SCM Executive Editor Jeff Sabatini took our 2006 Lotus Elise out for some exercise this weekend.

While enjoying the car, he thought to check the date codes on the tires. They’re from 2007 and 2010.

He commented that it appears the OEM Yokohama Advan tires are somewhat hard to find. And expensive. Tire Rack has the set for $1,221.52.

The sizes are 175/55R16 front and 225/45R17 rear. The car has 21,000 miles from new.

Jeff wondered if I should pick up the tires now just as a precaution. He noted that Yokohama recommends inspections by a tire shop after five years and replacement when a tire is 10 years old.

I recall when I bought the last OEM tires for the rear that the dealer had in 2010.

The tires show 90% tread left and have probably covered 3,000 miles in 12 years.

The car is always garaged – I doubt if the tires have spent a week in direct sunlight in the past decade.

If I bought new tires now, even if they were stored indoors, Jeff said they would be aging from the date of manufacture. In theory, that could mean they could sit for years, unused, and still have to be replaced.

I don’t mind spending money for tire repair, but I am reluctant to do it unnecessarily.

My preference would be to wait until we have a 1,000-mile tour coming up for the Lotus and look for a tire sale to buy new tires then – which assumes they would still be available. (We’ve also discovered that the tires on the Duetto are past replacement time, but its tires are more common and less costly.)

What are your thoughts? Buy a spare set now for the Lotus and put them in storage? Drive the Elise as is and replace only as necessary? Wait to buy a set until we have an event coming up?

What are your experiences with little-used tires on your vintage cars?



  1. Tires are, indeed, where the rubber meets the road. They are the single biggest factor in any car’s overall ride and handling characteristics, and especially so for a hard-core sports car like the Elise. Tires can also be a serious potential safety hazard if they are in any way compromised, as yours likely are simply from age.

    As those tires are well over 10 years old, it’s not worth the risk of having an age-related tire failure for want of saving a little money. To not replace them is a form of deferred maintenance, and we all know how that usually works out. As you do with “perished” suspension components on your other old(er) cars, just replace them with appropriate new rubber and enjoy great handling and many worry free miles with your awesome Elise.

  2. As the owner of both an Elise and Exige, I’d say replace them now. They are way past their shelf life and in a car like the Elise, even a minor accident can total these things as soon as you crack a front or rear clamshell. Not to mention the short wheelbase of the Elise means you need to have some quick reflexes when it oversteers as it can snap around pretty quickly.

    But you don’t have to buy the expensive OEM tires. A set of Bridgestone RE-71Rs is a great choice for that car, though I have them on the wider LSS front wheels so I am not sure if they come in a 175 for the front. The Toyo R888s are one of the trackday favorites too and are fairly affordable, if I recall around $800 for a set but they are much louder on the road.

  3. Frank Joe Amoroso

    Life’s too short to drive high mileage tires. This is especially true on anything as remotely dynamic, and communicative, as a Lotus Elise. As David points out, not replacing tires that are past their “use by date” is false economy.

    The real bummer of it is the lack of tire options for your base wheels. I just picked up a set of Yokohama A052s for my sport package equipped Elise for… $793. A much better proposition.

    So put your big boy driving pants on, do the right thing by this special car and have some fun! Enjoy.

    PS: See you at The Quail next week?

  4. Depends on how fast you drive this Lotus. Treat old tires like the skinny emergency spare tire on many cars. i.e. don’t drive over 40 mph! If you drive it on and off a trailer, and onto the show field, no big deal. If you drive it like Lotus should be driven, change ’em now!

  5. I won’t use rubber more than five years old. It’s not about possible failure, it’s about grip, especially in the wet.

  6. Here’s a cautionary tale re: tires and performance cars: The Truth Behind What Caused Paul Walker’s Fatal Crash by Matt Farah. (

    Tl;dr: He says old tires were largely to blame for the movie actor’s death.

  7. If you are only driving your Elise in close proximity to your home (define that to your comfort level) you’d be fine waiting to purchase the new set of tires until you think otherwise. But, if taking it on a long, multi-day event, just bite the bullet. Purchase and mount the new tires. One less thing to worry about while you are on the drive. Nothing more frustrating on a long drive than to have something happen that you could have prevented.

  8. Ann Devor Gommel

    Hi Keith! Paul and I have replaced 3 sets of tires on sports cars this year, not because of wear but because of age. None as expensive as your Lotus tires, but just as old. Here’s the good news: all 3 cars are handling much better with a more quiet and softer ride and driving them is much more fun. We are left wondering why we waited for the not-so-magic 10 year expiration to arrive.

  9. Having experienced a blowout on old tires–fortunately while going in a straight line on an empty expressway with a wide enough shoulder to pull over safely and put on the spare–I say, get the new tires now.

  10. this also raises the question of how often to change the oil if the vehicle is driven sparingly…every year? every 2 years? less often? does it make a difference if it’s synthetic oil?
    regarding tires, I’m not inclined to strictly stick to the “10 year rule” if the car is driven casually and not pushed (or tracked), the car is stored indoors, and the rubber remains soft. by the way, I recently purchased new XZX’s from the vintage tire company, and they were already 2 years old by date code.

  11. Keith, your tires are 14 and 11 years old. “Replace only as necessary” happened some time ago. Why would you buy tires now and put them in storage when the tires on the car are already past due for replacement?

  12. The problem with tire date codes is that the onus falls only on the consumer. That $1200 set? What’s the date code on them? Will you get 9-10 years out of them or are they already 2 years old? You won’t find that info on TireRack’s website. When I called asking about that, I got vague assurances that most of their tires were less than a year old, but no guarantees. They want drivers to worry about old tires, and we see the exact date of manufacture on the sets we own, but they’re not so keen on being held to any standard for how fresh the tires need to be when they sell them. It’s especially concerned with rare sizes. Kind of an unequal playing field.

  13. When the old tire blows at speed and takes out the body work around the wheel well (If that’s ALL that happens)….
    That $1,221.52 will seam pretty cheap….

    So buy the tires and have them installed before the trek to California… $1,221.52 seems pretty cheap for “piece of mind” on a long road trip…

  14. Keith,

    I own a hangered airplane with tires that are twenty one years old. That ought to spin people’s heads. Under FAA regulations for the use on my plane, it requires a complete inspection every year, including the tires. They’ve never failed nor do I know I know anyone who replaces their aircraft tire and anything other than condition.

    My little 2000 BMW Z3 has 11 year old tires. I have physically inspected my tires and they look, feel, drive and sound like new. I sense what I called “litigation alert” where tire makers don’t want to expose their liability anymore than necessary. Secondly, what makes any particular time frame sacrosanct? Wouldn’t hauling a heavy load over rough surfaces (rocks, potholes, possums) put more wear and tear on tires? How long long would those tires last? The FAA is pretty specific how items on plane must be inspected and use and tires are not time-limited, at for Part 91 of the Feceral aviaton Regulations. Heck, even aircraft engine overhauls are not time-limited on a hours-of-use basis. (part 91 of the FARs) In fact, for many air-cooled engines, non-use of the engine can cause greater damage to an aircraft than engine than use beyond a manufacturer’s recommended time before overhaul (TBO, in airplane parlance).

    I must hasten to add that aircraft used for charter or feeder airlines (Part 135) or scheduled carriers (Part 121) will have different maitenance protocol. And, yes, the airline use re-capped tires such as Boeing 757s,Aibus A320 and such. Further, the biggest user of recycled and used parts are aircraft carriers. It only required that the parts are safe for flight, just lihe new parts.

    I just argue that condition upon inspection is more meaningful than simple, probably arbitrary time limits. I don’t fault anyone to change tires on time but I think, if your tires and wheels appear undamaged, than go have good time and change them after the tour.