Friday, February 15, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Tire Trouble
As if our roads aren't scary enough, now Seven News has discovered some potentially dangerous tires have been sold in South Florida. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has this special assignment report, Tire Trouble.
WSVN -- Most of us are on the road again, day after day. Our safety depends on many factors, not the least of which is the condition of our tires.
Octavio Guerrero: "This is my first car, this is my first time buying tires."
Octavio Guerrero is a college student. He got quite an education when he bought these tires.
Octavio Guerrero: "My right front tire kept losing air, like constantly."
He knew they were used, but he didn't know their true condition, until a friend's father looked at them. He saw they had been cut so deep the ply, the backbone of the tires, had been exposed. It's called re-grooving, and it's a way to make a tire look like it has deep tread when it doesn't.
Octavio Guerrero: "He just said it's really dangerous to drive on those tires."
When a tire is re-grooved, the tread grooves are cut deeper to give more wear. It is allowed on some tires but only ones that are stamped regroovable. There are no such markings on Octavio's tires.
Octavio Guerrero: "So when I saw they looked in fresh condition, they looked very appealing to me, but it took someone to tell me that they were bad tires."
Octavio says he bought his tires at Machine Tires on Bird Road, so Seven News went shopping here too. We bought two used tires and paid $40 for each. No one ever told us the tires had been re-grooved.
Ralph Aronberg: "Passenger car tires are not made to be re-grooved."
We asked professional engineer Ralph Aronberg to examine the tires we bought.
Ralph Aronberg: "Whoever is selling these is putting the public at risk."
He is an expert in accident reconstruction. He says the re-grooving appears to have been done by hand and that black paint was used to hide the fact one of the tires has been cut so deep the ply is exposed.
Carmel Cafiero: "When you see this, what does that tell you?"
Ralph Aronberg: "That tells me that this is a tire that shouldn't be driven upon."
Erasmo Machin owns the tire shop.
Carmel Cafiero: "I'd like to ask you why you are selling re-grooved tires."
Erasmo Machin: "We've been in business for the past 15 years. We've been in business, and that's what sells."
He insisted he did not know re-grooved tires could be dangerous tires.
Erasmo Machin: "You know, it's just part of business."
Carmel Cafiero: "Are you re-grooving them here?"
Erasmo Machin: "No, I buy them from places."
There was no evidence the re-grooving or painting of exposed ply was taking place here, although several clearly re-grooved tires were stacked around the shop. Machin would not identify his supplier.
Erasmo Machin: "I don't know."
Carmel Cafiero: "Well, who did you buy this tire from?"
Erasmo Machin: "I buy them in lots."
Carmel Cafiero: "From where?"
Erasmo Machin: "Different places. Up north, I go pick them up."
There is no state law about re-grooved tires, but experts say consumer laws require disclosure about the condition of a tire.
Liz Compton: "At the very least consumers should know exactly what they're getting or not getting when they buy these tires."
Machin told me he was going to change his ways.
Erasmo Machin: "I will inspect all my tires. I will get rid of all the re-grooved tires, and I will not sell any more re-grooved tires."
Carmel Cafiero: "And apparently he did just that. When a state investigator showed up here a few weeks after our visit, there wasn't one re-grooved tire to be found. However, the shop's owner did end up with a fine."
The fine had nothing to do with re-grooved tires. It turns out Machin not only sold tires but put them on, and that requires registration with the state.
Frank Bialaszewski: "We determined the business was not licensed properly, and they were issued a $300 fine."
Machin paid the fine.
Octavio Guerrero: "I don't drive too fast, and I try to avoid the highway too."
Octavio has since replaced the re-grooved tires. But there's no way to know how many others are also on the road. Machin claims lots of shops sell them. But, you can be sure, tire trouble is just around the corner if you're driving on re-grooved tires.