It's got to be tempting for tire dealers in the Gulf Coast region hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to want to sell the tires in their inventory that have been exposed to contaminated flood waters.
With all that these dealers have been through and the struggles they've had just to get their shops back up and running, it doesn't seem right to have to discard seemingly fine tires and then fight with insurance companies over them.
But the fact is, many affected tires may not be fine and dealers should get rid of them if there's any doubt about their condition.
Tires that have been exposed to the elements may look like they haven't sustained damages. So why not just clean them up, put them back into the inventory and sell them to the next customer who comes in needing that size? After all, tires are practically indestructible, right?
But the best advice from tire manufacturers is: Don't do that.
Choosing otherwise, dealers unwittingly may end up mounting potentially unsafe products on their customers' cars. The risk isn't worth it-not for the customer or for the dealership-particularly in this litigious era.
Dealers will have to decide for themselves if a tire is safe to sell or not, and they'll need to inform their employees about what to do.
If they have trouble determining the safety of a questionable tire, they can call their customer service reps for help. But the best advice may be to err on the side of safety and discard it rather than take any chances.
It may not be easy to determine whether a tire has been damaged, so it's best to follow the tire makers' guidelines.
Certainly any tire showing signs of physical damage, such as cuts, scrapes, punctures, etc., should be discarded, according to advisories from the major tire manufacturers.
What about tires that look fine but have been exposed to contaminants such as grease, oil, chemicals, salt, etc.?
These tires should be tossed too, according to Goodyear, Michelin North America Inc. and Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS).
Michelin urges dealers to discard any tires, even those mounted on vehicles, that have been ``subjected and exposed to water from hurricanes, storms, floods, etc., for a substantial amount of time.''
The company noted that ``prolonged exposure can have a degenerative chemical effect with rubber and lead to potential failure in the tire's life.''
BFS also reminds dealers to drill holes in and to remove the DOT serial numbers from unserviceable tires.
It also urges dealers to comply with all laws, including local environmental regulations, when disposing the tires.
Dealers affected by the hurricanes have had a tough enough time. They don't need to create another storm for themselves by selling potentially unsafe tires to their customers.