No tire repairer should succumb to a customer's demand for a quick and cheap plugging of a punctured tire. Not unless, as Truflex/Pang's Dan Hunstiger put it, ``you want the guy to own your shop next week.'' With so much at stake in regard to public safety and the risk of potentially devastating litigation, professional tire repairers should not plug punctures with the tire still on the wheel.
Everyone from trial lawyers to tire manufacturers and the makers of tire repair materials has recommended removing the tire from the wheel, inspecting it for internal damage, cleaning the puncture area, then filling the wound with a plug or suitable vulcanizing material and sealing the innerliner with a patch.
Many suppliers offer training, wall charts and other materials spelling out what the Rubber Manufacturers Association has deemed the correct repair procedures.
But the tire industry must do more than merely discourage plug repairs. Tire dealers, repairers and consumers must be explicitly told that outside-in tire repair methods are inadequate and potentially dangerous.
The tire manufacturers have stopped short of saying just that, according to attorney John Cabaniss, who won a tire plug failure case against an Illinois dealership last year. Yet when testifying in a court case, tire company witnesses will state that ``an outside-in repair is dangerous, that it shouldn't be done and here's how it causes tires to fail,'' Mr. Cabaniss said.
Millions of tires are plugged from the outside each year. In view of such demand, it's unlikely makers and distributors of such products will stop offering them. Yet they too have a responsibility to the motoring public and are no less vulnerable than dealers to lawsuits.
But by comparison, plug repairs don't represent such a significant proportion of most dealers' sales and profits. For them, the huge risk is not worth the comparatively small amount of money tire plugging can bring.
It's a gamble tire dealers don't need to take.
Politely answer ``no'' when asked to plug tires and tell customers you're looking out for their interest as well.