Who Sells used tires?
Used tires are a huge business in this country. Somewhere around 30 million used tires are sold each year, constituting about 10 percent of the total US tire market. It's not a surprise that many people find buying used tires to be a pretty good deal, usually to replace a single tire that's been damaged. But something that looks like a great deal can sometimes turn out to be too good to be true.
The problem is this: Used tires are not subject to any kind of legal standards, and the process of collecting, inspecting and reinserting used tires into the market varies rather widely.
Some used tire sellers are careful experts who closely inspect their inventory to make sure their tires are safe. But many others are not so careful.
In 1989, a former manager for Michelin named Clarence Ball conducted an informal survey of used tires for sale near him, and published his results. “My worst fears were realized when I found a number of tires that looked good – until I examined inside.
I doubt that the tire fitter or customer would have spotted loose cords in the tires, evidence that they had been run while underinflated. Several tires had tread repairs which would have caused a number of weights to be used in an attempt to balance them and a few had puncture repairs that looked like they had been done by a plumber.”
The issue has not improved with time. Just last year, the Rubber Manufacturer's Association tested the used tire market in Texas by purchasing a number of tires from used tire stores. The vast majority were unsafe in some way, whether simply worn out, showing visible damage or improperly repaired. The RMA's Senior Vice President Dan Zielinski commented, “Unsafe used tires are readily available for sale across the nation.
Any used tire is a risky proposition since it’s impossible to know the service history of a tire used by someone else. But some businesses are compounding that problem by selling tires that anyone in the tire business should know are dangerous.”
To combat the problem, both the Rubber Manufacturer's Association and the Tire Industry Association have recently thrown their support behind efforts in both Texas and Florida to ban the sale of unsafe used tires, and at this time it looks as if both state bills will easily become law.
Although in one TIA member survey, 75% of members said that they sold used tires, TIA Senior Vice President of Training Kevin Rohlwing put their support this way. “Our board of directors supports unsafe used tire legislation and we have not heard from any members who do not agree with our position on the matter. This legislation is not a concern for the membership simply because the TIA members who sell used tires would not knowingly sell or install a tire with an unsafe condition.”
The bills essentially ban the sale of any tire which:
- Has tire tread less than 2/32-inch deep
- Has chunking, bumps, knots, or bulges evidencing cord, ply or tread separation from the casing or other adjacent material
- Has exposed tire cords or belting material as a result of damage to the tire
- Has a repair to the tire in the tread shoulder, sidewall, bead area or belt edge area
- Has a puncture that has not been sealed or patched on the inside with a cured rubber stem or plug that extends through to the outside surface
- Does not clearly show the United States Department of Transportation tire identification number located on the sidewall of the tire
- Is subject to a manufacturer's safety recall
- Has a puncture larger than one-quarter inch
So there are a great many potential problems with a used tire, and since it is clear that many sellers of used tires pay far too little attention to these issues, this means that buyers of used tires need to have a lot more information in order to know what's safe and what is clearly not. Even in states where it may soon be against the law to sell unsafe tires, some sellers will always be ignorant of the law or unwilling to follow it, so that the law of Buyer Beware clearly applies no matter where you live. I'm here to help.
If you're going to buy a used tire, these are the things to look for:
Tread Depth: Make sure to bring a penny with you when you go to buy a used tire, so you can do the penny test. Put the penny upside-down into one or more of the tire's grooves. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, the tire is legally bald and you shouldn't be driving on it.
Exposed Cords: Look carefully at the tread surface all around. Irregular wear can expose the braided steel cords inside the tire. If you can see the cords, or even a few thin steel wires coming out of the tread, the tire is dangerous.
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