More people are driving on recalled tires than you think. Tires are a car's most overlooked safety system. Tires purchased anywhere can still be at risk.
Tires are a car’s most overlooked safety system. Drivers tend to think that whatever tires they purchase are going to deliver tens of thousands of miles of use, and that they should only be concerned about the consequences of normal wear. Unfortunately, not all brands of tires are held to the same manufacturing standards, and drivers should be aware of what make of tires are on a vehicle in case of a government recall. Failing to do so can compromise the safety of everyone who rides in the car.
The Risks of the Current Recall System
The process that exists for notifying consumers about a recall of tires is far from efficient or effective. While the government does work hard to publish recall information, the ability to get that knowledge out to drivers is limited. Tire retailers frequently end up being unaware of recalls, and they sometimes continue selling defective types of tires long after a recall has been ordered.
The consequences of defective tires can be catastrophic. A tire blowout at high speed can cause a vehicle to become uncontrollable, sending it into surrounding lanes and potentially triggering an accident. More than 8,000 auto accidents per year in the United States are attributed to tire blowouts.
Find out more information on recalled tires.
Checking for Defective Tires
Every tire sold has a Tire Identification Number, as required by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is an 11- or 12-digit code that is imprinted on the sidewall of the tire. The first seven or eight digits are the actual unique identifier, and the last four digits encode the week and year that the tire was manufactured. For example, a tire manufactured in the 10th week of 2012 would be encoded with the last four digits “1012” to indicate its age.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the agency responsible for handling automotive product recalls, does not presently maintain an online database that drivers can reference TINs against. The NHTSA does operate a website, SaferCar.Gov, which allows drivers to check for recalls by the make and manufacture of the tire. If a recall has been ordered for a specific brand of tire, the website will produce a list of TIN numbers that correspond to the recall, and then users can check the encoded week and year to see if their particular tires were part of the recall.
If a driver has concerns about the safety of a tire, there are clear physical signs to look for. A tire that’s close to a blowout may exhibit indications of bulging in the walls, or threads may already be exposed. Irregular wear patterns may also indicate tire trouble. Even if a tire has never been the subject of a recall, many are still allowed to sit in inventory for too long, which can lead to dry rot issues.