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Information Center: Tire Defects

Each year, about 23,000 crashes are caused by tire blowouts.

Since 1973, the attorneys of Sanders & Parks in Phoenix, Arizona have represented people locally and nationwide in cases involving injuries caused by automobile defects. Many of these cases involve defective tires. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident caused by tread separation or any other form of tire defect, our lawyers can help you.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Tire Defects

Q: When is a tire recall necessary?

A: If the tire does not comply with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard or there is a safety-related defect present in the tire than a tire recall like Continental's recent tire recall. There are minimum performance levels for tires that have been set by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to protect drivers and passengers from death or serious injury.

Q: What is a tread separation?

A: A tread separation occurs because of the steel belted radial tire technology. A report that was released in October 2001 from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said that the tread separations studied in the Bridgestone/Firestone accidents reduced the ability of a driver to control the vehicle, especially when the tire failure occurred on a rear tire and at high speeds. There was a much greater likelihood for death, injury, and crashes resulting when the tread separation occurred on an SUV rather than a pickup truck.

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Tire Defects - An Overview

Most people are familiar with the Ford/Firestone tire debacle, one of the largest tire recalls in history. By 2000, Ford Motor Company had installed more than 14.4 million Bridgestone/Firestone ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT tires on the Ford Explorer and other vehicles. Reports of crashes and fatalities prompted an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTS), which uncovered a defect in the Firestone tires. At the time, more than 300 crashes and collisions were attributed to Firestone tires. The defect in the tires caused tread separation that, in turn, caused many rollover accidents involving Ford Explorers. Ford announced a recall of all 14.4 million tires.

The litigation following the recalls received widespread publicity for many reasons. Beyond the huge scope of the recall, the media found many issues newsworthy, including the money involved, the many ensuing class action suits, and the end of a decades-old relationship between Ford and Firestone due to each party blaming the other for the tire failures.

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Motor Vehicle Defect Recalls

One of the most common vehicle defect issues faced by the public is that of safety recalls of a motor vehicle. Safety recalls are usually instigated by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the vehicle manufacturers themselves, in response to a discovered defect in a vehicle or a component of that vehicle. So it is important to understand the procedure that is followed in vehicle recalls, and the respective responsibilities of those involved.

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Tire Defect Investigation

Litigation against tire manufacturers is complex. However, it is increasingly clear that many accidents and rollovers caused by a tire blow out are due to a design defect in the tire. Accordingly, an attorney with experience in tire defect litigation should review the accident facts for a possible product liability claim against a tire manufacturer.

The most importance evidence in an auto or tire defect case is the vehicle that was in the accident. Without it, an automotive defect case is difficult if not impossible to establish. It takes time and the assistance of people who have expertise in accident reconstruction, forensics, or biomechanical analysis to identify if a defect in a tire contributed to the accident.

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Finger Pointing: Ford v. Firestone

Ford Motor Company and Bridgestone/Firestone enjoyed a business relationship for more than a century until 2001 when the relationship ended as the two organizations blamed one another for the Ford/Firestone tire recall debacle. Having already recalled millions of Firestone tires installed on Ford vehicles, in 2001 Ford ended the relationship by publicly blaming Firestone for manufacturing defective tires. Ford stated it had lost faith in the safety of Firestone's Wilderness AT brand tires designed specifically for Ford vehicles. Firestone responded by claiming Ford was trying to divert attention away from the flaws in the Ford Explorer and that Firestone would no longer sell tires to Ford due to a loss of "mutual trust and respect." Acrimony between the two companies continues today as each fights class action suits as well as each other in court.

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Tire Safety Checklist

Proper maintenance helps prevent tire failures. In some cases, however, tire failures are hard to detect because of a manufacturing or design flaw. By knowing what to look for you may be able to prevent unnecessary injuries. The following tips may help you avoid being involved in a vehicle accident caused by a defective tire.

  • Check the tread on your tires. Tires that have less than 1/16 of an inch of tread depth are considered bald and should be replaced. You can also tell if your tire is worn out when you see that the wear bars (narrow strips of smooth rubber across the tread) are beginning to show.

  • Check your tire pressure monthly and make certain that your tires are properly inflated. Properly inflated tires not only offer the greatest safety, but also can improve on fuel economy and extend tread wear. When you check your pressure, use your own gauge and check the tires after the car has not been driven for several hours. Gauges at service stations are often inaccurate due to wear and tear and abuse.

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Tire Defects Resource Links

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
A highly informative resource containing tire recalls, tire ratings, child passenger safety information, crash statistics, crash test information, and much more. NHTSA is the road safety arm of the federal Department of Transportation.

Office of Defects Investigation
A division of the NHTSA, this federal agency provides comprehensive information that includes defect investigations, recalls, service bulletins, consumer complaints, and other personal safety information concerning motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment.

National Transportation Library
An online resource from the federal Department of Transportation with frequently asked questions related to tire safety and recalls and other transportation safety topics.

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