Tire safety imperiled by use of fakes and regrooving process: Internet Scambusters #646
We'd all like to say that we put tire safety at the top of our priorities when we're shopping for replacements.
Yet it's easy to be tempted by a bargain, especially when the tires look in good condition or appear to have come from a reputable maker.
But beware! All may not be as it seems, as we explain in this week's issue.
Let's get started...
Regrooving & Counterfeit Scams Threaten Tire Safety
Worn tire treads are a big hazard to all road users -- but two hidden dangers many of us don't know about could pose an equal or even greater risk to tire safety, and they're both the result of scams.
Unknowing buyers, especially those looking for a bargain, could be lured into purchasing replacement tires that are not as new as they look because they have been "regrooved" or simply because they're fakes.
The process of regrooving involves cutting into the tire and removing strips so the tread meets legal depth requirements again.
It's distinctly different from retreading, which is generally a reliable process of applying new rubber to the carcass of a tire -- rubber is being added rather than taken away.
Regrooving can be perfectly legal -- on tires that have been specially manufactured to allow for the process.
In this case, the tires must be embossed on the side with the word "Regroovable" and comply with standards laid down by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Regroovable tires are made almost exclusively for the trucking and passenger transport industries, again subject to tough safety and usage rules.
In any other use, at least in the United States and Canada, they are illegal, which means they shouldn't be on private cars.
But you can buy regrooving tools online, without any warnings, for $75. And more sophisticated machinery is available to speed up and automate the process of regrooving.
Take a look at this video, to see the process in action:
We can't say whether this particular video shows a legitimate process or not but it does illustrate the alarming way that tires can be "renewed."
Shredding and Punctures
Inevitably, scammers have homed in on this and have been reported using them on resale autos or selling them separately simply as "partly used."
In reality, they're producing tires that are easily prone to shredding, punctures, and blowouts.
If you try to do a regroove yourself, or if you buy or use a regrooved tire even unknowingly, you could be putting lives in danger, breaking the law (and facing fines of up to $1,000 per tire) and invalidating your auto insurance.
According to the motorhome enthusiast website rv.net, "NHTSA has received reports that tires which are not labeled 'Regroovable' are being illegally regrooved and sold, and has warned potential used tire buyers to shop carefully.
"Illegally regrooved tires are unsafe and their failure in traffic can result in death and injury to motorists and pedestrians."
So, always inspect tires carefully whether being bought individually or on used cars.
If they've been regrooved, you may be able to see the tire carcass at the bottom of the grooves but this isn't always the case -- and that underlines the importance of buying from a reputable seller.
The same even goes for buying genuinely new tires.
We already know that all tires are not made equal -- in other words, some are better than others at doing their job.
But even when tire performance and safety have been graded, the water can still be muddied by products that appear to come from a reputable manufacturer but turn out to be fake.
We're all used to reading about or encountering fake designer products like purses and sunglasses -- but fake branded tires?
Yes, suggests an investigation last November by Consumer Reports.
The consumer magazine tested and rated a whole batch of tires but when the supposed supplier of one of the lower-rated products objected to the findings, a whole can of worms was uncovered.
It seemed -- though there was no definitive proof -- that the real manufacturer, in China, may have gone out of business, its tire molds stolen, and counterfeits produced by an unknown maker.
It's a long and complex saga. You can read more at Counterfeit Tires Pose Consumer Risk.
"The ultimate lesson," the magazine concludes, "is that, when buying tires with prices that seem too good to be true, be concerned. The company whose name is on the sidewall may not stand behind the product if you encounter a problem, even when you purchased it legitimately."
Buying new tires is something that economists refer to as a "distress purchase" -- we do it because we have to not because we want to.
And that's when we tend to shop around for bargains. But saving money on replacing worn tires is nowhere near as important as tire safety and saving lives by buying the right products.
Alert of the Week
Consumers across the US are currently being bombarded by a huge surge in two well-known scam calls -- the phony Microsoft tech expert who claims your PC is malfunctioning and the fake law enforcement officer who threatens jail if you don't send money.
The callers often have a foreign accent, often from the Indian sub-continent, and they tend to target one area at a time until the scam makes local news reports, when they move on to the next place.
Please pass on this alert. Neither Microsoft nor law enforcement behave in this way.
Don't speak to these callers; just hang up. If you're worried, call the police.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!