A defect in Goodyear motorhome tires may have killed or injured up to 95 people over the past two decades, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The allegations were revealed in a letter Tuesday from NHTSA to Goodyear seeking information. The agency began investigating whether the company’s G159 tires are unsafe last year after a judge ordered the release of Goodyear data that had been sealed under court orders and settlement agreements.
Lawsuits and safety advocates allege the tires were designed for delivery trucks and not for motorhomes that travel faster. They allege that Goodyear kept the tire problems secret for years by settling cases and getting judges to seal records. Despite the allegations, the tires have not been recalled.
In a Dec. 28 document that started the investigation, NHTSA said it obtained claim and complaint data about the tires after the court order unsealed the documents and released them to NHTSA.
The nonprofit Center for Auto Safety and Public Justice sought to have the records released to the public, which Goodyear opposed. An Arizona judge ruled in favor of the center on Wednesday, unsealing most of the information. But Jason Levine, the center’s executive director, said the release of the documents was delayed pending an expected appeal from Goodyear.
IN HIS RULING, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah wrote that Goodyear’s need to keep information confidential “does not come close” to outweighing the public’s need for access.
The tires that the NHTSA looked into were made from 1996 to 2003. Production of the tires in question stopped in 2003. It’s not known how many G159 RV tires are still in use, the statement said.
RV tire experts would advise that any G159 tire, the last of which was made 14 years ago, should be removed immediately. “RV users often put no more than a few thousand miles on their tires a year. Their tires may need to be replaced because of age long before their treads are ‘worn out,’” reports Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. “At the age of ten years, such tires should be replaced, even if their external appearance is a good one.”
Most RV experts advise replacing any tire older than seven years, even if it does not show excessive wear. Learn more about tire aging here.
SOURCE: RVtravel.com, The Denver Post, USA Today and Fortune Magazine.