Beware 'regrooved' car tires, expert says

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SALT LAKE CITY — Some people have found a way to give new life to old tires. The method is called regrooving, and it could be very dangerous, a tire expert warned.

Essentially, it's stripping away rubber to make tire grooves look deeper and thus newer.

"(It's) total disregard for human life. Someone is going to get killed doing this," said Mark Robison, the owner of Hillside Tire.

Robison has been in the tire business for 40 years, and he said regrooving makes a tire much more prone to shredding, punctures and blowouts.

"When you groove out a tire, you're just barely above the cords," he explained. "Even a rock will puncture that tire. High speed, tire blows, car flips — really, really bad things can happen."

Used tires are big business. The Rubber Manufacturers Association estimates 30 million used tires are sold every year. That's about 10 percent of the new tire market.

The used ones can come from scrap piles or salvage yards and end up being sold on Craigslist.

"You don't know the history of the tire. You don't know if they drove flat on the tire," Robison said. "You don't know if the tire had a belt deficiency. You have no idea. You're buying someone else's problem."

(It's) total disregard for human life. Someone is going to get killed doing this.

–Mark Robison, Hillside Tires

But scammers can take advantage of that problem. They can easily buy regrooving tools that add groove depth by cutting into the tire.

"You can actually follow the tread down. You can make a zig-zag, and it's hot," Robison said. "It's super, super hot and it just melts rubber and takes it right out."

Some tires can be regrooved legally, but they must be embossed with the word "regroovable." They are found on semitrailer, never passenger cars.

"Car tires are not regroovable. Light truck tires are not regroovable," said Robison, who doesn't sell used tires at his shops.

So how do you know if you got a tire that's been tampered with? Robison suggested checking for wear indicators between the grooves.

"This little indicator is 2/32nds above the tread groove," he said. "Those will be gone on a regrooved tire. They will not be there."

You can tell how old a tire is by checking the "born-on date" molded onto the sidewall.

"Where it says 3314, this tire was made the 33rd week of 2014," Robison said.

People need to be aware of how dangerous regrooved tires are, he said.

"The tires are what holds your family," he said. "It is the most important thing on your car."


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Bill Gephardt


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