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Are Retreads Really Any Good?

May 01, 2009
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One of my favorite movie comedies had a scene where a fellow’s wife peeked through a window and saw him in bed with another woman. When she confronted him, he denied it and said: “Who are you going to believe, me or your stinkin’ eyes?”

I mention this because a great frustration to our industry is the notion that some fleet managers still have that retreaded tires can’t be depended on for reliability. Our industry suffers from what I call the “Rodney Dangerfield” effect – We Don’t Get No Respect. However, the facts are 180 degrees different. (Rodney Dangerfield was an American comedian who used to say, “I don’t get no respect”)

The reality is that a retreaded tire produced by a top quality retreader will perform as well as a comparable new tire, and at a far lower price. For example: A top-of-the-line major brand 11R22.5 new tire is selling for approximately $450. (And new tire prices are on the rise!). That same size tire can be retreaded for less than $150, and even much less in some areas in the U.S., and the retread will often deliver the same or more mileage than the original tire. Multiply these savings by the number of tires in your fleet and we are talking real money at the end of the year. With proper tire maintenance programs, tires can often be retreaded more than once, making the savings greater.

Why then does our industry have to continue to fight an uphill battle to convince non-believers that retreads really will perform and can be as trouble free as new tires? The answer is tire debris, also known as rubber on the road or road alligators. Unfortunately, we all see too much of that junk all over our highways which causes a huge headache for the retread industry.

News Flash! Retreads are not the sole cause of tire debris on our highways.

In fact, on any day on any highway, much of the tire debris is from tires that have never been retreaded. The evidence to back up this claim is overwhelming. In fact, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently published a study with a summary stating that retreaded tires were NOT the cause of rubber on the road. The title is Commercial Medium Tire Debris Study and it was published in December 2008. For a PDF copy of the study send an email to harvey@retread.org.

The main cause for tire failure is improper maintenance!

Underinflation (the biggest culprit), followed by mismatching of tires in dual wheel positions, running one tire flat on a dual wheel assembly, misalignment, improper tire repairs, etc., all cause tires to fail. And when they fail they leave a trail of rubber junk on the highway, regardless of whether the tire was a retread or one that had never been retreaded.

Here are a few simple rules to guarantee you are getting the best retreads for your fleet:

1. Don’t be fooled into buying solely on price. If you do you will get what you pay for, which isn’t always pretty. Life cycle costing is far more effective than the initial price. You are better off paying a little more up front for the highest quality product produced by the best retreader in your area.

2. Visit more than one prospective retreader before you decide on the best one for you. Insist on reviewing their product failure adjustment records (excluding road hazards, which are NOT the fault of the retreader). A top quality retreader’s product failure adjustments for his retreads will parallel – and often be lower – than his new tire adjustments. Any retreader who won’t share his adjustment records is a retreader to stay away from.

3. During your visit, ask to see the retreader’s non-destructive testing equipment. It may be shearography, X-ray or some variant. It is important that your tires are subjected to non-destructive testing before they begin the retread process. The best visual inspector cannot see damage that may exist between the inside and the outside of the tire. Non-destructive testing is the single most important development in the retread industry in years. Insist on it!

4. Have your tire department people visit the retread plant with you, and once you have made a choice of retreaders, have your tire people (and others, including drivers) revisit the retreader at least once every few months. This will aid in establishing a great relationship with your retreader.

5. Last but not least, ask for the names of a few happy customers and call them. Ask if they would use the same retreader if they had to do it all over again, plus any other questions you think will give you the information you really need before making a commitment.

By following these few simple rules you will see with your own eyes how retreads can save your fleet important money, without sacrificing safety, reliability or performance. Whether your fleet is one truck or ten thousand, by using top quality retreads you will keep your money where it belongs – in your pocket!

You will then be able to tell the naysayers that you saw it with your “own stinkin’ eyes,” which aren’t stinkin,’ after all.