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13 investigation finds unsafe, recalled tires still on the road in Maine

PORTLAND (WGME) - A CBS 13 investigation discovered millions of recalled tires, considered unsafe, have never been recovered, and you could be riding on one right now. CBS 13's Jon Chrisos found a tire recalled more than a decade ago still on the road in Portland, and it's surprising even the company that made it.

Many safety experts say the 4 wheels of your car, truck, or SUV are the most important parts of your vehicle.

"It's the whole protection of the car. That's what gives you the handling, the comfort, the ride, it's the whole support of the car," Brett Gratton at Town Fair Tire in Topsham told us.

That's why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps its eyes on tire makers and steers those companies to recall tires it considers unsafe or dangerous. In August 2000, NHTSA launched an investigation into the safety of Firestone tires. The company later recalled 6.5 million tires. Reported problems with the Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT tires include tread separation and blowout. Documents from NHTSA say... "271 fatalities have been reported to us as being related to these tires."

In a statement to CBS 13, Firestone Vice President of Communications Paul Oakley said, "Of the estimated 6.5 million in-service tires involved in the 2000 recall, by June of 2001 Firestone recovered 6.3 million recalled tires."

But our investigation uncovered, almost 14 years after that infamous Firestone recall, those tires are still out there, even right here in Maine. We found one of the recalled tires on a 2000 Dodge Durango in a parking lot in Portland. The code on the tire shows it was made in 1993, more than 20 years ago.

We left the owner a note about the recall and called Firestone to report it.

"It troubles me to know you found one. It's not unheard of, but it's extremely rare. We do not want these tires on the road," Oakley said.

But the Tire Safety Group, based in Atlanta, says keeping up with those recalls can save your life. The group says of the 5.5 million tires recalled since 2002, less than 20% of them have been removed from the road.

"Tire manufacturers have no incentive to fully execute a recall and NHTSA doesn't have the manpower or resources to police the recall so consumers are caught in the middle with dangerous tires," Matt Wetherington with the Tire Safety Group said.

We also told Wetherington about that recalled Firestone tire we found in Portland.

"Even one tire left on the road that could kill somebody is too many. What we're dealing with is hundreds of thousands, if not millions. There's a very good chance you're going to save a life through your reporting," Wetherington said.

The most recent recalls to tell you about were last year. Michelin recalled more than a million tires because of an increased risk of tread separation. Bridgestone also recalled more than a million tires the end of last year because of what it calls tire defects.

An app from the Tire Safety Group allows you to check to see if a tire's been recalled. When you buy your tires it's also important to fill out a registration card and send it in. Then in case of a recall, the tire maker can contact you.

Full Firestone statement to CBS 13:

At Bridgestone Americas, the safety of the motoring public and our customers is a top priority. The Company applauds efforts, such as those of local and national media, to bring visibility to safe driving practices and keep the driving public aware of important issues such as proper tire maintenance, the hazards of buying used tires, and the cooperation and initiative needed from consumers to comply with recall recommendations.

As you are aware, in 2000, we voluntarily recalled Firestone P235/75R15 Radial ATX, ATX II and certain Wilderness AT tires of the same size.  Of the estimated 6.5 million estimated in-service tires involved in the 2000 recall, by June of 2001 Firestone recovered 6.3 million recalled tires.  Even today the Company is committed to replacing, free of charge, any Firestone tire subject to the recall.

 To be clear, the Company does not want anyone driving on recalled tires from our company or any.  Any individual or business selling these tires is doing so without the Company's knowledge or aid, and is in direct violation of the law.  The simplest way for consumers who have questions about their tires is to call 1-844-293-7514 to locate an authorized Firestone dealer to examine the tires in question.

Since the initial recall, the Company has continued to reach out to drivers through its stores, dealers and media campaigns to raise awareness and educate consumers on safe driving and tire safety. Consumers are encouraged to visit www.tiresafety.com to learn about tire safety and why it's important to have their tires, including the spare tire, regularly inspected by a qualified professional.

Please note that calculating the recovery rate of a tire recall is a highly complicated process that must consider dozens of variables. The process is one of careful analysis using common practices in the industry.  Above all, what actually happens to a tire during its lifetime is one of the most important elements, but a number of commonly used factors go into a calculation including:

  • Wear rates - average tread depth remaining based upon inspection data
  • Mileage - average miles driven per year 
  • Age - determined by manufacture date
  • Production quantity - based upon production records