Another Firestone tire under suspicion


The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — In yet another blow to Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., federal safety regulators announced Friday they are investigating another model of Firestone tires, one commonly found on Ford and General Motors light trucks, sport-utility vehicles and vans.

Investigators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said they will examine the frequency of tire separations and blowouts on vehicles equipped with Steeltex R4S and Steeltex A/T tires.

The Steeltex models are found on Ford F250 and F350 pickup trucks, Ford Excursion sport-utility vehicles, and General Motors Suburbans and G-vans. Steeltex tires also came as original equipment on some Chevrolet Blazers and Ford F250 and F350 trucks. The Steeltex tires are available in 15-, 16- and 16.5-inch sizes. The R4S is a tire designed to operate well in muddy and snowy conditions, while the A/T is marketed for use on all kinds of terrain.

NHTSA reported it had received 169 complaints about the tires, 167 of them coming after 6.5 million Wilderness, ATX, and ATX II models made by Firestone were recalled Aug. 9. A dozen people were injured and two were killed in crashes involving the Steeltex tires between January 1998 and the present, according to complaints filed with the agency.

The announcement didn’t say how many of the Steeltex tires were on the road or what model years are covered in the inquiry.

Public awareness of tire problems has increased dramatically in the weeks since the Firestone recall, and a NHTSA official said the number of Steeltex-related complaints stood out in that environment. "In an era of heightened awareness of tires, the number of complaints (here) rose above the rest," he said.

There are indications that Firestone had received complaints about Steeltex tires as far back as 1998. Officer Andy Vidaure, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said in a recent interview that his agency returned all of the 1,000 Steeltex tires used on its fleet of vans, pickups and SUVs because "we had had some experience of tire failure and expressed our concern with Firestone."

"We did not see it as a safety issue," said Vidaure. "We were just dissatisfied with performance for a variety of reasons."

Notes from an official in the Arizona public safety office dated Dec. 10, 1998, indicate that the department experienced as many as eight crashes from Firestone blowouts. "Almost all" were accidents with injuries, Vidaure said.

Firestone did not respond to a request for comment directly on the Arizona situation. In a statement, the company noted that NHTSA has not found a defect in the Steeltex tires, but has decided to "determine the facts surrounding complaints. … We have been and will continue to work diligently to fulfill these inquiries in a timely and responsive manner with limited staff and limited resources."

Spokesmen for Ford and General Motors said they would cooperate with NHTSA’s investigation, but that it was premature to respond more fully.

The latest agency inquiry comes at a particularly difficult time for Firestone, which is embroiled in a public relations counterattack against onetime partner Ford surrounding the earlier recall. It also clashed with NHTSA when it refused to recall another 1.4 million tires, forcing the agency to issue a consumer advisory instead.

Bridgestone/Firestone chief executive Masatoshi Ono reportedly will resign as early as next week from his post. And congressional investigators and federal regulators already are probing when Firestone and Ford executives knew about problems with Wilderness and ATX tires, which have been implicated in accidents causing more than 100 deaths and 400 injuries in the United States.

The move Friday by NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation is called a "preliminary evaluation," the first stage in the agency’s investigative process.

On the Web: www.nhtsa.govc.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Pablo Garduno and the team at Barbacoa Judith’s churn out pit-roasted lamb tacos by the dozen at the Hidden Gems Weekend Market on Sunday, April 28, 2024, at Boom City in Tulalip, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Eating our way through Tulalip’s Hidden Gems weekend market

Don’t miss the pupusas, pit-roasted lamb tacos, elotes and even produce for your next meal.

Reed Macdonald, magniX CEO. Photo: magniX
Everett-based magniX appoints longtime aerospace exec as new CEO

Reed Macdonald will take the helm at a pivotal time for the company that builds electric motors for airplanes.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.