Does Peter owe his pal four new tires?

On this week's Car Talk, Peter from D.C. posted an automotive-ethical dilemma of tremendous import.

Okay, we're not so sure of the "tremendous import" part. But, we did think it was a good question. And we're interested to hear your take on it.

Here's the scoop. Peter borrowed a pal's Subaru to go furniture shopping. On the way home (without furniture, sadly), he got a flat tire. Now, Peter's more than happy to pay for the replacement tire. But, here's the catch. His friend says that the dealer is telling him to replace all four tires. Otherwise, the Subaru's all-wheel drive system might suffer. As a result, Peter's friend wants him to pay for two of the four new tires.

Should he? What would you do? How much would you pay?

Let us know!

Tom and Ray
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers

P.S. You can hear the call right here.

Unfortunately damages do occur to borrowed items. Because they are borrowed and not rented you may be covered by your homeowners insurance. Damages to automotive items may also be covered by your automobile insurance. Check with your respective agents for details. The other option would be to shop for a used tire, same manufacturer, comparable milage, as a replacement. I have done this 2 times and have had great success.

I think there is a better alternative here, maybe. The car had 40k on it, the tires 18k, so we can assume the original tires went 22k. If the replacement tires were the same brand, and apparently the owner got them from the dealership as that is where he got the advise to replace all four, then we can assume the current tires would also last 22k. Therefor the owner got 18/22nds, or 82% of the tires life. The borrower should pay for the remaining life lost of all four tires, or 4/22nds or 18% of the bill. That would be fair.

Now if the replacement tires had been an upgrade and were expected to last longer, then the tread depth should have been measured and the percentage of life left should be calculated based on the replacement of the tires at 3/32" tread depth. If the remaining tire tread life was over 50%, then the caller should jump on the original deal.

Now one more piece of advice should have been given, the owner of the vehicle should keep the best of the remaining tires in case one of the new ones gets damaged when it is half worn, then the old tire could be reused and save the cost of 4 new tires again. All owners of 4wd or AWD vehicles should get this advice. Some of these guys belong to clubs and the clubs should encourage all owners who find themselves in this situation to keep ALL remaining good tires to share with other members who get into this situation.

I would take into acount any negligance on Peters part. If it was a unavoidable situation all Peter is responsible for is getting the car safely and undamaged to a repair facility, and making sure the jack and all other tools he used to put on the spare is correctly stored. Ever notice on some cars how hard it is to get all that stuff put back in its correct place?

This aspect about AWD cars does not sit well with me,there should be geater tolerence built in.

Peter Could Offer To Pay For The Ruined Tire, But That’s All.

These cars have a design flaw that makes it necessary to replace four tires when only one is needed. Let’s say a car is designed so that running it out of gas necessitates replacing the entire gas tank. Somebody borrowing the car and running out of gas would reasonbly assume that a new gas tank is not required.

Getting a flat tire, I would reasonably assume would not require more than one (possibly two at most) new tires. I would never buy a car that has this design flaw. They need to go back to the drawing board and perfect this technology before thrusting it on customers and friends. It is NOT PRACTICAL. Peter should not have to pay for this nonsense.

Peter needs a new friend. This one is not being reasonable. Peter is being honest and fair.

Peter should send his friend a check for the cost of one new tire. Period.

It doesn’t matter how good a friend the car owner is. How good a friend and reputation for being a friend does the borrower want to be? The borrow didn’t say if he thinks he did something to to directly cause the flat such as drive thru the edge of the road where trash gathers or something else. If so I would pay for all four tires. If the flat was the luck of the draw a nail, screw or whatever he should feel lucky that the car owner is only asking for half the cost. Investigate selling the used tires to help offset the cost. The borrow said he sold his car to avoid the cost of high priced gas and insurance on a car he was not using. Transferring his costs of transportation to his friend by borrowing a car is in effect shifting responsibilty for his own welfare to others. Overdoing this tendancy in other areas as well could lead to a derogitory label such a ‘leech’.

What would the possibility be of finding a replacement for the bad tire from a used tire or recycle yard? That would work out well for everyone!

A good independent tire dealer may be of help here. I had a tire blow out on my 2003 Toyota 4Runner. This car has a full size spare, so I put it on. I went to my independent tire dealer and he confirmed what the owner’s manual said that all 4 tires should be the same make. He didn’t handle this make of tire, but said that he would call around to other tire stores and get a tire for me that matched the originals. He estimated that it would cost about $150. After I dropped off the car, he called me at work and said that he had the exact tire from a customer who had replaced the make of tire I owned with 4 of a different brand. He said he would install this tire on the rim–it still had at least half the tread life left and would be fine for the spare. His price was $35. Talk to an independent tire dealer.

I am wondering if there is another possibility. If the spare is of the same make, model, and size of the worn tires, that tire could be installed to replace the damaged flat tire. If there is a diameter problem, the tread could be shaved to bring it to the same diameter as the worn tires. The spare wheel could be reloaded with a used tire of the same size to be used only in an emergency.

Alternately, if a new tire could be found of the same make, model, and size as the existing tires, the tread of that tire could be shaved to match the diameter of the existing three tires.

In this case where all 4 tires have to be replaced, I judge that Peter is obliged to replace the one tire damaged and one third of the prorated cost of the remaining value of the existing tires to be determined by the tread depth remaining.

I agree with you. Replace 1 tire, get it shaved to the correct diameter. Or offer that amount of money if the owner wants 4 tires anyway. It’s not reasonable for the owner to demand his friend compensate for the unreasonable tire replacement requirements of the car.

All things in life involve risk. At least 75% of the risk should belong to the owner of the car. It doesn’t matter who was driving.

Peter owes for the tire, and possibly the wheel, that were damaged on his watch. The rest of it is owners responsibility. The tire may have been defective, the owner may have skipped on maintenance, or drove the car harder than he’s admitting.

The alternatives given below (pro rate the cost of the remaining life of the other tires, or shave the new tire to meet the size of the three good ones) are also good. Each argument has it’s merit. But telling him to pay for all of 4 replacement tires is wrong.

The best advice is Rent something larger if you need something larger.

No. Peter owes his friend at most a new tire and some information. Various tire suppliers will shave tires to a specified tread depth. I believe this is done for racing. I just looked on the Tire Rack site and they say they will do this for AWD cars for $25 to $35 per tire. This sounds much more reasonable than wasting 3 decent tires and a bunch of money. Check this link:
An additional comment, if the dealer doesn’t know about this service, they should. If they know about it but would rather run the wallet vac on you, then they may not have your best interests at heart.

You Blockheads, you blew it.
Peter did not cause a flat, he had it repaired professionally. He told the car owner. His liabilty is finished, if he felt realllly bad he could offer to pay for half a tire or dinner out. But the car was lent to him!!! That’s what lending means,why didn’t his friend ask Peter for oil change money, air cleaner money, wash and wax service? To pay for 1/2 of 4 replacement tire costs, like some blockhead suggested, was way out of line. The tires were 1/2 worn out already, Peter was lucky he made it home with that junker! Peter needs a new friend.

I think there is a compromise that Peter and his friend can laugh about over a beer. Do what I did when I was told the same for my LandRover by a large retail automotive tire store, (that rhymes with beers). Outswindle the swindler. I agreed when they told me the very same thing, that you cannot just change one in a 4 wheel drive vehicle (although I knew differently) and had them change all 4 tires. They then asked what they should do with the other three that had been removed. I stated since, “I cannot just change one at a time due to the complex four wheel drive system, you might as well throw them out…I can’t use them”. Immediately upon getting home, I contacted Land Rover of North America for an official position on how to change one tire. As I expected, as long as it is the same size tire, the “complex” drivetrain will not be damaged be replacing the one flat. I then contacted the tire supply retail chain and relayed this infomration to the manager. Unfortunately, since my other tires were discarded, they had no choice but to credit my account for three brand new tires. I am not the type to ever swindle, but if they want to play that game, I’m game.

I think you might be making that up. Especially the part about Sears’ concentration camp-like efficiency in disposing of used tyres. They were gone the same day? “I think there is a made-up story that JimMacPT and his friend can laugh about over a beer.”

Caller X - 100% true. I can pull the receipts if you would like. It was a 99 Discovery II on Cape Cod visiting the inlaws/ Went to the Hyannis Sears where some kid told me that was the story. The Disco was my 3rd LR (I’ve had 2 more since) and I knew the mechanics of the 4wd system enough to know it was BS. I’m not a mechanic (shade tree maybe) but I’m definitely not an idiot. You are correct in the timing in that it was probably a day or two later, however, I was back home in NY so it wouldn’t have mattered. I absolutely looked at my brother in law and said , “they’re trying to pull one over on me.” I wish I was making it up. No reason to. I bet if you contact Subaru or get an answer from a competent mechanic (like these guys) you will see the same rule applies. Even Subaru doesn’t say they all need to be replaced but goes into detail regarding tread pattern, size, manufacturer, etc. The word is recommends.

I still use Sears and have always appreciated their work, however, this one kid was on his own. Even the Manager a few days later didn’t question it. Sorry you don’t believe me. No reason to lie.

Of course there’s a reason to lie, the sheer fun of pulling off a hoax. But I believe you. I raise my glass to you.

Cheers! :slight_smile: