CLEVELAND - Tires that appear "new" are routinely sold across Ohio despite safety advocates and government regulators warnings that many are years-old and pose serious safety risks.
An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation found Ohio has no legal requirements to inform consumers of the actual age of tires they are purchasing.
Documents reviewed in our investigation show both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a leading auto safety group agrees that "tires can degrade" over an extended period of time —despite tread that appears to be like new.
Meanwhile, Safety Research & Associates, a leading auto safety advocacy group, says it has documented "catastrophic" failures including 252 incidents, 233 fatalities and 300 injuries across the country.
"Across the country," says Kane, "old tires are routinely sold, installed and put in service on cars — unbeknownst to consumers."
Kane says a tire can look virtually brand new, but can "be a significant hazard because the internal materials have degraded and they're not visible."
In Cleveland, we quickly found aged tires that appeared to be in nearly new condition.
"It's a GoodYear," one used tire store told us,"the tread is good, sidewall is good, everything is good."
It turns out the tire was actually 13 years old.
Aged tires are easy to sell for price discount and consumers are largely unaware of little known code — right on the tire — that could save their lives.
Every tire has a Department of Transportation code on the sidewall — the last four digits reveal the week and year the tire was actually manufactured.
A tire with the last four digits 2613 indicates the tire was made in the 26th week of 2013.
But consumers are rarely informed when sold tires — often with tragic results.
Maria and Francisco Meraz lost their 19-year-old son after they say the tire he thought was brand new failed, causing a fatal crash.
"The treads went off and he lost control of the car," said Francisco Meraz.
"You think the new tires, great condition — the best," said his mother Maria.
In turns out, the tires that appeared like new were actually 15 years old.
Gary Eto is an attorney representing the Meraz family and says "aged tires lead to tire separation."
The same thing happened to Hank Price, who bought what he believed were new tires.
Instead, the tire separated, nearly causing a crash.
"I though it was new. It looked new," said Price.
In another case, a 12-year-old boy was killed after a tire that the family believed was new blew apart.
Even so, investigation found even many tire manufacturers, as well as major auto companies, advise consumers about aging tires.
Both General Motors and Chrysler have specific guidelines in their owners manuals cautioning against tires that are beyond six years old.