How to read tire date codes on motorcycles to see how old the tires are — in just 5 seconds
If you've ever bought a used motorcycle you'll have wanted to know:
- How old are the tyres?
- When was the tyre manufacturing date
- How long will the tyres last?
Well, here's my 5-second guide to reading tire date codes.
How to tell Motorcycle Tyre Age in 5 Seconds
The tire DOT code is four digits giving you first the week number and then the year (in two digits) of manufacture.
You don't have to do any math. Just remember there are 52 weeks in the year. Make it 50 for simpler mental arithmetic. So
- Weeks 1-20 is near the beginning
- Weeks 20-30 is near the middle of the year
- Weeks 30-52 are near the end of the year
That's all you need.
And in practise on the last motorcycle I bought:
I got lucky and it was week 1. (or unlucky, because basically that's a 2016 tyre I bought in 2020!)
About tire date codes
Tire date codes are also known as DOT codes in the US (DOT stands for Department Of Transport).
They're common to tires from 2000 and onwards in this format.
Previous to 2000, they had another format. But if you're buying a motorcycle with tyres that old, then you're going to know they're old... it'll be pretty obvious!
Luckily the format is international — it's used worldwide.
There is lots of other information in DOT codes but the age of the tyre is probably the most important.
Other good information on there is tyre dimensions — important because a tire size different to stock might be installed
Can shops sell old tires?
Yes, it's "legal" to sell old tyres — even up to five years old.
If tyres are stored well (cool, dark place) then they can last for many years.
So if you buy tyres that are even five years old, that's OK! Just make sure you're buying them from a reputable place and that they've been stored well. (Don't buy them from eBay.)
How long do tires last?
So you go reading the tire DOT code and you think... ok, the tyre is 3 years old. But how important is that?
As a rough guide, from lots of reading I've done on the internet and from speaking to "experts" (seems everyone's a self-proclaimed expert in this field)
- If a motorcycle is store outside in the sun — even a year old is too old. But then the motorcycle will be pretty obviously worn in other ways, like with faded paint and damaged leather/vinyl.
- If a motorcycle is stored under cover — three years is fine. Five years is tolerable as long as you use up the tires that very year. But I'd still use this as negotiating leverage.
- If the motorcycle is in a climate and humidity-controlled room... well, you're buying a museum piece. How dare you even consider riding it! The tires in this case last a long time, but you'll have a tough time convincing the next buyer — so use them up and then get new ones.
Well there you have it — how to tell motorcycle tyre age. Hopefully that was a simple guide.
PS Is it spelled tyre or tire? Same word, different sides of Pacific or Atlantic oceans. But we can all agree that tyres definitely tire.