How to understand your car’s use-by dates

PUBLISHED: 15:37 15 January 2016 | UPDATED: 15:37 15 January 2016

Tyre safety, air pressure, puncture

Tyre safety, air pressure, puncture


You wouldn’t keep food in the fridge past its use-by date, so what about the safety kit and essential components of your car?

Most of the food we buy comes with a sell-by or use-by date to make sure it’s at its best and safe to consume. What many drivers may not know is a lot of the safety components in our cars also have use-by dates to ensure our vehicles are always at their optimum to protect and look after us.

Things like stability control are designed to last the life of the car, but key consumables are not. Ignoring these items is to put your life and those of others at risk right at the moment when you need every bit of assistance possible. The most important part of a car that comes with a time-limited use-by date is tyres.

While tyre manufacturers do not issue a specific use-by date for tyres, they recommend that any tyre more than 10-years old should be replaced immediately. To know the age of a tyre, there is a “DOT” number on each tyre. When you find the words “DOT”, there’s a number after it and the last four digits identify the week and year of manufacture. For instance, a tyre with the last four DOT numbers “0510” means the tyre was manufactured in the fifth week of 2010.

While tyre makers don’t provide an exact use-by date, independent tests have shown that tyres that are 10-years old can take up to a third longer to stop from 70mph than new tyres. When some drivers may only cover small mileages this means they could be driving around with old, potentially unsafe tyres even if these tyres still have plenty of tread depth.

Another item related to tyres that many drivers forget to check or can be easily overlooked during a service is the tyre repair kit fitted to many cars now. To save weight and space to help lower emissions and improve economy, many cars have junked the heavy spare wheel in favour of a compressor and bottle of tyre sealant.

This is a great get-you-home measure if you have a puncture, but sealant that is past its use-by date may not effectively stop the puncture from allowing the tyre to deflate again. This could happen while you are driving at the upper limit of the permitted speed printed on the tyre sealant bottle and result in a collision.

It’s easy to check the tyre sealant as it will sit in the boot of your car. Check the bottle as you would any jar in the fridge for its use-by date. If it’s getting close to that date or past, order a new bottle of sealant as you will kick yourself if you ignore this and then have a puncture.

While in the boot, have a look at the first aid kit if one is supplied or you have added one to the car. Some materials in the kit will have a use-by date, so it’s worth making sure they have plenty of life left in them should you ever need to use the kit in an emergency.

Finally, make sure the pollen filter in your car has been changed regularly at the recommended service intervals. It’s simple to do and can make the difference between stopping in time or sneezing and not seeing the car in front brake until it’s too late.

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