CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

The poor state of the tire industry

A recent post regarding anomolous noises from a new set of tires prompted me to want to open a discussion about same. It’s been my experience that defective new tires are entirely too common, to the opint that I’ve come to believe (a) defective tires are considered in the industry to be just plain normal, and (b) tire salesmen will never admit to a defective tire unless forced to.



I personally have stories, as I’m sure everyone does. One particular time I ended up having to have all four tires replaced with a different brand…the ones I had installed just plain vibrated…no matter what was tried.



Just thought I’d get the feelings of others on this subject. Does the tire industry consider poor quality perfectly acceptable? How did they get to this sad state of affairs?

I would say that any defect that causes a safety issue it one too many.

That said, I really don’t think the defect rate is all that high nor do I believe it has increased over the years. In fact I would have to guess that the safety defects have reduced quite a bit.

In addition the quality and value of tyres has increased greatly. Modern Winter tyres are far better than the old snow tyres in every way. All season tyres are better than the old tyre designs.

So why do we see so many complaints. I would suggest two reasons. First people have come to expect something better than we got back in the 1960’s. So even if a tyre is better than dad got on his Chevy we often see it as less that it should be. Second we tend to be able to hear more complaints today. People don’t tend to comment on line about tyres that work, so all we hear about are those that don’t.

In short, I don’t agree that the industry is turning out poor quality today.

I, too, disagree that it’s any worse or better than any other time. The only comments to be voiced are the bad ones, never the good ones. Here at my Ford dealer we stock General, Continental, BFG, Michelin, Uniroyal,Pirelli,and Goodyear tires and in the past five years of the Ford ATW program ( where dealers have tires in the building instead of buying outside )I’ve seen only two mfg defects. Complaints are always the first opinion we here but consider the ratio to sales totals and, when “no news is good news” you’ll see that it’s not so bad at all .

I tend to buy pricier tires/ultra performance tires(Michelin/Bridgestone) so I have not run across this problem. Typically my tires have been made in Japan or Western Europe.

IMHO you get what you pay for in tires.

That giant sucking sound-only it’s China and not Mexico. Consumers insist on the lowest absolute cost so producers look for any competitive opportunity to save costs on labor etc. You gets what you ask and pay for. A start is to deal with reputable companies such as Goodyear who do a good volume and avoid places like Sears, Costco, Walmart, etc. In my humble opinion anyway. How did we get there indeed.

So you think Michelins purchased at Costco are inferior?

Inferior no, old yes.

I have not experienced a defective tire. And I have worked with tire manufacturers in the past. They often have advanced degrees in physics and chemical engineering even on the marketing side.

Of course, nothing is 100 percent so I won’t say you didn’t have bad tires. Even so, vibration is most often due to faulty installation, worn steering and suspension components, wheel misalignment, improper wheel balancing, wheel damage, or dragging brake pad or parking brake shoes. Those issues can play out differently on different tires. If I had a vibration, I would not suspect the tires first.

I think that the quality of tires has improved over the years, but it is possible that a defective tire may slip through. Back in the 1950’s my parents had a Buick that had a vibration between 55 and 60 miles per hour. The tire dealer blamed the car. The service agency at the Buick dealer could find nothing wrong with the car, although the service manager would take it for a ride and drive it 95 miles per hour and couldn’t detect a vibration. Finally, an independent shop determined that one tire was out of round. It wouldn’t show up on the balance machine. My guess is that in the case where you replaced all four tires, you probably had one that was out of round and all four tires were condemned.

In recent years, I’ve never had a defective tire and this includes some bargain priced whomp brand that I purchased for my old car at WalMart.

What? How do you figure?

At least in my town, the Costco is one of the highest volume tire sellers in town and they only sell the most commonly used sizes, so their tires typically haven’t been sitting on the shelves forever like the tires at a lot of places. I know at least the last two sets of tires I’ve bought there have had manufacture date codes within a few months of when I bought them.

I’ve never had a problem since I figured out that buying good name brand tires is the way to go. When I was buying tires cheap as possible, I ended up with a couple sets that were, IMHO, criminally low-quality tires. I think that, like many products these days, there’s a lower-tier of really cheap tires that didn’t really used to exist. Back 20 years ago, the cheapest tire you could get was still going to be an okay tire. But nowadays you can get a cheaper tire, but they’re really crummy, with poor handling, poor tread life, poor traction and they’re FAR more prone to damage from improper inflation or road hazards. None of the problems I had with them were anything that would be technically considered a manufacturing defect, but they still caused all sorts of problems.

I seriously doubt you’d get “old” tires at Costco, especially michelins.

I agree with Bing. I usually do internet research on tires before changing to a different brand and found a tire that seemed to be just what I wanted. So, I went to several local tire stores to purchase the tires only to be told that the tires were out of stock and on back-order. There were, however, plenty of them available through the internet from several large tire wholesalers, so it was puzzling to me why there were so many of them out there, but none of the retail outlets could get any. When I dug a little deeper, it turns out that the manufacturer stopped manufacturing that particular tire but was preparing to come out with an improved version of the same model tire. Retailers who got their tires through manufacturer’s wholesalers or from the factory were all backordered. Thetires that were in stock at the independent discount warehouses were older versions of the discontinued tire.

So, I believe that Costco could very well have older tires in stock.

You’ve been lucky. Advanced degrees are irrelevant when your manufacturing quality control processes include factors for an “acceptable” level of defects. Not only is 100% not achieved, it is not even a target goal.

Well, I have nothing to back up this statement…after all it’s just an opinion.

I think steering and suspension have improved to the point it may be more noticeable. Also some complaints are probably solved by better maintainance, i.e. 3 or more years with tire “A” wearing to the car installed on and then replacing with tire “B” could highlight other issues not yet found.

More so, 20 or so years ago we relied on word of mouth and print versus the World Wide Web for complaints.

I also disagree that tires are worse, at least for the name brands. I have never bought a defective tire in 30 years. It may seem like it because of, you guessed it, the internet and discussion forums. I’ve been in forums where a few folks that had problems post repeatedly, giving the impression of a major problem with a certain car, for example. It is also impossible to manufacture anything that is 100% perfect. We would never want to pay the expense.

I just put a set of the new Michelin Primacy MXV4’s on my wife’s Accord ($550 installed) and the other day I was washing the car and I noticed that they were made in Romania. Ya never know anymore…

I am active on several sites like this one, and these discussions usually settle on the common denominator for tires that people have trouble with is that they were manufactured in China.

My wife bought a used car about 9 years ago with brand new Chinese-made tires on it. About 100 miles later one of them disintegrated at 70 mph. Those four tires were immediately replaced with Michelins from Costco, No problems.

We recently bought a set of Michelins for her current car at Costco. Made in USA. In fact, I went down the Costco rack and found that most of the tires were made in USA or Canada, and none were made in China.

There are a couple of interesting issues here:

First is that a tire always has to be mounted on a rim, and that rim always has to be mounted on the vehicle. There are many opportunities for the operator to influence the outcome.

Second is that the vehicle a tire is mounted on has a major influence on a tire’s performance. Some vehicles have alignment settings that are prone to wear issues. Some vehicles are highly sensitive to wheel end vibrations.

Third is that many of the car manufacturers are specifying tires with low RR. What gets sacrificed is treadwear and/or traction - both of which are complaints you hear about with OE tires.

Fourth is that on every vehicle, there are 4 opportunities for there to be a problem with a tire. This fact alone would seem to argue that everything else being the same, the perception ought to be that tires perform worse that other vehicle components.

Fifth was alluded to earlier - price. While the price of gasoline is 4 times higher than it was only a few years ago, the price of tires is not. The price of rubber (both natural and synthetic), as well as carbon black and other ingredients, all follow the price of oil. It’s quite clear that consumers rarely buy pricy tires - and while they complain quite frequently, they are not willing to pay the price for higher quality.

To compound this issue is that they don’t employ rocket scientists at tire shops. These guys don’t really understand how tires work, and as a result can’t communicate this to the general public. You can see some of this in this web site - folks don’t seem to agree on apparently simple issues like where to put new tires (front or rear?).

With this level of confusion and misinformation, it’s little wonder that many folks blame tire quality for issues that beyond the tire manufacturer’s ability to control.

Does anyone actually believe that the NEW improved tires of the same model tire is actually BETTER then last years model?? It’s called a MARKETING GIMMICK. Consumers have been falling for that one for YEARS.

In all the years I’ve been buying tires and the close to the 1 million miles I’ve driven…I’ve only had ONE tire failure…I’ve had several tires wear out prematurely, but only ONE failure. And the tire shop promptly replaced it free of charge. I’ve bought from the discount places for years…I’d still be buying from them if the closest BJ’s didn’t turn over their tire installation shop to Monro Muffler (what a sleeze outfit). So now I buy from a local independent who’s prices are very good and. Been there for a few years with not problems what-so-ever…Never had a problem with tires from BJ’s either.

I don’t agree. I think tire companies do try and improve their tires, especially if the older versions had some problems. Not everything is a gimmick and tires do get better. The only point that I was trying to make is that tires do get discontinued and are not available from the manufacturer, but thousands of the older versions are out there with the discount warehouses. So, yes it is possible to get an “older” version of an improved tire. Now whether you actually believe there has been an improvement or not is a separate question.