Tire valve stem investigation

July 31, 2008 4:51:26 AM PDT
Our latest Eyewitness News investigation is exposing new safety concerns about a product made in China that's a potential hidden danger in your car. A small, 50 cent part called a tire valve stem could crack, lead to a blow out and cause a crash. Now, the federal government is investigating a local company and the 30 million tire valve stems made in China.

31-year-old Robert Monk was killed in Gainesville, Florida last November when a tire blew out and caused his SUV to roll over. Now, his widow Sara is suing a Granville County company, Dill Air Controls, in Oxford.

"There was a crack in his valve stem on his tire that led to a loss of air pressure," said her attorney, Richard Newsome. He continued, "when that happened, his tires failed, he lost control."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now investigating Dill Air Controls and 30 million tire valve stems made in China. Dill now says the number is closer to a half million and says the valve stems could crack when exposed to high levels of ozone.

"We don't know where they are," says Tire Safety Expert Sean Kane. He continued, "We don't know how many cars have them. We know there are millions of them here in the United States."

Dill sent out a safety bulletin warning tire retailers to check their inventory for the tire stems in question and inspect all valve stems that were installed during a nine month period between September 2006 and June of 2007.

    Steve Daniels: Did you know about this?
    Don Frantz: Have not heard a word about it until you contacted me.
But, we discovered that Dill's message is not getting to all the people who need it most like Don Frantz. He owns the Frantz Automotive Center in Cary.

He uses Dill tire valve stems when replacing tires and he's concerned about the defect saying that drivers could lose air pressure and lose control within seconds.

"Every car has four tires, so you have four chances for a potential blow-out," said Frantz. He continued, "huge, huge concern all the shops need to be checking their inventory."

Frantz showed Eyewitness News how easy it is to check your tires.

"Look at the valve stem, especially where it meets the rim, that's where most of the cracking is going to take place eyeball it, wiggle it around a little bit," says Frantz.

Dill put pictures on its website to show if your valve stem has a crack. Don Frantz says he's now taking action to protect his customers from a blow-out.

"Every car that comes in, whether it's just an oil change or tune-up or anything, we're going to be looking at those valve stems to see, do they show any signs of cracking or premature wear that could possible lead to a blow-out on the highway," says Frantz.

Dill provided Eyewitness News with a statement that said in part, "Dill takes very seriously any claims related to tire valves. There were a limited number of lots that were not manufactured properly in the summer of 2006. We have since put in the controls to ensure the parts are made correctly, and have designed out the possibility of reoccurrence of cracking in tire valve rubber."


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