Published on May 21, 2007 @ 6:00am EST

Nothing routine about tire service

AKRON (May 21, 2007) — Tire dealers should take the recent court judgment against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in a tire-related auto accident as a wake-up call to remain vigilant in reviewing procedures for inspecting, servicing and installing tires on customers' vehicles.

The $4 million judgment, which Wal-Mart is not appealing, further underscores the value of training for tire service employees, including those who perform the routine, seemingly mundane jobs of tire mounting and demounting, balancing and rotation.

Often these activities are handled by the lowest-paid and least-trained employees in a tire shop even though these are some of the most important services a dealership offers. That readily becomes apparent should a tire-related ser-vice issue occur—followed shortly by the call you might get from a plaintiff's attorney.

The situation arose when a Wal-Mart store in Alabama placed a General Grabber AW M+S, size P275/60R17 110S—a tire recalled two years earlier—on a vehicle owned by Carolyne Thorne. Although she had had the four Grabber tires on her Ford Expedition removed and replaced at the time of the recall, the full-size spare, also a Grabber AW M+S, had not been replaced.

Several days before the accident, which left Ms. Thorne paralyzed, the spare tire was mounted on her vehicle at the Wal-Mart tire center she visited for routine maintenance.

The attorney representing Ms. Thorne noted the technicians at Wal-Mart should have noticed both that the tire had been recalled and that it had a suspicious bulge indicating tread separation.

Although the Wal-Mart case is unusual, it shows how something as simple as checking to make sure a tire being installed on a vehicle is safe and the correct product can prevent grave consequences.

That's why all tire retailers should heed the alarm sounding from this case and examine the procedures they have in place—or need to establish—to help prevent such occurrences from happening.

They also should require all employees who perform tire-related work get formally trained. One good way is through the Auto Tire Service (ATS) training and certificate program offered by the Tire Industry Association (TIA).

The ATS program is a self-study course consisting of eight modules on salient topics such as the basic principles of tires and wheels, demounting, mounting and inflation procedures, tire/wheel assemblies and balancing procedures and guidelines.

Technicians who successfully complete the training program and return the proper documentation, along with a minimal fee, will receive a TIA Certificate of Completion.

While nothing can guarantee mistakes won't happen, tire retailers should do everything they can to reduce their exposure to potential problems—and litigation—as well as keep their customers safe.


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