Can We Talk About Old Tires?

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Hey there. How are you today? Good? Good; I am glad to hear that. I wanted to take a moment to talk about tires with you, if you’ve got a minute.

Recently forum member leaston78 posted a thread about how safe it might be to use 40-year-old tires, that appear to have very few miles on them. Leaston78 has a 1961 Corvette that is about as pristine as they come. The car hasn’t been registered in 40 years, only has 34k miles on the clock, and has been kept in dry indoor storage for most of its life. In a word, it’s basically perfect. The thing is, it’s still on those tires from way back in the ’60s: a set of Goodyear F78-15 Polyglas to be exact.

Leaston78 was smart enough to give them a thorough inspection and says the rubber looks good, there are no signs of dryrot, no cracking, and they hold air. The only issue is that they feel a bit out-of-round. The question posed in Corvette Forum is whether these tires are safe or not. This isn’t about the inherent inferior design of bias ply tires vs modern steel-belted radials, but a simple question about using old tires.

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Well let me go ahead and set the record straight right now. It doesn’t matter how good those tires look, driving on those things for any kind of distance at any decent speed is a recipe for disaster. The tires may look great, but after 40 years, the various rubbers and glues used to create the tire will begin to break down on the inside. You may not be able to see it, but those tires are extremely weak. Perhaps you could drive on them for a few months with no issue, but there is always the chance that hitting a big enough bump at speed can cause the tire to fail on a catastrophic level.

When it comes to something like a Corvette this old, I could see why you would be excited about having original rubber. It adds a certain level of authenticity and history to the machine, but none of that will matter when an exploding tire is tearing through the fragile fiberglass body, and you are potentially aiming at a median wall.

Keep the old tires. You can even keep them mounted to the old wheels. Just buy a replica set of wheels and a new set of rubber if you want to drive this gem of a car. It is just the smarter choice.

Anyone who finds themselves in a similar position as leaston78 should understand that the risks are just not worth it. I don’t care what kind of tires you have, if they are more than 10 years old, you need to look at replacing them. The science is out there, and tires just aren’t built to live for more than a decade. Stay safe out there, guys. We like having you and your incredible cars in our community.

Good talk. Thanks.

Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>

Christian Moe contributes to many of Internet Brands' Auto blogs, including Corvette Forum, Club Lexus and Rennlist.

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