Liberty Tire Gives Consumers Another Reason to Avoid Used Tires

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In 2012, Kumho Tires notified NHTSA that it was recalling 40,769 SOLUS KH25 passenger car tires (size 225/45R17) due to sidewall cracking. At the time, nearly the entire recall population was in Kumho’s warehouses. Only 122 had actually been sold to customers; another 1,116 were in dealer’s inventories. But thanks to one of the nation’s biggest tire recyclers, Kumho has to recall them again.

On April 30, Kuhmo announced that it would now have to collect nearly 12,000 SOLUS KH25, because the national tire recycler that was supposed to scrap them resold them to used tire dealers. According the Defect and Noncompliance notice Kumho filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in early August 2012, the Vietnamese tire manufacturer paid Liberty Tire Recycling to dispose of 11,922 tires from its Itasca, Illinois warehouse. The tires slated for destruction had three holes drilled into in the tread surface – presumably to render them unusable. Instead, Liberty sold 7,875 tires to various tire wholesalers in Texas, New York, North Carolina and Puerto Rico.

On its website, Liberty proclaims itself as an environmental champion, turning more than 110 million scrap tires annually into the “raw materials for smart, sustainable products that improve people’s lives”: 

“Across the country – in small towns and big cities – a network of collection facilities and processors recycle car, truck and tractor tires to reuse as the base of innovative, eco-friendly products – and to rid the North American countryside of a tremendous amount of waste material. The landscape is changing, and Liberty Tire Recycling is at the forefront of a revolutionary conservation industry.”

In this case, Liberty was taking drilled, scrap tires and recycling them to become patched tires with a propensity for sidewall cracking that could lead to a sudden loss of air.

We aren’t sure if this is smart or sustainable – a sudden tire failure could change a person’s life – but probably not in a good way. Certainly Kumho couldn’t have been amused.

Kumho doesn’t mention how it learned of Liberty’s novel tire recycling scheme. More than 9,600 had not been sent back into the marketplace. But another 2,310 had already been sold to consumers, who, no doubt, didn’t know they were buying a rehabilitated recalled tire.

On NHTSA’s website, the agency warns that if patched and resold, these tires “may not adhere to specific Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) standards for tire repairs.”

In 2007, the RMA followed suit, by issuing a Tire Information Service Bulletin listing many negative factors affecting the condition of used tires following Safety Research & Strategies story on the hidden dangers associated and questionable practices associated with used tire sales (see Used Tires: A Booming Business with Hidden Dangers). 

“Used tires may have been exposed to improper service, maintenance or storage conditions and may have been damaged, which could eventually lead to tire failure,” the advisory said.

Currently, there is still no database or easy means for tire service professionals to determine whether a tire is subject to a recall (see Moving Tire Recalls into the 21st Century). 

In Great Britain, manufacturers of new tires have issued warnings to consumers for more than a decade on the hazards of buying used tires.