Tire Defect Injuries 

Tires are vitally important and, when they fail, there can be catastrophic results. Some tire failures are clearly caused by poor design and manufacture – companies omit safety features from the tire design or are careless when manufacturing the tire. These defects can cause the tread to separate from the tire. Obviously, if the tire loses its tread while traveling down the highway, the vehicle becomes almost impossible to control.

Tires are built in layers, like a sandwich.  On the inside is the inner liner, which keeps the air inside the tire.  It is important that as little air possible is allowed to migrate through the tire because oxygen can cause the tire to come apart. The next layer(s) are the body plies, which are usually made out of a polyester fabric. Then the steel belts, usually two, which are cut on a bias and laid so that the wires in the belts run in a cross pattern. Between the belts and the tread can be cap plies and belt wedges, the need for which are explained below. Finally, the last layer is the tread. These layers are all chemically bonded together in the “curing press,” which basically bakes the tire together.  At any one of these layers, there can be design and manufacturing defects that can cause the tread to come off the tire at highway speeds.

Tires, even when used properly, are subjected to an enormous amount of stress. The tires have the weight of the vehicle on them and are traveling down the road at high speeds. Both of these forces cause heat to build up at stress points on the shoulder of the tire (where the tire bends from the tread to the sidewall). The stress and subsequent heat are greatest where the belts end in the shoulder because as that steel flexes going down the road, it creates friction and heat. The heat that is created at the belt ends can cause the bond between the tread and the belts to break down. Over time, these cracks at the edges of the tread grow toward the middle of the tire. When the bond is weakened to the point that it cannot withstand the centrifugal forces created by the rotating tire, the tread will separate from the tire and cause a crash.   

The key to preventing tire detreads is to reduce oxygen permeation through the liner and reducing stress at the belt edges. Some tire companies omit safety features in their tires that would prevent retreads because they would hurt profits. No inner liner can be 100% impermeable, but the tire companies can add chemicals (like halobutyl) to reduce air permeation through the liner. But halobutyl is more expensive than natural rubber, so some tire companies do not use 100% halobutyl. This is a design defect that can cause tread separations because oxidation has broken down the bond in the layers of rubber.

There are several ways to reduce stress at the belt edges by adding safety features. One of the most common safety features are belt edge gum strips, or BEGS. These wedges help keep the belt edges from flexing, which reduces friction and helps keep the tire together. Another safety feature is a cap ply, typically made of nylon, that wraps around the belts. The nylon helps hold the belts together because as it heats up going down the road, it shrinks. The cap ply squeezes the belts together, which helps counter the centrifugal force and holds the tire together. Cap plies cost money, although not much, so some companies do not include them in their tires. This is a design defect – the company has made a conscious decision to omit a feature from the design that could prevent tread separations.

Sometimes the design of the tire is fine but it is not put together correctly. Tires are built in layers that all have to stick together. If foreign matter gets into the rubber or between the layers during the tire building process, the bond is weaker. Over the course of many tire cases, we have seen manufacturing defects like chicken bones baked into the tire, sandwich bags in the rubber, pieces of wood and other foreign materials caused by hasty and negligent construction practices. When the layers do not stick together, either because there is foreign matter in the rubber, the belts are not aligned properly, the tire was not cured correctly, or there was moisture trapped in one or more layers when the tire was cured, the tread can come off without any notice.

When that happens the car is unbalanced and pulls to one side and is very difficult to control. The vehicle becomes a thousand pound, out-of-control mechanism of destruction. These cases happen more often in the Southern part of the U.S., where heat exacerbates the design and manufacturing defects.

The Merman Law Firm has been responsible for millions of dollars in settlements on behalf of clients injured by defective tires. If you or a loved one has been injured by a tire accident, you need the best tire lawyer to represent you. The best tire lawyer is knowledgeable about how tires are built and what safety features are available. The tire companies know the Merman Law Firm and they know that Mr. Merman knows tires. If you think you have a defective tire case, call the Merman Law Firm for a free consultation today.