Business for area tire dealers is booming as they scramble to switch out Firestone tires affected by a nationwide voluntary recall.
But the demand for replacement tires for Ford Explorers and other vehicles covered in a voluntary national recall by Firestone is depleting the tire industry's supply channels and some dealers said they are putting customers on waiting lists.
The voluntary recall announced Aug. 9 covers about 6.5 million Firestone's P235/75R15 Radial ATX and Radial ATX II, and those Wilderness AT tires of the same size that were manufactured in Decatur, Ill., which were supplied as original equipment mainly on Ford Explorers and Lincoln Mercury Wildernesses.
"We're replacing hundreds of tires a day. We're basically running at full speed - it's kind of like an early snow tire rush," Kevin Manning, assistant manager of the Les Schwab Tire Center in Carson City, said of the recall.
"We're kind of running short on tires. This recall has had a nationwide impact because 80 percent of the annual production of that size has been used in three weeks.
"We're billing Firestone directly, so customers aren't having to wait for reimbursement. We put on new tires and they get a full warranty."
Though Bridgestone/Firestone originally proposed running the replacement program in geographical phases because of the difficulty in producing enough replacement Firestone tires, the company decided to pay for installation of competitors' tires and implemented the replacement program without geographical phases.
Customers can go to a Firestone company-owned sore or authorized dealer or any other dealer, Bridgestone/Firestone spokeswoman Anne Conrad said. If the replacement is done by a non-Firestone dealer, the removed tires have to be turned in to a Firestone dealer so paperwork for reimbursement can be completed, she said. Firestone will reimburse up to $100 per tire including mounting and balancing charges.
Bob Pogue, who owns Tires For You in Carson City, said he has arranged for a Firestone representative to come there to pick up the pull-offs and handle the paperwork for the reimbursement. Pogue said he has worked for a Firestone dealership at Lake Tahoe for years.
Charlie Morello, owner of Allied Tire & Auto Service, said he worked for Firestone 20 years ago, when the company went through the recall of the Firestone 500 tires.
"That was a complete recall of all sizes of those tires, while this just concerns one size," he said. "This one is having a massive effect on that one size, but probably won't amount to the total quantity of the Firestone 500 recall."
Morello said his store is taking telephone numbers from customers and is expecting more tires to arrive. in the next several days.
All American Tire and Automotive in Gardnerville is a Firestone Associate dealer, owner John Christi said, but even that affiliation hasn't prevented him from running out of appropriate replacements.
"It's like somebody took a big vacuum cleaner and sucked that size right off the face of the earth," Christi said. "The warehouse we deal with is backordered over 8,000 tires."
He said Bridgestone/Firestone is advising him to refer customers to the two company stores in Reno whenever possible.
The recalled tires will be destroyed and recycled under Firestone's existing tire disposal program, Conrad said. The shredded rubber is used in a number of products including soaker hoses, asphalt, cement and floor mats. Conrad said shredded tires also serve as fuel for generating plants in the Chicago area and some operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Material from the recalled Firestone tires will not go back into the tire making process," Conrad said.
Firestone Recall Hot line 1-800-465-1904
Web site: www.firestone.com