HOUSTON—Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. issued a voluntary recall of all its Fix-a-Flat tire inflator products Feb. 18 after learning that tires repaired with the products could explode under unusual circumstances when subjected to extreme heat. Fix-a-Flat is the dominant aerosol tire inflator in the U.S., with a market share over 40 percent, the company said. More than 30 million units have been sold since 1996.
The company said it is reformulating the products, which should be ready for distribution nationwide within a few weeks.
In the meantime, Pennzoil-Quaker State has contacted its retailers and distributors to inform them of the recall, which it is calling a ``voluntary product withdrawal,'' and ask them to remove all Fix-a-Flat tire inflator products from their facilities and return them to the company.
The company said it also has informed the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Consumer Products Safety Commission of its action.
The products included in the recall are: Fix-a-Flat cone-top cans; Fix-a-Flat cans; Super Fix-a-Flat cans; and Big Wheel Fix-a-Flat cans.
Consumers who have purchased any of these products are advised to call the toll-free ``Fix-a-Flat Consumer Product Information Line''—(800) 532-5000—for instructions on returning them to Pennzoil-Quaker State and receiving reformulated replacements free of charge.
The company said it expects the voluntary withdrawal to have a pretax cost of approximately $25 million.
Company spokesman Greg Panagos said Pennzoil-Quaker State learned of the potential problem with Fix-A-Flat in December, when it was named in a lawsuit that stemmed from the explosion of a tire that allegedly had been repaired with Fix-a-Flat.
That accident occurred prior to Pennzoil Co.'s acquisition of the Fix-A-Flat product line from Snap Automotive Products Inc. in late 1997, Mr. Panagos said.
All told, the company has become aware of six such explosions, Mr. Panagos said, each of which occurred as a result of welding on or applying flame to the rim while the inflated tire still was mounted on it. Such action flies in the face of commonly accepted tire repair procedures, he added, and is contrary to explicit warnings that appear on all Fix-a-Flat product labels.
It has not been definitely established that the tires in question actually contained Fix-a-Flat, Mr. Panagos said.
Though Fix-a-Flat does not use a flammable propellant, Pennzoil-Quaker State has determined that, if subjected to extreme heat, the mixture of Fix-a-Flat and air inside a tire can ignite and cause an explosion, Mr. Panagos said. It was this discovery that prompted the company to voluntarily withdraw all Fix-a-Flat tire inflator products and reformulate them, he said.
The reformulated products will use a new propellant, R134a, which also is used as a refrigerant in automotive air-conditioning systems.
In addition to the voluntary product withdrawal, Pennzoil-Quaker State is making an effort to educate tire repair and maintenance technicians regarding tire repair safety.
The company is distributing brochures containing guidelines for safe tire repair practices to retailers and auto repairers, free of charge. It also has posted the information on its Web site at: www.pennzoilquakerstate.com/brands/fix-a-flat_withdrawal_text.htm.