ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JENNIFER PROFFITT
National headlines that have swirled around the biggest tire recall in U.S. history have not left the Hillsboro business community untouched.
Earlier this month, Firestone announced the recall of more than 6.5 million tires.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a warning on an additional 1.4 million tires that Firestone refuses to include in the recall.
Most of the defective tires were placed on sport-utility vehicles manufactured by Ford Motor Co.
Rod Koons, owner of Rod’s Tire and Service in Hillsboro, has sold Firestone tires for some time.
“If you have a problem, and you’ve done something wrong, you need to admit it, take your lumps and go on,” he said.
“If you don’t, you see what happens. It has been tough to sell any brand of Firestone tire. It’s really tarnished their name.”
Koons said when the news of the recall first hit, he was unprepared and couldn’t answer questions because he didn’t know any more than the consumer did.
However, once he obtained the necessary information, Koons said, “We have been able to deal with people on an individual basis and take care of their problem.
“The majority of the people we’ve dealt with have the attitude that if the tires are still working, they are going to wear them out before replacing them,” he said.
Koons said Firestone has had a good-wearing tire, which could contribute to the problem. Since the tread lasts so long, the tire casing can fail due to time and the elements.
Koons said except for the defective tires, he still has faith in the brand. But he voiced concern about the 26 pounds of air pressure recommended by Ford for the tires on an Explorer.
“I have no problem putting 26 pounds of pressure in those tires,” Koons said. “That’s fine if you manage it, but you have to look after it. If you set the pressure at 30 or 35 (pounds) and you loose a couple pounds of pressure, it’s no big deal. But when you’re at 26 (pounds) and you loose two or three pounds of air, you’ve got a problem.”
He said with any tire, regular maintenance should be done to ensure safety, and the air pressure should be checked on a monthly basis.
Terry Hagen, co-owner of Hillsboro Ford, echoed Koons’ sentiments. He said consumers need to be aware of the condition of their tires before driving, regardless of the brand name.
Consumers should not only check the air pressure, but look at tread depth, and watch for worn or bubbled patches on the sides of the tires.
Kim Kaufman, service manager at Hillsboro Ford, said the Ford name has been closely tied to the recall simply because of the high number of Firestone tires on their vehicles.
“If you compare the number of Explorers out there that have Firestone tires to other vehicles that have them, there are millions more,” he said. “Take a percentage of those, and a whole lot more Explorers are going to be involved.”
Hagen said Firestone is not the only brand of tire placed on Ford Explorers.
Kaufman said, “Explorers with other brands of tires are not experiencing the same problems.”
He also cited government safety data that shows Ford Explorers have a better safety record than other compact SUVs.
Hagen said, “I believe Firestone is a good tire. If Ford didn’t honestly believe these were quality tires, they would not continue to put them on.”
He believes the media have created a public panic, but if Firestone has a problem, they need to rectify it.
Kaufman said he gets calls daily from consumers asking for more information. They will gladly answer consumer questions, and point them to the latest information.