Sales of Used Tires Pose Alarming Concerns

By: Glady Reign

Safety advocates are saying that the sale of used tires is largely unregulated, and each year, worn tires have become the cause of countless accidents - many of these accidents have ended in fatalities. This fact triggered a leading auto safety group to clamor for used tire dealers and wholesalers to adopt stricter standards to inspect the millions of tires they sell to motorists every year. And advocates added that some used tires are repaired, repainted or patched before sale thus making it difficult for consumers to gauge their safety.

"Without self-policing and a more transparent business model, used tire sellers are courting disaster," said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies. "Regulators should examine how to ensure consumers are getting safe tires." He added that used tire sellers should adopt meaningful tire inspections that combine visual reviews with internal exams.

"There is no standard of care beyond a visual inspection, and they can't pick out all the unsafe tires," Kane said. "The best method is for the industry to certify used tires, much as a dealer would offer a certified used car."

In 2005, 300 million tires are discarded in the United States and Americans have bought approximately 225 million replacement tires, spending more than $10 billion on these auto products. On eBay, an auction online site, a search for used tires turned over 1,100 listings. In addition, a number of websites also sell used tires. According to statistics, about 16 million tires sold annually are retreaded tires, which are made from used tires that usually from heavy trucks. Those tires are regulated, tested and given a new serial number.

Growing concerns are now posed by used tires. In December, Kane submitted details about 108 accidents linked to tread separation of tires more than 6 years old to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Eighty five fatalities are linked to said accidents. The NHTSA, on the other hand, has been conducting tests on new tires to verify their durability. The government agency may also conduct a test this year to simulate aging. In September 2009, NHTSA will start requiring manufacturers to print the manufacture date on tires.

Automakers like BMW AG, Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG have recommended the tire replacement after six years of service. Tires should also be well-maintained like other auto parts. If have to be checked regularly, the more that owners should check on their tires for a safe and comfy ride.

Kane's group said "shearography," a technique of detecting defects using lasers, can be used to identify unsafe tires. A machine using the process can "non-destructively examine the inside of a tire, similar to the way an MRI is used in medicine." The machines are priced at $150,000 to $250,000.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association, which represents major tire makers, do not recommend people buy used tires in most instances. "You may not know if it has been damaged or what the history is," said Dan Zielinski, the group's vice president for communications. "People should be very wary of buying used tires to save a few dollars at the potential expense of safety."

But used tires are important to low-income customers, said the Tire Industry Association, which also represents tire dealers. "When some people are living hand to mouth, making minimum wage, they aren't doing a lot of car repairs," said Paul Fiore, the association's director of government and business relations. "When they get a blowout, they are looking to get back on the road cheaply." Fiore added that tire dealers and customers should carefully inspect used tires to ensure they are safe.

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