15 October 2010

Losses and Lessons: Maserati mishap

VEHICLE COVERED: 1972 Maserati Ghibli SS, valued at $85,000

WHAT WENT WRONG: A client decided to take his Maserati out for a spin. The car had been in storage over the winter, and the tires were flat and brittle – unbeknownst to the driver. When traffic stopped short, the Ghibli rear-ended the car in front.

DAMAGE: The crash put a serious dent in the Maserati’s front end.

LOSS: $24,852.06

LESSON: Inspect your tires and brakes before taking the car out of storage for a drive. The tires might have to be changed after a long winter since they get hard and brittle over time and lose traction when trying to stop.

Coker Tires recommends visual monthly tire inspections, including checking the pressure. “I can’t tell you how many people put the tire on and never check the pressure,” says Jess Hoodenpyle, the VP of sales and customer service.

Old tires can also pose a danger. The group Safety Research & Strategies Inc. says it has documented more than 150 incidents in which tires more than six years old experienced tread or belt separations resulting in crashes. These incidents were the cause of 128 fatalities and 168 injuries. The group has been pushing for the National Highway and Transportation Authority and automakers to issue recommendations to replace tires that are six years or older, regardless of use.

There’s a relatively easy way to determine the age of your tires, if you know where to look and how to read the jumble of letters and numbers on the side of your tire. You only need to worry about the last three or four digits.

The code begins with the letters "DOT," which indicates that the tire meets all federal standards. The next two numbers or letters are the plant code where it was manufactured, and the last four numbers represent the week and year the tire was built. For tires manufactured in the 1990s, you’ll find a three-digit code. For example, the numbers 317 means it was manufactured during the 31st week of 1997. After 2000, the number is a four-digit code. For example, 0301 means it was manufactured during the third week in 2001.

BOTTOM LINE: Just because your tires have plenty of tread doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re safe to take out on the road. Check the pressure often, and make sure you inspect the tires carefully for cracking or bulges – especially after winter storage and if the tires are more than six years old.

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    ferd the cloud November 2, 2014 at 11:10
    "Just because your tires have plenty of tread doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re safe to take out on the road." Take that advice to heart. Check these things - including the date code! Too many tires age out before they look bad, and on collector cars that don't get driven much they're accidents waiting to happen. I had a wakeup call this past Spring about old tires, after reading an article similar to this one. Until then I always looked my tires over for obvious problems like worn tread, sidewall bulges and dry rot cracks. I didn't even realize there were date codes, let alone that eight years was about as old as you could trust a tire. After reading about this I checked my 1986 12 passenger van's tires again (a truck I drive a lot). All four looked fine, but the date codes indicated they were twelve years old! The spare was so old it didn't have a date code! I had noticed that the van wallowed in the turns more, so I took it to the tire shop. They found belt separation in three of the four tires on the van, and the spare was super hard. I replaced the four on the van, and the one without belt separation is now the spare (until budget allows it to be replaced too). The van definitely feels better on the road. I replaced the tires on my project car not long before I took it off the road to work on it. Those tires probably only have 1000 miles on them and look almost new. But by the time this car is back on the road they'll be 15 years old (yes, I'm very slow due to time and budget constraints). They'll only make one more short trip - to the tire store - before I start driving that car again. Around $500 to put safe tires on after spending $8500 to fix up the car is a no-brainer. I hope it is with you too.

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