DOT Statement for Ford-Firestone Hearing: Statement of Michael P. Jackson, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, before the Subcommittees on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection and Oversight and Investigation of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, U. S. House of Representatives, June 19, 2001
New Consumer Advisory
At 11:00 am on Wednesday, August 9, 2000, Bridgestone/Firestone (Firestone) and Ford announced jointly that Firestone will recall approximately 14.4 million tires that contain a safety-related defect. (Most of the tires in question were original equipment on Ford vehicles, primarily the Ford Explorer, although a small number were used as original equipment on other manufacturers' vehicles, and they have been used as replacement tires on a wide variety of models.)
The recall will cover all P235/75 R15 Firestone ATX and ATX II tires (from 1991 to the present) and all P235/75R15 Wilderness AT tires (from 1996 to the present) manufactured at Firestone's Decatur, IL plant. Firestone does not plan to recall the approximately 5.6 million Wilderness AT tires manufactured at its other plants (Joliet, Canada and Wilson, NC) or other models of Wilderness tires. Firestone estimates that approximately 6.5 million of the tires covered by the recall (which include original equipment, replacement, and full-size, non-temporary spare tires) are still on the road.
The remedy will be to replace the defective tires with new Wilderness AT tires from the Joliette and Wilson plants, other Bridgestone/Firestone tires models, and competitors' tires. All owners will be able to obtain the replacement tires at Firestone /tire & Service Centers, and participating Bridgestone/Firestone retail stores. Ford, Mercury, and Mazda owners will be able to obtain them at participating Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Mazda dealerships. Owners who wish to purchase competitors' tires will be reimbursed up to $100 per tire, including mounting and balancing charges and taxes. Owners should pick up a refund form and obtain additional information from a Bridgestone/Firestone authorized retail location.
Bridgestone/Firestone began mailing notification letters to owners on August 26, 2000 and will complete that process by October 14, 2000.
NHTSA will continue its investigation to ascertain whether the scope of the recall is appropriate (e.g., whether the tires from Firestone's other plants should have been recalled also, and whether other sizes of these brands should have been covered). We will also monitor the recall to assure that it is performed expeditiously and that the remedy is adequate.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
1. What tires are being recalled?
All Firestone ATX and ATX II tires in the P235/75R15 size. All Firestone Wilderness AT tires in the P235/75R15 size that were built at the Decatur, Illinois tire plant.
2. What vehicles are these tires on?
These tires were original equipment on certain Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, Ford Ranger pick up trucks, and the Mazda Navajo and B-series pick up trucks. These tires were also sold in the aftermarket and may be on any light truck or SUV that takes the P235/75R15 tire size.
Firestone Tires included in the Recall were installed as Original Equipment on these vehicles *
*Note: Please note that not all tires on these vehicles are included in the recall. See the response to question number 3 below to determine if your tires are included.
*Note: Tires are being recalled regardless of the vehicle they are mounted on. Please go to question 3 below to determine if your tires are included.
3. How do I know if my tires are included?
If you have an ATX or ATX II tire: You need to find your tire size on the tire. The tire size is located on both sides of the tire. It is in raised black letters and it is in slightly smaller print than the words, "Firestone ATX". The size will read as follows: P235/75 R15, 31X10.50R15, LT215/75R15, etc. Only tire size P235/75R15 is included in Firestone's recall.
If you have a Wilderness tire:
If you have a Wilderness tire other than one that says Wilderness AT on the sidewall, your tire is not included.
B. If you have a Wilderness AT tire, you need to check the tire size. The tire size is located on both sides of the tire. It is in raised black letters and it is in slightly smaller print than the words, "Firestone Wilderness". It is located between the words Firestone and Wilderness, slightly above these words. The size may read as follows: P235/75R15, P245/75R16, P255/70R16, P215/75R15, etc.
Only tire size P235/75R15 is included in Firestone's recall.
Next you need to locate the DOT code to determine where your tire was built. The DOT number is located on the blackwall side of the tire, under the F in Firestone, and it is 10 characters long, and it starts with DOT. Since this code is on the blackwall side of the tire, and not on the outlined white letter side of the tire, you may need to crawl underneath your vehicle with a flashlight to find the code. There may be spaces in between some of the numbers, but be sure to count all 10 characters to ensure you have found the proper code. Examples include: DOT VDHL1PM046, DOT W2HL1M0470,
The first two letters of the DOT code are the DOT plant code. If the first two letters of the DOT code are VD, your tires were built in the Decatur, Illinois plant and are being recalled. If they are not VD they are not included. For information:
VD is Decatur, Illinois; VN is Joliete, in Quebec Canada; HY is in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; W1 is Lavergne, Tennessee; W2 is Wilson, North Carolina; 8X is Aiken, SC
NOTE: If you are unable to find your DOT number, if you are unable to determine whether your tire is included in the recall, or if you would rather not crawl under your vehicle, Firestone is offering to inspect all tires. You may take your vehicle to a Firestone store and ask them to check your DOT number. Firestone will inspect the tire and let you know whether it is included in the recall. Participating Ford dealers will conduct similar inspections for Ford vehicles.
4. I recently got my tires replaced, can I get reimbursed?
There is nothing in the law requiring reimbursement for consumers that have had their tires replaced before a recall was announced. However, manufacturers will often reimburse consumers for customer satisfaction. In this case, Firestone has said that customers who exchanged recall tires between January 1, 2000 and August 8, 2000 at a company-owned Firestone Tire & Service Center or authorized Bridgestone/Firestone retailer and paid a prorated fee for those tires may receive reimbursement by completing a reimbursement form available from an authorized Bridgestone/Firestone dealer.
For recalled tires that were replaced by a non-authorized dealer between August 9 and August 16, 2000, reimbursements will be limited to $100 per tire including mounting balancing, and taxes. Call Firestone for more information at 1-800-465-1904.
5. What brand/model of tires will Firestone be replacing my tires with?
The tires being recalled will be replaced with Firestone Wilderness AT tires built at tire plants other than the Decatur, Illinois plant, other Bridgestone/Firestone models, and competitors' tires.
6. I have a Ford Explorer, but I don't have P235/75R15 tires?
Your tires are not involved in the recall. Some Ford Explorers also come equipped with P225/70R15 or P255/70R16 and possibly other tire sizes. Only the P235/75R15 tires are included in the recall.
7. When will I get a notice in the mail?
Firestone began mailing notices on August 26, 2000 and will complete that process by October 14, 2000. Ford owners will receive an additional letter from Ford Motor Company explaining the recall process.
8. What should I do now, while I wait to have my tires changed?
In the meantime, check your tires. Be sure your tires are properly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer's specifications. Do not drive over the speed limit. Do not overload your vehicle. Wear your seatbelt. If you do need to have a repair performed on your tire, have it professionally repaired by a tire dealer or vehicle dealer. Be sure to check the air pressure in your spare tire. If you must use your spare tire, make sure it is properly inflated. Information about the manufacturer's recommended cold tire inflation pressure and vehicle weight rating can be found in both the owners manual and on an identification sticker in the vehicle, most commonly found on the hinge pillar of the driver's side door. Be aware that while these precautions are good general guidelines to tire safety, if your tread has already started to separate from your tire, these guidelines may not prevent a tire failure. Also, be advised that visual inspection of the tires may not be sufficient to detect potential tread separation.
NOTE: If you have a Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, or Mazda Navajo equipped with tires in the P235 tire size (see question 2 above to determine what size you have on your vehicle), Firestone recommends that you increase the air pressure in the tires to 30 psi cold and maintain it at that level. Ford, as noted on the identification sticker mentioned above, recommends 26 psi for the Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, and the Mazda Navajo with the P235 tire size. Ford now approves that a range of 26-30 psi as appropriate for these vehicles. Consumers who own Explorers with other tire sizes, such as the P255 or P225, should follow the recommendations of the manufacturer on the identification sticker in the vehicle.
9. How much will the recall cost me?
Replacement tires will be provided at no cost to the consumer. Consumers who wish to purchase competitors' tires will be limited to $100 per tire, including mounting, balancing, and taxes.
10. Where do I go to get my tires replaced?
If you have a Ford vehicle, you can go to either a participating Ford Lincoln or Mercury dealer or Firestone tire store. If you have a Mazda, you can go to a participating Mazda dealer for a free tire inspection, but their dealers are not currently equipped with tires for replacement. If you don't have a Ford vehicle, you must go to a Firestone store. Please be aware that dealers may not have the inventory to furnish tires immediately. Call your dealer or store to schedule an appointment. To identify a convenient and participating retailer, call toll-free 1800-465-1904 or 1-888-276-2120 in Puerto Rico. Independent participating dealers include:
Costco: Replacement with Wilderness AT or competitor's tires and handling reimbursements. Free mounting and installation.
Sears: Handling Sears customers who originally purchased Firestone tires at Sears. This is done under Sears 100% satisfaction policy. Replacement tire cost is limited to original purchase price. If replacement tire costs more, then customer pays the difference. Tire installation and mounting is free. For everyone else, Sears will replace tires at cost to the consumer who can then request reimbursement from Firestone.
Sunoco Ultra Service Centers: (800) 786-6261
Wards: Replacement with competitor's tires at no cost and with free mounting and installation.
11. What is NHTSA doing with the investigation?
NHTSA is keeping the investigation open until we determine whether the scope of Firestone's recall is appropriate. We are reviewing all of the data that is sent in to determine if the scope of the recall is justified, or if other tire sizes, additional tires built at other plants, or other tire models should be included.
12. What is the difference between tires built at the Decatur, Illinois plant that are involved in the recall and the other tires that are built at other Firestone plants?
An internal engineering review within the Decatur plant is underway. Currently, Firestone believes that the scope of the recall is appropriate based on data they have analyzed and shared with NHTSA. Our investigation will remain open until we verify that the scope of Firestone's recall is appropriate. We are reviewing all of the data that is sent in to determine if the scope of the recall is justified, or if other tire sizes, additional tires built at other plants, or other tire models should be included.
13. Will my spare tire be replaced?
Yes, if your spare tire is one of the tire models included in the recall, Firestone will replace the spare tire at no charge also.
14. To Whom do I report a tire failure?
NHTSA's investigation will remain open until we determine whether the scope of Firestone's recall is appropriate. So, if you have experienced any tire failure, we encourage you to report it to us by calling our toll-free Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or by completing an electronic complaint form on this website, http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov. To report a tire failure, you may also contact Firestone at 1-800-465-1904, Ford at 1-800-392-3673, or whomever is appropriate for your particular tire and/or vehicle if the tire that failed was original equipment.
When reporting a tire failure, it would be helpful if you are able to provide us with the following information:
> Your Name, Address, and Day and Evening Phone Number(s)
> Describe what happened, you were driving down the road and.... How did you know you had a tire problem?
> How many people were in the vehicle?
> Was anybody hurt?
> Do you know what kind of tires were on the vehicle? (example: Firestone, Goodyear, Cooper, General, etc.)
> Do you know what model of tires were on the vehicle? (example: Firestone ATX, Firestone Wilderness, Goodyear Wrangler, etc.)
> What vehicle were you driving? Make, Model, and Model Year (example: 1997 Ford Explorer, 1995 Chevrolet Blazer, etc.)
If you have your vehicle identification number (VIN), it is helpful. The VIN is located at the base of the driver's side of the front windshield and is 17 characters long. It is also located on a sticker in the vehicle, usually in the driver's door jam. You may also find your VIN on your car insurance card, insurance paperwork, and/or your state motor vehicle title.
> Were the tires Original Equipment (sold on the vehicle when it was new) or aftermarket?
> When did the tire failure occur? Date of incident:
> About how many miles were on your vehicle? Approximate vehicle mileage:
> About how many miles were on your tire? Approximate tire mileage:
> How fast were you going? Approximate speed at the time:
> Can you get the DOT # off of the tire that failed. [On tires involved in the recall, the DOT number is located on the blackwall side of the tire, under the F in Firestone, and it is 10 characters long, and it starts with DOT...., on other tires it is located on at least one sidewall of the tire (please note if your tire is still on the vehicle, it may be on the inner sidewall) and it always begins with the letters DOT] (example: DOT# VDHL1PM046)
Beginning in the year 2000, tires have an 11 digit DOT number (example: DOT# VDHL1PM0400)
> Can we get your tire size? (examples: P235/75R15, LT 255/75R16, P255/70R16, 31X10.50R15LT, etc.)
> Location of tire on the vehicle: Which tire was it? (example: driver's side rear tire)
> Do you still have the tire and/or the tread (if the tread separated)?
> Have you contacted your dealer (e.g., Ford, Toyota, etc.) or the tire store (i.e., Firestone, Goodyear, Michelin, etc.) or your insurance company? What did they say?
> Do you have a police report, photographs, or any other evidence of what happened? Is it possible to get a copy?