Driving on defective, or overused tires can be very dangerous, especially when travelling on busy highways at high speed. A blown tire can cause you to lose control of your car, resulting in serious, and sometimes fatal accidents. But how do you know if the tires on your car are defective, or have been recalled due to safety issues? According to some tire safety advocates, finding that answer may not be easy.
According to Sean Kane, safety consultant for several state governments, there is no system in place that would enable a tire retailer to determine whether your tires are part of a recall based on examining the tire at a glance.
One place to turn is in the tire’s Department of Transportation (DOT) Tire Identification Number, TIN, which is an 11 or 12-digit code imprinted on its sidewall. Within that string of letters and numbers, the first 7 or 8 digits contain information about the tire, including its size and the factory where it was made. The last four digits are a “date code,” revealing the week and year the tire was manufactured. The first two numbers refer to the week the tire was made, and the last two refer to the year.
Unfortunately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency responsible for overseeing motor vehicle recalls, does not provide a database that would allow you to search by the tires’ DOT TIN to see if your tires have been recalled.
One resource available to consumers is the website Safercar.gov, which provides a way to search for tire recalls using the tire’s brand and model. Once you enter the information about the tire, the search will turn up a recall notice if the tire has ever been recalled, including the DOT TIN’s and the dates that the tires were recalled. However, the tire owner is responsible for determining if there is a match.
Another way consumers can find recall information is to sign up to receive recall notifications. This can be done by signing up on the NHTSA website, or by following the agency on Facebook or Twitter.
At this point in time, according to Kane, consumers are probably better off simply contacting the manufacturer and request that someone walk them through the process of obtaining recall information.
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