Area Ford owners may be taking an extra interest in their wheels, after Bridgestone/Firestone announced the voluntary recall of some of its tires due to reports of faulty tread separation.
The tires affected by the recall are Firestone Radial P235/75R15 ATX and ATX II sizes manufactured in North America and Wilderness P235/75R15 AT tires produced in Decatur, Ill.
The ATX tires are commonly used on 1991-96 Ford Explorers, 1996 Mercury Mountaineers and 1991-96 Ford Rangers. The affected AT tires are found on 1997-2000 Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineers and Ford Rangers.
Vehicle owners affected by this recall will be notified by mail and receive a new set of Firestone tires. Bridgestone/Firestone has been working with tire distributors to facilitate the recall process.
Ford Motor Co. offers a bumper-to-bumper, three-year, 36,000-mile warranty on its new vehicles, said Bryan Goforth, service adviser at Seekins Ford. But since tires are excluded from the terms of the warranty, Goforth added that Ford has yet to decide whether the tire warranties will go through Ford or directly to the tire manufacturer.
Goforth said Ford also is not sure if the recall will affect the sales of the affected models, or whether Ford will continue to equip its vehicles with the tires in question.
"As of right now, Ford can't decide whether or not we're going to carry them or what we're going to do with them. It's just one of those things where we are the last ones to know," said Goforth. "We're just starting now to get information."
Goforth suggested that owners get in touch with Firestone for information on the recall or Midas Auto Systems Experts, the local Firestone distributor, to have their tires inspected.
Jeremy Wallis, the Soldotna Midas Auto Systems Experts store manager, urged Firestone owners to bring their tires in for an inspection if they are concerned they may be the size and style of the ones being recalled.
"I encourage anybody to stop by or give me a call here," Wallis said. "We're working with Firestone, and they are replacing those tires at this time."
There is a DOT number like a serial number on the tires that Midas inspectors will look for. Wallis said he didn't know how many vehicles the recall would affect on the peninsula, but that some had already been brought in.
"I know I've replaced several of them at this time, that's why I'm encouraging anyone to stop by and have them looked at."
So far the recall only affects the P235/75R15 size and ATX, ATXII and Wilderness AT styles, but if owners are concerned about different Firestone tires, Wallis says they should bring them in as well. That way if any other styles or sizes are included in the recall, the owners can be contacted and their tires replaced.
Tires in general require maintenance work to remain safe and functional. Wallis recommends tires should be kept inflated to the vehicle manufacturer's suggested level listed inside the driver's side door, not the level listed on the tire itself. Tires also should be rotated every 5,000 miles and should be checked for cracks, splits or any uneven wear, he said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is conducting an investigation of the P235/75R15 size tires to evaluate reported tread separation failures and accidents that have resulted from them.
"What's been happening is the tread toward the core of the tires is splitting apart due to many circumstances, like heat or low air pressure in the tires," Wallis said. "I don't know all the causes of it at this time. We're being updated every few hours on what's going on with it."
Wallis said he also is unsure of what happens when the tread separates.
"I have no comment, because I'm not sure myself."
While the NHTSA investigation has not yet been concluded, Gary Crigger, executive vice president of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., said the data collected so far suggests the tires in question have a greater number of reported incidents of separation than other sizes in that line, the plant producing Wilderness AT tires has an over-representative number of accident reports tied to it, and most of the reported incidents are from southern areas, suggesting that heat is indeed a factor to tire separation.
Firestone owners can have their tires inspected at Soldotna Midas, 43850 Sterling Hwy., or call Firestone tires at 1-800-465-1904 with questions.
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