Car Guides

Do tires have a definitive lifespan?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader wondering whether his low-mileage tires should be replaced due to age.

Goodyear tires sit on display
Goodyear tires sit on display in a showroom Queens, New York. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Q. My car tires are six years old, but only have 11,000 miles of usage. Does tire rubber get brittle after a certain period, and should I replace six-year-old tires with low mileage but no other obvious deterioration? 

A. Tires will deteriorate and crack and can be prone to failure as they age. Some vehicle manufacturers will recommend tire replacement at six years old. The trade group for the tire industry, The Rubber Manufacturers Association, doesn’t put a specific date on when to replace a tire. How a tire ages is somewhat determined by how the car is garaged, usage, and the age of the tire when it was installed (all tires have a production date code.) If this were my car, I would carefully inspect the tires for any signs of weather-related cracking, and if any are noticed I would replace all four tires. In addition, if the serial numbers on the tires indicates the tires were 10 years old and this was a vehicle driven regularly, I would replace the tires. 


Q. I frequently hear a noise when I turn the wheel of my 2010 Chevy Impala. A Chevy dealer and independent repair shop couldn’t find anything wrong. Can you help?

A. The good news is the repair shops didn’t find anything seriously wrong. Two things come to mind. The first is that some part of the trim surrounding the steering wheel is expanding and contracting with temperature and causing the noise. The second possibility is the intermediate shaft for the steering system is the source of the noise. My suggestion is a long test drive with a technician so you can demonstrate the noise, so they hear what you are hearing. 

Q. I need collision work and dent repair performed without repainting the car. There is a large big black scratch on the rear of the right passenger door. I don’t want to use my insurance, but I also want to be treated fairly. 

A. I would go to a body shop (more that one) and get an estimate, so you have an idea of the cost. Depending on the damage, if the factory paint isn’t cracked, a “paintless dent removal” technician may be able to clean up the black paint transfer and smooth out any panel damage. This is typically much cheaper than a traditional body shop.


Q. My 2006 Grand Marquis needs to have the climate control system fixed. When the car is running it will not stop the engine heat from coming into the car when the air conditioner is turned on. I have gotten very high estimates to repair this problem. Considering the age of this car I am not sure it is worth the repair. What should this fix cost? This car has low mileage and lots of life left in it. 

A. More than likely the blend door actuator is faulty. The part isn’t terribly expensive, but the repair involves almost complete disassembly of the instrument cluster/dash to replace the part, which is why the repair is pricey. Additionally, these controls are vacuum operated. If there is a vacuum line leaking or the vacuum reserve tank is faulty, the climate control system will not operate properly.  

Q. I have a 2016 Toyota Highlander with 55,000 miles on it. My Toyota service department is telling me that it’s due for a fuel injector service which will cost $170.00. Is that necessary or can I just go to an automotive store and buy a can of fuel injector cleaner to add to the gas tank to keep the injectors clean?


A. Fuel injectors can get dirty and clog with fuel deposits. That being said, there is no place in the Toyota routine service table that fuel injector service is recommended by Toyota. If this were my vehicle, I would use TopTier fuel. TopTier fuel has additional additives mixed with the fuel to keep fuel injectors, valves, and the combustion chamber clean. The company’s website provides a list of TopTier stations.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected].


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