Should my “fine” tires be replaced?

September 1, 2016 | By Staff


My restored 1940 Chrysler Windsor has tires on it that are about 30 years old. They look fine, and they still have plenty of tread but a friend told me I ought to replace them just because of their age. But finding the correct 6.25x16 tires with 3 1/2” whitewalls is tough. I would be happy with the correct bias ply tires, but am also considering radials if I can find them. Can you recommend a source and what do you think I should do?


Last summer a fellow lost control of his superbly restored 1951 Mercury wagon due to a tire failure on the rear passenger side of the car. The tires were about 10 years old, but had plenty of tread. His wife suffered a broken collarbone and the vehicle was destroyed, but the owner was uninjured. This has persuaded many of my friends who know about the incident to take a close look at their classic’s tires.

Truth is, according to tire manufacturers, tires should be changed at least every 10 years whether or not they are worn. It doesn’t matter if you only have a few thousand miles on them or not. Air pollution, sunlight, grease and oil, as well as temperature changes, underinflation and uneven roads all take their toll. There are several sources of vintage and antique tires for your car, and I would recommend Coker and Universal as the best providers.

However, there is one major supplier here in Southern California that I would avoid. They sold a friend of mine tires that were already two years old that they had obtained from Coker originally. In view of that, I would check any “new” tire you purchase for their DOT date code from any of the vendors, assuming one is provided. Some tires for older classics may not have the code.

It will read like CVULL2FC3506 with the last four numbers being the week and year the tire was manufactured. This number is from a tire on my 1955 Chevrolet and it tells me that the tire was manufactured during the 35th week (September) of 2006. It’s about time to replace it, even though the mileage on it is negligible.

As for whether to use radial versus bias ply tires, I would say that if the car is restored and still being shown, I would put the correct bias ply tires back on it. But if it has become a driver, you might like the slightly superior handling characteristics of radials. If you decide to go with radials though, I would put tubes in them because a 1940 Chrysler’s wheels were not designed for tubeless tires. Give these sources a try:

Coker Tire 1317 Chestnut St. Chattanooga, TN 37402

Universal Tire 2994 Elizabethtown Rd. Hershey, PA 17033