with "DOT". At the end of this sequence are 4 numbers such as 3007, 0106, or 5205.

The first two digits tell you the number of the week in the year and the last two digits are the year. In the three examples we've just given, the date of making would be

the 30th week of 2007,

the first week of 2006 and

the 52nd (or last) week of 2005.


Note that prior to the year 2000 the date of manufacture code was only 3 digits long (i.e. the last week of 1999 had the code: 529).  If you run across any tire with only 3 digits beware!  It might be very old.

Is it a defect or damage?

How can you tell if a tire defect is the result of a material or manufacturing fault or whether it was caused by some impact or external cause?

tireguy There's no simple answer to this, however, if you see that the damaged area has some absolutely straight edges that appears as if the tire has been cut, it probably has been cut, either in use, or by something or somebody.

If a damaged area shows signs of having frayed edges, this might have been caused by something rubbing against the tire over a period of time.

Today, because of careful controls tire defects are very rare, but the most commonly seen imperfections are things like the separation of different plies which would be show up as a puffy area somewhere in the tire's construction, or the appearance of tiny bubbles within the rubber which are either empty or filled with some foreign material.

Another indicator of a faulty material might be a certain area of the tire which has a distinct color or texture from the surrounding areas, but this could be produced if that section of the time was exposed to some chemical or solvent at some time after it was put into use.

Ask about the terms and limitations of a manufacturers guarantee where you purchase the tires.

Dealer Warranties

Many tire dealers may offer warranties of their own which are in excess of what is required by the law and what a manufacturer offers giving their customers extra tire protection, but if you don't know about them, they're not likely do be of much value. Ask what is offered.

If a dealer has a variety of different brands for sale, they may offer a blanket guarantee so that it is simpler to administrate and easier to understand for their customers. In other cases, there may be different guarantees depending on certain conditions which the dealer sets.

The best practice is to ask for details about these guarantees before you buy and have a clear understanding of what to do if or when you have a problem. Although it is not always the case, when a problem occurs, it is usually the dealer who you need to contact first.


Some dealers offer optional insurance coverage for tire protection and other problems. Very often these policies can be tailored to cover the extent of damages which you wish to be insured against and the costs will vary accordingly. Naturally the more liberal the benefits you expect to receive, the higher the insurance premium will be.

Apart from specific insurance which you purchase specially for tires, there may be clauses which can provide benefits for damages which you suffer to your tires in other insurance policies which you hold for accidents to your vehicle and even the insurance which you carry for your residence.


Special Tip

There are some credit cards which provide a repair or replacement benefit for 90 days or some other specified time period if you use that credit card to pay for your tires.

It is impossible to tell you here what your specific insurance offers, however, it is possible that if you are familiar with the details of the coverage which each policy you hold offers, you may find that there are benefits of which you were not aware.

In conclusion, as a tire consumer, you have a variety of possible areas of protection for damages or complaints but unless you know about them and how to claim for these benefits, they will do you little good.

tireguy Get informed, begin by asking questions when you're shopping. Then, when something unexpected happens, you will be more likely to know where to start to get the solution to which you're entitled.


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