9 Investigates: Recalled tires found on vehicles in Charlotte

by: Scott Wickersham Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

A Channel 9 investigation uncovered that millions of tires recalled because they are considered unsafe are still on the roads.

There’s a recall system in place for cars, but not for tires.

Safety advocates said that needs to change after Channel 9 anchor Scott Wickersham found recalled tires on cars in Charlotte and drivers had no idea.

Tires fail for many reasons, but in some cases when they are red-flagged as having a known defect that makes them unsafe, a recall is issued.

The most notorious tire, the Firestone Wilderness, was recalled in the 1990s because it involved tread separation and deadly rollover crashes.

“This is something that affects everyone on the road and it’s a problem that’s very widespread,” said attorney Matt Wetherington.

Wetherington said since 2002, 4.5 million tires were recalled by various makers, but less than a million were recovered.

Wickersham found those old Wilderness A/T tires form the 1990s are still on the roads in Charlotte.

He found two recalled Firestone tires on two SUVs parked right next to each other in west Charlotte.

Wickersham tracked down Ron Lopes, who owns one of the SUVs.

Lopes told Wickersham he just drove on the spare tire two weeks ago when he got a flat.

“Not too safe, a little concerned. All I need is a blow-out, and what if I’m on the highway,” Lopes said.

Brian Bullard owns a Ford Explorer and said he forgot about the spare.

“That tire was made in 1996,” Wickersham told Bullard.

“Yeah, obviously as I’ve gotten new tires over the years, the spare is not something I have thought about,” Bullard said.

It’s not just old tires. Last month, Michelin recalled a specific batch of its LTX tires because of concerns over tread and rapid air loss.

Wickersham scoured new car lots and local stores, but didn’t find any.

A Costco worker knew about the recall.

He suggested registering any new tires bought so the owner would be notified if there was a problem.

“You can either go online or mail that card in, and that registers it to Michelin,” the employee said.

“So that’s on you (the owner) though?” Wickersham asked.

“Yes, that’s on you,” the employee said.

Wetherington said that is not enough.

That’s why he spent two years gathering federal recall data to create a free smart phone app Tire Facts.

“You can also register the tire and we'll send you an email when your tire expires or if it becomes recalled in the future often faster than you'll get a notice from NHTSA,” Wetherington said.

Wickersham showed the app to Bullard.

“You can enter the DOT number on any tire and it will tell you if there is a recall,” Wickersham said.

“Oh, great,” Bullard said.

Lopes likes it too. “That way the average person can find out if they are in a safe position,” he said.

“Will you keep that spare tire there?” Wickersham asked.

“No. I definitely don't want it anymore,” Lopes said.
 
Some experts also claim any tire over six years of age is dangerous whether recalled or not.

A previous Channel 9 investigation found tires well over six years old being sold as new in local stores.

To learn more about how to find your tire's date code click here.

With the code, owners can find out how old your tire is and if it's part of a recall.