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Danger Lurks When Bad Rubber Meets The Road

A few weeks ago, I talked about tires on big trucks. Regarding passenger vehicles, 30 to 35 million used tires are sold in the U.S. every year. In a tight economy, it’s understandable why so many are bought, but what price is paid in human injuries when these tires fail at high speed?

Buyers can’t see the hidden defects caused by poor maintenance, bad storage conditions, old repairs, and microscopic cracks. An old phrase comes to mind, “There ought to be a law....” It should end with the words, “that prohibit their sale.” No federal regulations exist to control the quality of used tires that are sold. Only state laws regulate tread depth, and that depth alone fails to cure the problems that a high percentage of these tires have.

Remember, these are tires that someone previously discarded. Typically, tire dealers pay recyclers a couple bucks to pick up and dispose of the used tires. The recyclers sometimes employ deceptive methods to sell the tires. For instance, they may paint the tires to make them look newer.

The Rubber Manufacturer’s Association has issued a bulletin warning consumers and retailers to avoid used tires. It lists seventeen conditions what would make a tire unfit for further service including punctures, bead and inner liner damage, and internal separations that cannot be seen even by tire experts.

Since a consumer cannot know the history of a used tire, one who buys it is looking for big trouble. Does the tire have a history of being driven against curbs? That can damage its bead and inner liner and cause internal separation of plies. Was it driven on a highway filled with potholes? The same damage could have occurred. How was it stored? Was it in a hot warehouse stacked on a shelf exposed to sunlight that could have weakened it through deterioration? Unless one has these answers and more about the history of a tire, it shouldn’t be bought.

I’ll return to my phrase, “There ought to be a law that prohibits its sale.”


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