Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

I have new Dodge Grand Caravan and it's time for its first scheduled oil change. My dealer wants to switch it to synthetic oil, claiming better fuel mileage and longer engine life. Is this a good idea? – Cynthia

Synthetic oil is a superior product and some engines and driving conditions warrant the significant extra cost. Follow the advice of the manufacturer as printed in the owner's manual, not that of the dealer or local oil change shop. The manufacturer is responsible for warranty costs and has conducted extensive testing to arrive at the recommended type and grade of oil and change intervals. Switching is not an issue, but I doubt it is necessary.

Age-old tire question

Story continues below advertisement

I have heard that new tires are often the opposite, that they can be several years old when purchased. Is this true? How can I tell how old my tires are? – Marie

There is a complex number on the sidewall of all new tires sold in North America. That number complies with a directive from Transport Canada and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Called the Tire Identification Code, it consists of 11 or 12 numbers and letters that identify where they were produced, the size and date of manufacture. The last four digits are the ones you are concerned with. Tires produced since Sept. 1, 2000, must have that four-digit number. For example, 3713 would tell you the tire was produced in the 37th week of 2013. If your tires are more than 6-8 years old they may well have past their "best by" date.

Tires generally loose their effectiveness after 6-8 years, regardless of mileage. The most common cause of tire failure is overheating – whether through overloading or under-inflation but, after a period of time, they harden and lose much of their grip and effectiveness in wet or dry conditions. Tires are a complex combination of rubber and a variety of chemicals. Molecules within that compound are activated every time a tire goes from cold to hot, hardening with each heating and cooling cycle. The oils contained within evaporate over time, further contributing to the hardening process.

The British Rubber Manufacturers Association has "strongly recommended" that unused tires should not be put into service if they are more than six years old and that "all tires should be replaced 10 years from the date of their manufacture." Several European manufacturers of high-performance cars state in the owner's manual that "under no circumstances should tires older than six years" be used.

It is nearly impossible to get a set of four new tires with perfectly consecutive dates, they are sent from a plant around the world to tens of thousands of distribution centres and then sales points, so are often split up. But you should be able to get four that were produced within a few months of each other. Reputable tire stores try to keep track of these numbers and rotate their stock accordingly.

Wiper life

How often do I need to replace my wipers? – Robert

Story continues below advertisement

Wipers lead a difficult life. They are exposed to punishing sun and a wide variety of temperatures and then are expected to perform when the first drops of rain or washer fluid arrive. One issue is pollution, which is hazardous to the life of soft rubber products. Also, a wiper's edge can be damaged by frequently running across rock-hard ice on the windshield in winter. Should that happen, it's time to replace the wipers and this is one of those cases where you get what you pay for. Spend the extra money for some high-end units and you will get one made from more expensive rubber that has been carefully developed.

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Instagram

Add us to your circles

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies