The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to propose a new test for tire durability as soon as next year, The Detroit News reported.
Tire durability became an issue after the widespread failures of Firestone tires on in 2000, the story said. Subsequent tire recalls in 2000 and 2001 followed the incidence of rollover accidents that killed an estimated 270 people. Ford spent $3 billion replacing Firestone tires.
The test for tire durability, which may lead to a new federal standard, will likely involve subjecting a tire to high temperatures — up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit — for 8 or 10 weeks in a high oxygen environment.
Other tests have also been proposed, all with the goal of being able to "give some assurance that a new tire will last over time," said a spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, a tire industry trade group.
For example, Ford proposed a test which simulates six years of driving in a hot climate.
Still to be determined is whether tires should have an expiration date. BMW, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and have backed guidelines that tires should only be in service six years, the story said.
NHTSA isn't requiring tire manufacturers to print the date of manufacture of tires on the outside of tires until September 2009 — and that will be in the form of a four digit code. NHTSA must report to Congress by August on the status of its efforts.