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Summer tire blowouts could be lack of maintenance

Most times of the year, when cruising the Valley freeways you see them, usually more so in the summer months.

As temperatures reach 100 degrees, you will start to notice more and more shredded tire treads and debris littering the roadways. It’s not the litter I’m concerned about, it’s the safety of the vehicle driver, passengers and other motorist that concerns me the most.

As drivers, we must take on the reasonability of proper vehicle care and maintenance. For most, this means taking your car in for service at least two to three times per year. I would be willing to bet that the majority of the scraps you see come from a tire blow out are the result of a poorly-maintained vehicle or worn-out tires that should have been taken off the road long ago. Of course, there is the occasion you hit something on the road or pick up a nail that causes a sudden flat.

As a shop owner, sometimes you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. I’ll explain. You see, my technicians and I are the experts. You rely on us to take good car of your car, including making proper repair and service recommendations. At times we get beat up for it. Maybe I tell Ms. Jones she needs a brake repair and the response is “You’re only supposed to be changing my oil, why are you looking at my brakes?” Dammed if you do.

The next customer, Mr. Smith comes in. Since we’re now a little jaded by Ms. Jones reaction, we just do the oil change and don’t look the car over. Then, you guessed it, Mr. Smith calls reading us the riot act because we did not tell him about something wrong with his car and now he is broken down. Dammed if you don’t.

You see what I mean? Sometimes we can’t win! Where does the responsibility end for you and liability begin for your repair shop?

The verdict is in! We all lose! Here’s an example: Over a several month period in 2009, a family was taking their SUV to their local dealership in the Northeast for routine service — actually four times between January and April. During each of the first three visits, the courtesy inspection performed by the mechanic noted “abnormally worn tires.” The customer was advised and declined to purchase the necessary tires.

Now comes the problem: On the fourth and final visit, the SUV’s tires were still worn out and in need of replacement. However, this time, the mechanic does not tell the owner about the worn out tires again. He’s probably afraid to get beat up or accused of being too pushy. After all, he told them three times prior about the tires. Well, in hindsight, the mechanic should have taken the beating.

Maybe telling the owner about the bad tire for the fourth time would have convinced them, maybe not. As expected, the tire that the owner had been told about three times blew out — and the combination of SUVs and blow outs are not a good match. Although a death was not a result of this accident, serious injuries were sustained and lawyers got involved.

As a result, we no longer have to wonder where the responsibility ends and the liability begins. It seems the moment you walk in my door, the responsibility and liability has shifted to me, the shop owner! The court determined that “In short, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude the dealer was wantonly indifferent to a high probability of injury when it failed to recommend tire replacement on April 9, 2009,” according to the court documents. This ruling cost the dealer $3.9 million.

I can understand you putting your guard up when the mechanic or service adviser comes to you with a list of recommendations or repairs. You need to know that it is OK to ask questions and even have them do “show and tell” with you if you don’t understand what they’re talking about or why it needs to be done. The good shops like to do this. If you constantly find yourself doubting your mechanic, maybe it’s time for a change. At some point you need to establish a long-term relationship with a shop and let them take care of all your needs. Whatever you do, don’t ignore us.

For more in-depth look at topics like this join local automotive experts Matt Allen and Dave Riccio on Bumper to Bumper Radio, Arizona’s top automotive show heard every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on News/Talk 92.3 KTAR. Call in your questions live at (602) 277-5827 or find them at for the best partners, products and advice! Matt Allen is the owner of Virginia Auto Service in Central and Dave Riccio is the owner of Tri-City Transmission in Tempe.