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Recall Keeping Local Tire Dealers Busy

Firestone dealers have become swamped with telephone callsfollowing the company’s voluntary recall Wednesday of certainquestionable tires.

“At least three of every four calls is about this,” said JohnHenry, owner of Fifty-One Firestone in Brookhaven. “Most don’t evenhave the right tire.”

Citing the safety of consumers as the company’s first concern,Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. has a issued a voluntary recall of allFirestone Radial ATX and Radial ATX II tires in size P235/75R15produced in North America and Mexico, and Wilderness AT tires inthe same size produced at the Decatur, Ill., plant, which carry the”VD” code, according to a company press release.

The 6.5 million tires have been recalled after being linked tonearly 300 failures and at least 46 deaths in the past threeyears.

In most of the reported cases, the tires separated from theircasings, sometimes at high speed. About 80 percent of thecomplaints came from Arizona, California, Florida and Texas,according to Firestone.

Henry said he has seen no indications of those conditionshere.

“I’ve seen very few tires separate in the eight years I’ve beendoing this,” he said.

The company has authorized all dealers, Henry said, to replacethe recalled tires free of charge. Replacement tires will be chosenfrom comparable Bridgestone/Firestone tires or, if necessary, fromanother brand.

“Supply is going to be a problem,” Henry said. “The supply isnot going to meet the demand. We’re expecting this to take at leastsix months to a year here.”

Nationally, the company said to expect the recall to last forabout 18 months and customers will be notified by mail if theirvehicle was stocked with the questionable tires when purchased. Therecall will be done in three phases.

Mississippi is included in the second phase, which will beimplemented after the recall is completed in Arizona, California,Florida and Texas.

Henry said this does not mean they will not participate in therecall locally, only that those states have priority with thecompany.

Jerry Westbrooks, parts manager at Albritton-Sullivan FordLincoln Mercury, said the dealership has also been authorized toreplace the recalled tires. The tires come on the popular FordExplorer.

Dealerships, however, are not involved in the refund process forthose who replaced a questionable tire prior to the recall notice,Westbrooks said. They must go through a Firestone dealer.

Westbrooks said Albritton-Sullivan has already placed an orderfor 200 tires comparable to those under the recall notice to helpmeet the demand.

“We just want to have them available because that is what is inthe best interest of our customers,” he said.

The tires on vehicles, both new and used, at the dealership willbe changed before they are sold. Vehicles made after February 2000are not subject to the recall, Westbrooks said.

Westbrooks said that on Ford products the Radial ATX and ATX IItires can be found on older models from about 1990 to 1999, and theWilderness tires will be found on newer vehicles.

Gary Crigger, executive vice president of Bridgestone/Firestone,Inc. said the company has not been able to target any defect in thetires, but that driving in hot temperatures with low tire pressuremay have been a factor in the reported accidents.

The less air pressure in a tire, the smoother the ride, Henryexplained, but greater heat is generated.

Ford recommends keeping the tires pressurized at 26 psi, Henrysaid, but Firestone is recommending a 30 psi level.

“When under inflated, all radial tires generate excessive heat,”Crigger said. “Driving on tires in this condition can lead to treadseparation. Maintaining the proper inflation level will enhance theperformance and lifespan of these tires.”

Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. is based in Nashville and is thelargest subsidiary of Bridgestone Corporation of Japan, the world’slargest tire and rubber manufacturer. They develop, manufacture andmarket Bridgestone, Firestone, Dayton and private brand tires.