Risk vs. Reward: Selling Certain Wheel Accessories May Cause Legal Trouble - Tire Review Magazine

Risk vs. Reward: Selling Certain Wheel Accessories May Cause Legal Trouble

Selling Certain Wheel Accessories May Cause Legal Trouble

Spinners, floaters, bead locks and accessory accent lighting. Are they legal in every state? Can the use of these products expose you to liability and undue risk?

In this issue, we’re going to take a look at wheel accessories and find out if there are any problems with installing these components.

If you have been to the SEMA show in the last few years, you may have noticed products called Tireflys (tireflysonline.com). These are LED-illuminated valve-stem caps. They are part of a cycle of fads that appear every so often. The company’s Web site has a tab called ‘Safety,’ which, when clicked on, reveals the following messages:

“• Warning! Recommended for show and off-road use only.

• Particular colors may not be permitted for use on public roads in certain areas. Please check local rules and regulations prior to use.

• Not for children five years and younger.

• The manufacturer nor this dealer warrant the merchantability or fitness of this product for any specific use, whether express or implied.

• The user is responsible for any use or misuse of this product.”

I found a couple of other companies, GloRyder and StreetFX, that have similar products.

In many states, if not all, accent lighting can only be used while the vehicle is parked at a show or off road. Well, products such as these require the vehicle to be moving to activate the switch to turn them on, which begs the question: “Why even build a product that you know is going to have issues with its intended use?”

Not only is the use of accent lighting an issue, so is the color. Red and blue are emergency-vehicle colors and strictly outlawed in many areas. I asked a representative for one of the companies mentioned above about this, and the response was simply, “Check your local state or city laws to find out if the product is legal or not.” How many 18-year olds are going to call the state DOT and find this out?

Moving on to more commonly seen products, spinners have seen their share of resistance. Some states have even tried to pass legislation banning spinners. SEMA petitioned the lawmakers of those specific states and got the bills repealed before passing into law.

Just in the last few months, New York Senator John Sabini reintroduced a bill (SB 1640) that would ban spinners, with fines of $750 for the third and subsequent violations. SEMA has already intervened on behalf of enthusiasts to defeat similar bills in Virginia and Iowa.

I encourage you to write a letter to Senator Sabini on company letterhead stating your opinion regarding this matter. His e-mail address is [email protected]. According to SEMA’s Action Network Web site (www.semasan.org), there are serious issues with this legislation because SB 1640 ignores the following facts:

• Custom wheels are not prohibited by federal law and should not be restricted in New York.

• The federal government rescinded the entire hubcap standard in 1996 when it concluded that there was no safety problem relating to hubcaps and that the standard was overly restrictive.

• Manufacturers are required to notify the federal government of a safety problem or defect related to motor vehicle equipment within five days of becoming aware of such an issue.

• Spinner hubcaps have no proven detrimental effect on safety.

I have read other about bills that were introduced that stated that spinners are a dangerous distraction as a reason for banning them. When I was about 20, I was cruising the beach with a friend who was driving. A couple of women spotted us and starting flashing us with their…er…smiles. He forgot that he was still driving and ran into the car ahead of us. So, given the same reasoning, I guess we should outlaw bikinis, too.

WheelPros will no longer be producing its SpinTek product. Another brand, StopNGo from Player Wheel Group, has also been discontinued. Market forces and slowing consumer demand may have more of an effect on the decline of these products than legislation ever will.

Some of the more durable and better-engineered products, like the Floater, are still being produced and marketed by MHT (www.mhtwheels.com) under the DUB label. This is a complete assembly, with components built to work together. The Floater rides on a bearing and uses a patented locking system that eliminates the chance of it separating from the wheel.

DUB spinners ride on a bearing, as well, but turn freely instead of remaining stationary like the Floater. One of the hottest new styles is the Zveet, which is built in sizes 24×10, 26×10 and 30×10.

The original spinner was marketed by Davin Wheels (davinwheels.com). This product was one of the first to be patented and gained a loyal following. Davin is still producing the product today, with ever-changing designs to keep it fresh. Davin has now introduced staggered fitments that incorporate well balanced spinners, which compliment the overall design of the wheels.

The StreetSpin SS4 and SS5 are both built in sizes 22×8.5/10 and 24×9.5. The SS5 is also built in a 26×10. The SS4 and SS5 each use a black mesh grill that provides a nice contrast to the chrome spinner. I have seen many instances in which the mesh was color matched to the vehicle, adding individual elegance to the style.

Beadlock wheels are another touchy item to sell. According to Dave Harriton, CEO of American Expedition Vehicles (aev-conversions.com), there is no specific law stating that you can’t drive on public roads with beadlock wheels. There are laws banning the use of split rims, which were used on trucks decades ago. Inherently, a beadlock wheel is split. According to Harriton’s Web site, customers should ask themselves if they need beadlock wheels in the first place. If these wheels truly suit their needs, customers need to be made aware of their maintenance requirements and applications. In most cases, these wheels are best for hardcore off-road use. The Web site really tackles this and several other questions in a responsible manner.

If you would like to find out about whether or not a particular product is legal in your state, you, as the retailer, should make the call to find out before selling the product.

And, I encourage each of us to become a part of the SEMA Action Network so that we can have a strong voice about the products we sell and install. Contact SEMA or your representative for further details.

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