First look on the sidewalls, then between the grooves in the tread to see if there are cracks. In the tread, expect to see long cracks about 1/16" wide, usually near the sides where most of the flexing occurs. On the sidewalls, there will be a lot of tiny cracks from dry-rotting. If you aren't sure what you're looking for, normally I would recommend having them inspected at a tire and alignment shop, but they're in the business of selling you new tires, so in this case, you might look to your regular mechanic, or stop in at a local community college with an Automotive program, and ask one of the instructors to take a peek. If you don't see any of those cracks, and if the car was mostly kept in a garage, the tires will most likely be okay.
I have a '93 Dodge Dynasty with 4,500 miles and the original tires, but the car has spent less than a few dozen hours of its entire life in the sun. That sun is the biggest cause of dry-rotting. I also have an '80 Volare with 45,000 miles that has never been in a garage a day in its life. That one had the outer tread fly off a few years ago at highway speed. It was not an original tire, but it had been baking in the sun for many years. The tire didn't blow out and I was able to drive it home like that, but it wasn't very comfortable.
If you DO have a problem, it's important to note that tires rarely explode, or blow out instantly. It is much more common for them to suddenly start to lose air very quickly. Since I get the last ounce of life out of my tires, (not something I promote anyone else try to do), I have a flat tire about once every three or four years, and in every case so far, I've noticed the corner of the van dropping, a gradual loss of steering stability, then the agony of the rough ride, over a period of about five seconds. That is plenty of time to react without panicking I do my pit stop on the side of the road and I'm back driving within about 10 minutes. Problem is it usually happens to me in winter, and I really hate the cold.
Monday, August 10th, 2015 AT 8:36 PM