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

More in Local News

FILE - A sign hangs at a Taco Bell on May 23, 2014, in Mount Lebanon, Pa. Declaring a mission to liberate "Taco Tuesday" for all, Taco Bell asked U.S. regulators Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to force Wyoming-based Taco John's to abandon its longstanding claim to the trademark. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Hepatitis A confirmed in Taco Bell worker in Everett, Lake Stevens

The health department sent out a public alert for diners at two Taco Bells on May 22 or 23.

VOLLI’s Director of Food & Beverage Kevin Aiello outside of the business on Friday, May 19, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Coming soon to Marysville: indoor pickleball, games, drinks

“We’re very confident this will be not just a hit, but a smash hit,” says co-owner Allan Jones, who is in the fun industry.

Detectives: Unresponsive baby was exposed to fentanyl at Everett hotel

An 11-month-old boy lost consciousness Tuesday afternoon. Later, the infant and a twin sibling both tested positive for fentanyl.

Cassie Franklin (left) and Nick Harper (right)
Report: No wrongdoing in Everett mayor’s romance with deputy mayor

An attorney hired by the city found no misuse of public funds. Texts between the two last year, however, were not saved on their personal phones.

Firearm discovered by TSA officers at Paine Field Thursday morning, May 11, 2023, during routine X-ray screening at the security checkpoint. (Transportation Security Administration)
3 guns caught by TSA at Paine Field this month — all loaded

Simple travel advice: Unpack before you pack to make sure there’s not a gun in your carry-on.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
To beat the rush this Memorial Day weekend, go early or late

AAA projects busy airports, ferries and roads over the holiday weekend this year, though still below pre-pandemic counts.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Troopers: DUI crash leaves 1 in critical condition in Maltby

A drunken driver, 34, was arrested after her pickup rear-ended another truck late Tuesday, injuring a Snohomish man, 28.

Housing Hope CEO Donna Moulton raises her hand in celebration of the groundbreaking of the Housing Hope Madrona Highlands on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$30M affordable housing project to start construction soon in Edmonds

Once built, dozens of families who are either homeless or in poverty will move in and receive social and work services.

Smoke comes out of the roof of ReMyx'd, a restaurant on Smokey Point Drive, on Sunday, May 28, 2023, in Arlington, WA. (IAFF Local 3438)
Fire damages Arlington bar that received death threats

Arlington Police say initial indications are that fire at ReMyx’d does not appear to be intentionally set.

Most Read