Investigation into tire valves presents opportunity for tire dealers to proactively push prevention

Jan. 1, 2020
Perhaps everyone who owns a car or truck within your marketing area may now want to have their tire valves inspected following news of an expanding governmental probe into possibly faulty valves manufactured in China and sold in the U.S.

Perhaps everyone who owns a car or truck within your marketing area may now want to have their tire valves inspected following news of an expanding governmental probe into possibly faulty valves manufactured in China and sold in the U.S.

The valves now under an ever-widening pattern of scrutiny are reportedly prone to premature cracking that poses a leakage hazard leading to tire deflation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has embarked upon a “preliminary evaluation” of valves affixed to 12 Ford 2007 models: The Mustang, Fusion, Focus, Edge, Escape, Explorer, Expedition, F-150, Milan, MKX, MKZ and the Mercury Grand Marquis.

A heightened NHTSA “engineering analysis” remains ongoing regarding valves distributed by Dill Air Controls Products, and a recall was issued in June by distributor Tech International.

A common denominator in the investigations is valve manufacturer Shangai Baolong/Topseal Automotive Industries Co., Ltd. of China.

“There are plenty of them out in the replacement market, but they’re also being used by OEs,” says a NHTSA official who insisted on anonymity because the probes are ongoing. “We’re a scientific agency; we don’t want to pre-judge the investigations.”

According to NHTSA, Dill and Discount Tire are defendants in a lawsuit filed after a fatal November 2007 rollover crash of a 1989 Ford Explorer. The plaintiffs allege that the wreck was caused by a faulty tire valve.

A letter sent to Discount Tire/America’s Tire customers over the signature of CEO Thomas P. Englert urges them to bring their vehicles in for a free tire valve inspection and free replacement if necessary. A reimbursement program has been implemented to serve customers who may have paid elsewhere to have a Discount-provided valve replaced.

“Regularly check your tires’ air pressure for signs of slow air leaks and visit your Discount Tire store for your free rotations and balancing,” says Englert in the letter. “Discount Tire believes it is important to proactively resolve this issue and will install these valve stem replacements free of charge. We appreciate your continued business and trust.”

Accusing NHTSA of dragging its feet on the tire valve issue, consumer safety advocates are calling for a significantly expanded and speeded-up governmental review of the entire situation, citing the ever-increasing scope of suspect valves coming to light.

NHTSA says it’s received 4,700 complaints about faulty tire valves. Consumer Reports magazine notes that if the Dill-sold valves alone are indeed deemed to be defective, some 23.5 million valves installed on tires between August of 2006 and July of 2007 would be subject to a massive recall.

The editors suspect the problem is considerably more widespread that what the public is being led to believe. A vehicle inspection program conducted by Discount Tire from April through June of this year uncovered about 23,000 defective Dill valves, according to the magazine.

“The agency’s delay is dangerous and potentially puts many drivers at risk,” the publication contends, insisting that “they should endeavor to identify other makers of vehicles that may have used valve stems manufactured by Shanghai Baolong as original equipment.”

“The only way to tell if you have a valve stem made by this company is to dismount the tire from the wheel to examine it from the inside,” notes Sean E. Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, a consumer advocacy organization. “Once they are out of the box and on a vehicle there is no tracking for these products, so you can’t notify owners. If you’re not checking tires pressure regularly, now is the time to get into the habit,” he advises, encouraging tire dealers to get the word out to your customers.

“Radial tires do not show signs of underinflation by a visual inspection until they are significantly underinflated, at which point the tire may have sustained irreparable damage,” Kane points out. “Motorists may not realize that they are driving on tires that are underinflated and overloaded.”

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