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‘New’ tires not necessarily as new as consumers might think

WATCH ABOVE: Consumers buying new tires this time of year may be surprised to learn those tires aren't as new as they think. As Sean O'Shea reports, there's no best before date on tires -- and retailers can legally sell tires that are several years old.

TORONTO — As Canadians get ready for another season of snowy days ahead, thousands will invest in new tires, not realizing they could be four or five years old when they roll out of the tire dealer.

“When you buy new tires you expect them to be brand new tires,” said Randy Kamino, an insurance adjuster.

Kamino bought a set of Uniroyal Tiger Paw Ice & Snow winter tires for $520 last October from Active Green and Ross, a well-known, franchised tire and auto service company in Toronto.

READ MORE: Get ready to pay less for insurance if you have winter tires in Ontario

Recently, he considered selling the tires — because his family no longer owns the vehicle.

That’s when he became aware that the new tires he bought a year ago are now actually more than five-and-a-half years old.

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He called the retailer to ask about getting his money back.

“I asked for a refund because I feel I was provided with old tires as new,” said Kamino.

Active Green and Ross refused Kamino’s request.

“It is our position that four years of shelf life will not impact the service life of the new tires,” wrote Dan Green, area manager for Active Green and Ross.

READ MORE: First Alberta snowfall prompts rush for winter tires

The association representing most of Canada’s tire companies says the age of a tire doesn’t determine its road-worthiness.

“There’s no data that supports the notion that chronological age alone has a determining factor in the performance of that tire,” says Glenn Maidment, president of the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada.

But many safety experts disagree and insist that older tires are more likely to fail.

“The science is well-established, there are dozens of papers establishing that,” said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies of Rehoboth, Massachusetts.

He points to auto accidents and fatalities linked to older tires that degraded and didn’t perform as expected.

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READ MORE: Ready or not, winter is coming – Tips to prepare for long season ahead 

Kane’s organization has closely followed the aged tire issue and points to auto manufacturers’ recommendations that suggest consumers ought to replace tires after six years.

Consumers may be in the dark when it comes to the age of their tires unless they learn about the “DOT code” or tire identification code stamped onto every tire.

The four-digit code in an oval circle represents the week and year of production. For example, the code 1514 indicates the tire was manufactured in the 15th week of 2014.

Consumers rarely ask tire retailers about the manufacturing date for the product they’re buying and it’s not a topic frequently raised by dealers.

Retailers can legally sell new tires built at any time without disclosing when they were manufactured.

Global News mystery-shopped another Toronto Active Green and Ross store and found new tires for sale in an outdoor display.

Some of the tires were manufactured in 2012, others in 2011 and some were made as early as 2010.

A visit to a Canadian Tire store found a Michelin Pilot Sport tire for sale thaw was manufactured in August of 2013. Canadian Tire did not respond to a Global News request for information about whether the company has a policy on selling tires beyond a certain age.

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Safety expert Sean Kane says regardless of what the tire industry says, consumers should proactively find out the age of a tire before buying it.

“Pay attention to the age of the tire,” he said. “It can be the difference between failure and staying safe.”