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Are You Driving on Recalled Car or Truck Tires?


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Whether you are setting out on for work, school, or a fall trip you expect your vehicle to be safe and carry you and your family to your destination safely. While some aspects of your vehicle are subject to close monitoring, it seems that this oversight is uneven, at best. Potentially defective tires is one area where there a potential regulatory blind-spot could result in a serious collision that can cause catastrophic injury or even death. this post will examine the recall procedures in place for defective tires and the risk that these procedures pose. Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak explains how you can know if you are driving on recalled car or truck tires.

Our National Failure to Learn From the Early-2000s Firestone Recall

Those who were driving in the early 2000s are undoubtedly aware of the massive firestone tire recall of the early 2000s. the recall began in earnest in May 2000, when NHTSA contacted Ford and Firestone regarding a high failure rate on certain vehicles equipped with Firestone tires. A Ford investigation uncovered that some 15-inch tire models — namely the ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT – were especially prone to tread separation.  After tread separation, the disintegration of the tire that could lead to vehicle rollover was not uncommon. The recall eventually pulled 2.8 million tires from active service and store shelves. However the dirty secret of the Firestone recall is that only just under 90,000 of the defective tires were confirmed to be recalled from use or sale. As for the remainder, they are ostensibly still for sale or in service. In fact, in 2013 two of the recalled Wilderness AT tires were found to be for sale at an Atlanta, Georgia shop – about 13 years after they were recalled from store shelves. It turned out that this particular Wilderness AT tire was 17 years old, but was for sale as a new tire, when it was found by a Channel 2 Atlanta reporter. While it is likely that with each passing year more and more of these tires will be pulled from service, the underlying issue that allowed this problem to fester still remains.

There is No Easy Way for Consumers to Search for Tire Recalls and Defects

As of October 2014, there is simply no way for a motorist to search the Department of Transportation’s (DoT) database by tire identification number (TIN). The TIN is include on each and every tire sold in the United States, however to make use of it a consumer must be trained in how to interpret the 11 or 12 digit string. This extra level of knowledge required to search makes it more difficult for vehicle owners to routinely check for problems and harms safety on our highways and roadways.

To decipher a DoT TIN, one should first look to the first 7 or 8 digits. This initial string of numbers contains information about the tire’s manufacturing location, size, and other physical characteristics. The last four digits are always the tire’s date code. Unfortunately the date code does not follow a traditional MMDDYYYY format. That is, the date code’s first two digits refer to the week it was produced while the second two digits represent the year. Therefore if a tire date code was 2314, the tire would have been manufactured during the 23rd week of 2014, or roughly the first week of June 2014.

Once one has deciphered their tire’s TIN and date code they can then search by tire make and model. Once they are browsing the recalls for the correct tire make and model, they must then download, open and read one or more PDF files containing tire recall information. In short, this is a rather circuitous process for a public that has become accustomed to googling for any whim or fancy and immediately being presented with relevant and high-quality results. The current NHTSA process is an unwelcome step back in time to before the rise of contextual search. The practical impact of this less than intuitive process is that shop owners are less likely to verify their stock is free from defective tires or perform a defect search on tires on vehicles that are brought in to be service. Consumers are likewise less inclined to search for product defects when the process is not streamlined or straightforward.

What is the NHTSA Doing to Correct This?

Unfortunately it seems that a true solution to this problem is not imminent. However the NHTSA does emphasize that visitors to its websites can search, as described above, on safercar.gov. Furthermore, the agency states that consumers may receive notifications of new recalls by subscribing to alerts through Facebook or Twitter. While a mobile application for safety recalls is reportedly in the works, it has not yet been released.

Safety advocates are not alone in urging the NHTSA to revamp its safety recall database. A spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association has gone on record stating  that a recall database that is searchable by TIN number is “something worthy of discussion” and a searchable system would correct one aspect of a system that is “certainly imperfect and needs improvement.”

Put Out Defective Product Experience to Work for You

For more than 20 years, Arkansas auto accident lawyer Ken Kieklak has fought for Arkansans who have been injured or killed by defective products in the home and on the road. To schedule your free and confidential consultation, call (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.

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