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Monday, December 24, 2012

Why don't RV tires get recalled?

I read this question on an RV forum. It was asked by someone complaining that there were no recalls of what he considered "crappy" RV tires. Other posts in the thread went on to say that complaints to the BBB or the tire importer won't accomplish much. I posted a reply pointing out that expecting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall tires when there had not been any usable complaints filed, was simply unrealistic.
NHTSA is the government agency charged with the responsibility of writing and enforcing the regulations necessary to achieve improved safety of vehicle systems and equipment. However they cannot order or even suggest that a vehicle or component be recalled without facts and data being collected and analyzed.

A few months ago I worked with a reader of this blog, John B., who understood the necessity of providing the information NHTSA needs. He had suffered three tire failures. Luckily he discovered the failures before the tires suffered a detachment. In his case there was no loss of air and no flailing of tire pieces. What he did have was a tire that was no longer round or having a uniform tread contour.

Now lets be sure we all have the same understanding of the terms. In this case a "Detachment" would be when a part of the tread or tread & belt package came apart from the rest of the tire. This type of failure can result in damage to the RV as pieces flail around hitting fenders and the side and undercarriage of the RV.

    John wanted to file a complaint with NHTSA and he wanted to be sure his complaints would be useful to the engineers. He understood that partial or incorrect information would result in no investigation and with no investigation there was no possibility of any action being taken to remove "crappy" tires from use. So John contact me and I walked him through the process of collecting all the details needed. He also wanted to  dissect his tire so he could ship the important parts to me for further examination.

When I received the sample I first cut the tread in the locations John had identified but found no serious issues.
I then called upon my 40 years of experience and took the time needed to visually examine and take measurements with special tools to identify a location that was more probably of interest. After cutting the section at the location of interest and found the separation between the belts that was almost all the way across. This separation allowed the tread area to bulge out to the shape seen in the picture of the tire at the top of this blog.
For those interested these tires were not made in China as we decoded the serial and learned they were made in Mexico.

With the physical examination complete, John was able to file the three complaints with NHTSA. Now it is important to remember that NHTSA has budget constraints so investigations need to be prioritized. Obvious defects that result in physical injury would receive top priority. Also a single or small number of complaints will be of lower priority than a large number so if the only complaints NHTSA receives on these tires are the three from John there may not be any action. The same situation would apply to any complaint you might file BUT it is important to remember that if the majority of people with tire problems only post to RV forums or grouse to others around the campfire nothing will ever happen or result in the quality of tires improving.

Here are Links to John's information. Link 1     Link 2

A quick review of the complaint on file will show that the majority are of little or no value to NHTSA as the owner didn't provide the crucial information of a correct and complete DOT serial. Many complaints don't even provide the tire size or even the correct tire brand. I believe that if people spent half the time they do on RV forums but provided complete and accurate information to NHTSA we might all end up with better quality tires on our RVs.

I am working on another post on the topic or how to provide meaningful information to NHTSA.

If you have a tire problem you need to collect the facts - Size, Brand, DOT serial and collect some good sharp pictures in case NHTSA needs them. Then make the effort to file a complaint. Who knows, you might just be able to grab the interest of the engineers and have an investigation started.


  1. rv tires do get recalled. they use what they call silent recalls. i found out about one from goodsam club. two dealers didn`t know about it. i got one dealer to call the supplier and got a 75% discount on a new set of tires

  2. What sort of priority was given to the Firestone issue years ago?


    1. Don't know. I don't have the data on the number of complaints ve production volume which I would think would be one of the considerations.

  3. I needed 4 new tires for the rear axle on my class C RV and the truck tire dealer said that anyone traveling across country needs to stick with an American made tire, Firestone so if anything happened it would not be difficult to get it repaired or replaced. I must say we traveled 8000 miles and not one bit of trouble from those tires. I do have a tire monitor system and carry a portable air pump but only had to top off the tires once in two months. I do not really know if those tires where built in an American factory but they sure worked for me! Buy American built.

    1. Easy way to know if your tires are made in USA or in Transylvania.
      1. Read the tire sidewall. If made outside the USA it should say "Made in XXX" with the name of the country.
      2. Look up the actual plant location by reading the DOT serial. (You have read the tire serial and jotted it down in your maintenance records haven's you?) You can look up the plant location by using the first two characters of the serial. This post

      has a link to the plant code site as well as other info on the DOT serial.

  4. Good information, and especially the part about how we tend to tell everyone but the people who might be able to do something in these situations.
    I also wonder how many of the "crappy tires" had been good tires that had been mistreated....under/over pressurized, over-speed, bad roads, tight turns, etc., and get a bad rap??

    Thanks for a great article....


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