NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bridgestone/Firestone has stopped selling used tires at its 2,200 retail stores and will focus on new tire sales, a company spokesman said.
This decision follows a Tire Information Service Bulletin issued recently by the Rubber Manufacturers Association alerting motorists and tire retailers to the dangers of used tires that have an uncertain or unknown history of use. The RMA cautioned that used tires being resold may have been exposed to improper service, maintenance or storage conditions and may have been damaged, which eventually could lead to tire failure.
"We´ve been looking at and evaluating this issue for a long time," the BFS spokesman said.
It didn´t make much sense for one of the nation´s largest tire manufacturers to sell used tires when its primary business is new tires, he said, noting that a limited number of stores sold a small percentage of used tires. He didn´t have any numbers but said the amount was negligible and the practice of selling used tires was not that common at BFS-owned outlets.
However, the spokesman said that selling used tires does make sense for some dealerships.
Safeway Tire, which operates an outlet in an inner-city area of Cleveland, sells used tires as a convenience to help people economically, said Service Manager Gary Adamic. "People who buy used tires are short on dollars," he said.
He didn´t know the exact number of used tires sold but said Safeway Tire will continue to sell them.
Goodyear also will continue to sell used tires at its company-owned stores, a Goodyear spokesman said. Like BFS, Goodyear prefers to concentrate on new tire sales and only a small number of its 750 company-owned stores sell used tires, depending on availability.
Used tires are a small part of overall store sales, the Goodyear spokesman said. "We concentrate on new tire sales."
When it comes to tire life, he said Goodyear subscribes to the RMA standard that there are no data suggesting there should be an age limit for tires. However, the company stresses that tires need to be cared for and properly maintained.
"As a consumer, if you don´t feel capable of doing it yourself, take your tires to an expert," he said. "If you´re concerned about (tire) age, have them take a look."
At least one advocate of stricter standards for used tires sees a limited market for them. Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies Inc., claimed "a lot of tires are finding their way back onto the marketplace from scrap heaps. I think that´s very dangerous. There was a reason the tires were removed and sent to the scrap heap."
The RMA lists 17 characteristics that should negate a sale, purchase or installation of a used tire, including punctures or penetrations; signs of repair; inner liner or bead damage; indicators of internal separation such as bulges; and any damage or wear exposing the body material of the tire, including cuts, cracks, scrapes and ozone cracking/weather checking, to name a few.
The association also recommends that motorists who buy used vehicles inspect the tires for the same signs of wear or damage. SRS views used tires as a subset of the aged tire category, and Kane claimed that in a lot of crashes involving aged tires, those tires were bought used.
While there have been some positive changes in adopting stricter standards for used tires, Kane said it is still difficult to determine if a used tire is safe because the internal condition of the tire is hard to ascertain. This creates the possibility of a retailer´s selling unsafe tires to consumers, he said, adding that he believes independent tire dealers provide easy access to used and potentially unsafe tires.
However, the BFS spokesman said it has always been the company´s practice not to sell any tires of questionable quality or safety. He added that BFS participated in the RMA´s procedure that produced the used tire guidelines and that "safety is always (our) top priority."
This story was written by Jennifer Mussig, Rubber & Plastics News staff.