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In today’s difficult economic times, you might find it tempting to trim your automobileelated expenses by buying used tires. Popular models of tires can be purchased used on the internet or at local stores for as little as 35% of the prices for new tires. Used tires are sold by many companies that appear reputable and trustworthy, so it is easy to assume that the products are safe. But, in many cases, that assumption is simply incorrect, and you may be putting your safety at risk.
The used tire market is a market with little or no governmental regulation. There are no federal regulations and, in most states, the only regulation is a minimum legal tread depth. There are no requirements that mandate the sellers maintain records to track the tires back to specific wholesalers, and it is nearly impossible to determine the history of any particular used tire.
Most used tires come to market through large multi-state recyclers. Brand-name new tire sellers pay the recyclers to pick up and dispose of used tires that they remove from vehicles. The recyclers transport the used tires to yards where they are separated into useable tires and scrap. One national used tire wholesaler has revealed that this segregation process is performed visually, by graders watching the tires coming down a conveyor belt. A single grader might inspect and sort 22,000 tires in a single shift. After further visual inspection, detailing, and inflation, the tires are sent to retailers. There is no guarantee that such tires are free from defects — defects that may have led their initial owners to have the tires replaced.
Some used tire dealers knowingly sell tires with pre-existing patch repairs, despite industry guidelines that such tires be scrapped. Other dealers coat the tires in a combination of gasoline and tar to make the tires appear newer, and in the process may conceal signs of potential defects. Other resellers lack even the most basic knowledge on how to decipher the Department of Transportation’s mandated tire identification number to determine the age of the tire. Age, in particular, can be an unforeseen danger, because the rubber in a tire deteriorates over time as it is exposed to heat and oxygen. Studies have shown that accidents caused by tire failure are strongly associated with tires older that six years.
In recent years, there has been a gradual increase in the awareness of the hazards of used tires. The Rubber Manufacturers Association has issued a bulletin urging the public to avoid used tires. Consumer advocate groups have also pushed for regulation of the used tire industry. And in an increasing number of lawsuits arising from fatal car crashes, the plaintiffs are seeking to hold the resellers and dealers of used tires responsible. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car wreck triggered by a tire blow-out or tread failure, you may have a legal claim if the vehicle had used tires.
Rubber Manufacturers Association Bulletin, “Passenger and Light Truck Used Tires”
James D. MacIsaac, Jr., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Summary of NHTSA Tire Aging Test Development Research”
The Trial Lawyer, “Used Tire Sales Dangerously Roll On Without Supervision”