Dealers affected by flooding, especially in the wake of two recent devastating hurricanes, are being advised to inspect tires exposed to flood waters very carefully.
The watchwords: Don't take any chances. Scrap any tires that show any signs of physical damage, including but not limited to cuts, scrapes and punctures, or that have been exposed to grease, oil, chemicals, salt, etc.
The latter aspect-exposure to contaminants-is viewed as particularly critical in the areas struck by floods generated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita since the floodwaters in these areas almost certainly contained such contaminants.
The advisories issued by the major tire makers are similar in their overall message, but differ slightly in the detail.
Michelin North America Inc.'s is the briefest, urging dealers to discard any tires-both unmounted and those mounted on their own or customers' vehicles-that have been ``subjected and exposed to water from hurricanes, storms, floods, etc., for a substantial amount of time.''
The company noted ``prolonged exposure to moisture can have a degenerative chemical effect with rubber and lead to potential failure later in the tire's life.''
Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS) recommends all unmounted tires exposed to flood waters, especially contaminated water, be discarded, and that any mounted tires exposed to water that show signs of cuts, tears, holes or scrapes be scrapped as well.
BFS also reminds its dealers to render all scrapped tires non-serviceable by drilling a hole through or cutting completely through the sidewall of passenger and light truck tires, and to make three radial cuts in the sidewalls of truck tires.
It also reminds them to remove the DOT serial number and comply with all laws, including local environmental regulations.
Goodyear gives dealers a bit more leeway. Tires exposed to water and/or mud only-that is, not contaminated-for a period of no more than 30 days may be returned to service if the dealer determines there are no signs of physical damage.
These tires should be washed inside and out with a vegetable-based soap, rinsed thoroughly, dried and re-inspected before being returned to inventory, Goodyear said in its advisory. It cautioned against using high-pressure spray washers.
All three tire makers urged dealers to call their customer service representatives with any questions.
As for the value of the tires? That is a matter for dealers to take up with their insurance companies, since the tires are dealers' property once they've been delivered, tire maker representatives said.
As for equipment in the shops, makers of lifts and tire servicing equipment said each piece would have to be inspected individually. But in general, anything electrical that got wet is almost certainly not repairable. In most cases, representatives said, dealers will have to make insurance claims for equipment damaged beyond repair.
Rotary Lift recommends dealers have their lift equipment inspected by an authorized installer, who knows the specific procedures for evaluating such equipment.
Hunter Engineering Co. said each lift should be inspected individually. The electronics of any piece of submerged equipment would in all likelihood be destroyed, and the cylinders of lifts would be subject to rust.
Pat Liebetreu, product manager, lifts, for Hunter, urged dealers to keep safety as their No. 1 consideration when evaluating whether to put a piece of garage equipment back into service.