Since there have been so many safety issues involving products imported from China, folks in our country are not surprised now to learn of more problems. The latest defective Chinese import involves tire-valve stems. These are the rubber shafts that allow motorists to fill their tires with air. Currently, there are at least 36 million imported valve stems on tires on American roads. Any of them could cause dangerous tire failures this summer. One U.S. importer issued a formal recall in June and another alerted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has begun an investigation. NHTSA issued an advisory in June to motorists to check their tires for wear, but interestingly, said nothing about the valve stems.
Most of the valves in question, which are said to crack prematurely, appear to be on tires sold between September 2006 and June 2007. But the full extent of the problem won’t be known until NHTSA completes its investigation. But some independent safety experts believe that motorists should have been warned to inspect the tire-valve stems immediately. A technical bulletin was issued by the company that imported most of the tires but nobody seems to know about it. Sean Kane, an auto-safety consultant with Safety Research & Strategies in Rehoboth, Mass., which issued its own public warning, believes “this is a real problem that potentially affects millions of vehicles.”
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Florida after a fatal crash in November of last year. Dill Air Controls Products was sued by the widow of a man killed in a moving vehicle accident. The tire-valve stem was said to have caused the right rear tire of an SUV to fail, precipitating the vehicle’s rollover. Shortly after the suit was filed, the Oxford, North Carolina, company approached NHTSA with a report of “a potential defect.” NHTSA subsequently started an investigation of the valve stems the company distributes in the US. Some 30 million suspect valve stems were manufactured over a five-month period in 2006 for Dill by Topseal, a subsidiary of Shanghai Baolong Automotive Corp., based in Shanghai, according to NHTSA’s preliminary summary of its investigation. In May, Dill issued a technical bulletin to its customers:
We have received a number of parts showing surface cracks on the outside of the rubber near the rim hole…. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recommending that when customers return to your stores for regular service, you inspect the valve stems on vehicles who received valve stems during the period September 2006-June 2007.
Mr. Kane, the auto-safety consultant, says the valves could deteriorate and crack in as few as six months. Dill’s suspect valves were manufactured more than 1-1/2 years ago, from July through November 2006, according to the company. On June 2nd, another auto-parts importer, Tech International of Johnstown, Ohio, issued a formal recall notice for 6 million valve stems made by a Chinese company with nearly the same name – Shanghai Baolong Industries Co., Ltd. – and the same address. Dates of manufacture of the defective product are also the same. In its recall notice, Tech International stated:
The defect is such that after the valve stem has been in service approximately six months or more, the rubber compound may undergo cracking resulting in loss of tire pressure.
It blamed the defect on improper mixing of the rubber compound in the manufacturer’s facility.
Thus far NHTSA hasn’t issued a national alert. Apparently the agency is waiting for the Dill investigation to be completed. However, there are lots of tires on the road that have the defective valve stems. Hopefully, there won’t be any deaths or serious injuries while NHTSA is waiting to act.
Source: Christian Science Monitor
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