By Roger Marble
I read this question – Why don’t RV tires get recalled? – 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 while 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 let’s 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 and 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 contacted 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.
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, I 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 number and learned they were made in Mexico.
With the physical examination complete, John was able to file the three complaints with NHTSA. 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 regarding an RV tire recall.
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.
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 number. 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 instead providing 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 on how to provide meaningful information to NHTSA.
If you have a tire problem, you need to collect the facts: size, brand, and the complete DOT serial number. Also 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.
Have a tire question? Sign up for Roger Marble’s new Facebook Group: RV tire news, information and discussion, hosted by RVtravel.com and moderated by Roger. He’ll be happy to help you.