Maintaining the lifespan of a vehicle is incredibly important, especially in sprawling cities like Houston, where driving is required. Regular oil changes, tire rotations, and other routine automotive maintenance are typically scheduled according to a vehicle’s mileage. Even with proper maintenance, defective car parts can still directly impact the ability to operate a car safely. Tire defects, for instance, can be incredibly dangerous. Learning about the various manufacturing and design defects that can occur during tire production and distribution can help keep drivers safe when behind the wheel.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2017, there were 738 tire-related accidents. These accidents can be particularly jarring, as we are generally unaware that one or more of our tires are defective – leaving tire defect accidents to catch us by complete surprise. Tire problems often result in a blowout or shredded tire, either of which can prove catastrophic or even fatal. Tires can be deemed defective for a multitude of different reasons, two of the most being manufacturing defects and design defects.
The vast majority of tires manufactured for passenger vehicles are steel-belted radial tires. The most common defect associated with these types of tires is tire tread separation.
Tire designs are constantly changing and adapting to keep up with tire performance and style. Design specifications typically take in account different road surfaces, temperatures, speed, and handling; however, regardless of new styles, certain standards must be met to ensure federal safety compliance. Sadly, in an effort to save money, some tire companies knowingly manufacture tires with design defects. Failure to design tires that meet the required criteria of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) can lead to various tire defects, including:
A belt wedge is a rubber component between the two steel belts of a tire used to prevent tire belts from rubbing against each other, which could result in belt detachment. Faulty belt wedge design can fail to decrease the strain and heat that impact the edge of the belt when driving, resulting in belt separation and premature tire failure.
The cap ply is a component between the tread and the top of the belt on a tire, which is used to enhance the durability of the belt edge. Although the design feature is only necessary for high speed or high-performance tires, its absence can constitute a design flaw that increases the risk of belt separation.
Skim stock is a rubber compound that includes a tire’s steel wires or fabric reinforcement. Inadequate use in the tire design can result in a high rate of tread separation.
The inner liner is a built-in inner tube that prevents a tire’s compressed air from escaping while also preventing moisture from entering the tire. Halobutyl, a synthetic rubber copolymer, is typically the primary component of the inner liner. In the event Halobutyl is not used or not enough of it is used, tire durability can degrade, increasing the risk of tire failure.
Tire designs are realized through manufacturing. The production of quality tires requires a manufacturing process with adequate training and supervision. Workers handling tire manufacturing are typically placed on assembly lines for long shifts, often pressured by employers to produce a certain number of tires per shift. This stressful environment can lead to errors, which can result in a manufacturing defect. Common tire defects in manufacturing include:
Rubber tire components are typically stored in rolls, with different layers separated by sheets of fabric or vinyl called liners during the manufacturing process. These liners imprint the soft rubber components with their pattern; however, if the imprinted rubber is cured, it may not properly bond, which makes tires less durable.
During the tire curing process, air or water can be left behind. These residual elements can potentially create pockets of trapped air or steam blisters. The blister or pocket defects can prevent the tire’s rubber components from bonding properly, thus degrading the tire’s durability and increasing the risk for tread separation.
Foreign materials can also become trapped within the rubber components of a tire, preventing them from properly bonding. These materials can include anything not called for in the manufacturing specifications, such as wood chips, nuts, and bolts, among other items.
The inner liner of a tire is responsible for retaining compressed air and maintaining tire pressure. Mistakes in manufacturing can cause the ends of these liners to separate, crack, or open up.
Steel belts in tires are meant to enhance durability; however, in the event these belts are not properly aligned, they can increase the strain and stress at the edge of the belt, increasing the risk of belt separation.
Porosity or a void space in the material of the tire can indicate improper bonding of the rubber components during the curing process. Porous tires are typically much less durable and tend to experience premature failure.
In Houston, driving long distances and/or spending a good amount of time behind the wheel is fairly common. When you hit the road, ensuring your safety and that of other drivers is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, a defective tire can result in major injuries or death. The experienced Houston personal injury attorneys at the Ramsey Law Group can help you hold negligent automotive designers, manufacturers, distributors, and other companies in the supply chain accountable for injuries caused by their actions. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident involving a defective tire, contact our Houston car accident lawyers at Ramsey Law Group today for a free consultation.