Am I being bullshitted by the tire shop?
April 14, 2008 10:53 AM   Subscribe

So I got a flat tire on my 1984 toyota corolla. I just got my rear tires replaced two months ago and the flat was one of them. I went to get it replaced because I figured it was a defect or something. The shop told me it was my fault because of snow chains. Problem is... I haven't used snow chains on them...

So are they totally bullshitting me? I've only ever used snowchains on my tires once, for about 10 blocks and on my front tires only, BEFORE I even got the rear tires replaced. So what gives? They happened to see the snow chains in my trunk when they pulled out the busted tire and matched up a groove that was worn into the inside of the tire. They showed it to me (and I kept the old tire) and it definitely looks like something wore a circular groove all the way around it, but there is no way it was snow chains.

When I pulled over to see the flat it was nearly half off the rim and the valve was torn out. Does anybody have any idea what could have caused this OTHER than snow chains? I hate being swindled and I know they only decided it was snow chains because they saw I had them.
posted by pontouf to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Maybe you got something wedged between the tire and the inner fender that sliced the tire and then fell out when the tire was flat? Seems rather unlikely. I can't really blame the tire company though, for a new tire to spontaneously self destruct is a bit hard to swallow.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:59 AM on April 14, 2008

This isn't worth fighting for the $80 a new tire is going to cost you. Assuming you've already told them your side of the story and they still refused, your best bet is to simply tell them to table the amateur sleuth business and replace it, or you'll take your business elsewhere (which you'll probably end up doing).
posted by fusinski at 10:59 AM on April 14, 2008

though they are scamming you with the snow chains bit, the fat is that your rear tire does show some wear that is outside of the ordinary. that probably voided whatever warranty there was.

how far did you drive before you stopped? is it possible that the groove was cut in when your tire first went flat?
posted by lester at 11:04 AM on April 14, 2008

doctor_negative writes "for a new tire to spontaneously self destruct is a bit hard to swallow."

It's not uncommon, one of the reasons they want you to come back for a torquing is so they can give the tire a visual inspection to make sure a tread separation hasn't occurred.

Without a picture it's hard to make an informed guess but here's a few road hazards that I've seen damage a tire: Screw/nail, metal bristle off a street sweeper (these are really bad because they are springy and can really mess up your car), chunk of wood with nail, assorted pieces of sheet metal, rocks, curbs, broken manhole cover, pothole, glass.

And of course a manufacturing defect that popped up after a few heat/cool cycles.
posted by Mitheral at 11:41 AM on April 14, 2008

Isn't 1984 the year the Corolla switched to front-wheel drive?

Most tire shops would put new tires on the drive wheels, and put the two best of the tires you already had on the other wheels, rotating them from the drive wheels if necessary. So in your situation, I would be very surprised if the rear tire that blew was one of the one's the shop just put on. If it was, I don't understand why.

If the tire that blew was one of your original tires, that doesn't mean they didn't make a serious blunder. If that groove was already in the tire and they put it on there anyway, they made a mistake that risked your life. They would certainly seem to me to be responsible for any damage you or your car sustained in that blowout, if that is the case.
posted by jamjam at 12:10 PM on April 14, 2008

Did you say that the inner edge was worn? It's important to see the distinction between a worn inner tread, and if the circular groove is on the sidewall of the tire. If the groove was on the sidewall, that was due to driving on a flat tire. When I worked in a tire shop in college, nearly all flat tire repairs were non-repairable due to the tire being ravaged by the road and weight of the car when going flat.

The inner tread being worn could be a number of problems, but it normally is attributed to your alignment being off on the car. Alignment can be off due to a number of issues, mainly hitting potholes and regular road bumpiness.

What you're describing it a blowout, and the blowout can result from many, many issues, but it sounds like a wear problem to me. If the inner edge or outer edges are worn, alignment should be looked at. If BOTH edges are worn, the air pressure in the tire was likely a problem. If the center of the tread is worn, the tires were aired up too much. If you happened to see a bulge on the sidewall, the inner liner had an air bubble in it, causing the liner in side to bulge.

It's likely that the tires were worn, and a manufacturer defect to the tire is highly unlikely. I've almost never seen it in over 3 years of work while I was in college. Circular groove sounds like the damage from it being flat, and would not have been the cause, but a result of the flat tire. I'd say it was most likely something impacting the tire.
posted by MMALR at 12:58 PM on April 14, 2008

Most tire shops would put new tires on the drive wheels, and put the two best of the tires you already had on the other wheels, rotating them from the drive wheels if necessary.

Not any more they don't.
posted by Doohickie at 2:21 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Very interesting, Doohickie.

Here's what Tom and Ray have to say about the issue:

Tom: Well, it's not our theory, Leslie. It's the tire industry's theory. Or, more likely, the tire industry's lawyers' theory. [redcar.gif]

Ray: For some years now, tire manufacturers have been recommending that installers put the newest tires on the rear wheels of all vehicles. Why? Well, the theory is that you have steering control over the front wheels, so if the front end loses traction, you're more able to maintain control of the car. Whereas if the rear end loses traction, you might quickly find yourself in deep doo-doo (i.e., skidding out of control), and you'd have a harder time recovering.

Tom: My guess is that this policy came into being when a customer, or his or her heirs, sued over this very issue. So, from then on, the official recommendation from tire manufacturers was to put the newest tires on the rear.

Ray: Now, don't be too hard on poor Quasimoto. We were just recently enlightened about this ourselves. And if you go to 10 tire dealers, seven of them probably haven't heard of it, either (even though they'll embrace it when they realize that it can be used to encourage people to buy four new tires instead of just two).

Tom: In any case, we do agree with this policy. And not just because our lawyers strongly recommend that we agree with this policy. So ask Quasimoto to move your new tires to the back, Leslie.

posted by jamjam at 4:25 PM on April 14, 2008

Even though Doohickee has cleared up my confusion about which tire actually blew, or even especially now that he has, that circular groove on your sidewall bothers me.

What MMALR said about the groove being damage that occurred after the tire was flat is the 'ever-present rival hypothesis' I suppose, but when you say the groove was worn "into the inside of the tire", if you mean it was worn into the side of the tire that faces in toward the car and cannot easily be seen without taking the wheel off, I just have a hard time seeing how you could have done that unless you drove on it quite a while after it was already flat, and the rim did it.

Since you kept the tire, why don't you compare the serial numbers of the tires they sold you to see if they are the same date of manufacture and batch (instructions here). If the tire that blew is older, I'd suspect funny business such as selling you a tire that was used as new, or something.
posted by jamjam at 9:10 AM on April 15, 2008

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