There's nothing wrong with the Rubber Manufacturers Association's (RMA) wanting to open a discussion about ways to improve communications about the importance of and need for safe and proper tire repair techniques.
It's actually a good thing to call attention to this often undervalued, overlooked part of the tire industry.
But the idea the RMA is floating about possibly developing model state legislation aimed at regulating and enforcing proper tire repairs should be taken off the table.
Tire repair is not a practice that needs regulating—any more than any other automotive service does.
The services performed in a tire and automotive repair business should be allowed to stand on their own, and if the work is not done properly and causes a problem, then the outlet and/or technician should be held accountable.
There's no need to create legislation for this to occur.
Repairing tires—and especially following proper and industry-approved tire repair techniques—is hugely important, not only for safety reasons, which are No. 1, but for the liability involved. Doing so properly can save a customer's tire that otherwise might have to be thrown away.
What is an issue in the tire industry is the inconsistency that exists in how tires are repaired. Not every outlet that services tires repairs them properly, following accepted industry standards.
This is where the RMA should put its focus. How can the industry do a better job of educating tire repair technicians and customers about the importance of proper tire repair?
There is a difference between an improper and proper tire repair. The latter requires the repair be done from the inside out rather than simply plugging the tire from the outside. The proper technique involves, among other steps, the removal of the tire from the wheel to inspect for internal damage that might not otherwise be seen, A series of steps and procedures need to be followed to ensure a proper tire repair.
Tire dealers especially have to be sensitive to issues surrounding the repairing of speed-rated and/or run-flat tires and to follow the tire manufacturers' policies regarding this. In some cases, these policies may make it impossible to repair a tire.
Kevin Rohlwing of the Tire Industry Association spoke at the Clemson University Tire Industry Conference earlier this year about the need for tire dealers to follow the best possible practices in repairing tires, noting there may be a fine line between actually repairing them and fixing them.
“Fixing a flat is cheap and easy,” he said. “You stop the air from leaking out of a tire, often without removing the tire from the rim. Repairing flats, however, means restoring the original condition of the tire by removing the damage, filling the void and sealing the inner liner with pitch. It requires special tools, materials and training, so it is neither cheap nor easy.”
This, in our opinion, is why the RMA's focus and that of the tire industry should be on training, training and more training.
Considering the high turnover in many tire dealerships and other outlets that repair tires, the need is ongoing for more education about how to do repairs properly. We welcome more companies' and individuals' getting involved in that process.
The focus, though, should be on training and education, not on getting the government involved with more possibly burdensome legislation.