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Firestone recall sparks run on tires

"Tired out.That's what some local tire stores were worried about becoming this week following a national recall of certain brands of Firestone tires.I had no idea there were so many Ford Explorers on the road, said Marty Hill, manager of the Les Schwab Tire Center in Freeland, alluding to the vehicle on which many of the recalled tires were mounted.Hill said his crew had replaced at least 200 tires this week, with Thursday their busiest day yet. We're feeling it a lot, he said.The story was similar elsewhere on the island.We're having a hard time finding that size of tire, said Diana Sanders of Midway Tire and Muffler in Oak Harbor. By midweek, the company had already handled 24 recall orders and only had enough replacement tires for about 20 more. The same was true at Wallgren Les Schwab Tires in Oak Harbor, though both firms said they expected to get more tires delivered soon.It's been like having a snow rush in August, said Chris Johnson of Les Schwab. She said she had already processed a pile of recall invoices.The Bridgestone/Firestone Company voluntarily issued a recall Aug. 9 after numerous reports of serious failure in some sizes of the Firestone radial ATX and radial ATX II as well as the company's Wilderness AT tires made at their plant in Decatur, Ill. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that more than 60 deaths occurred in accidents resulting from the tire failures. In all, about 6.5 million tires are being recalled, and they came as standard equipment on some of the biggest-selling vehicles on the road, including the Ford Motor Company's Ranger trucks and Explorers.The Explorer is the most popular SUV on the market, said Leonard Lord, service manager at Whidbey Island Ford in Oak Harbor, the only Ford dealership on the island.Lord said Whidbey Island Ford is not an authorized dealer for the recall but the company has been taking a lot of calls from Ford owners asking what to do. He said Whidbey Island Ford service personnel can do tire inspections but generally they have been referring customers to other retail tire outlets for replacement.Bridgestone/Firestone had originally hoped to phase in the recall, concentrating first on states where high temperatures may put the tires at risk. But because of all the attention the recall has generated, the company has altered its thinking.Now they're just saying come in and get them done, said Lord.That means that the replacement tires don't need to come from Bridgestone/Firestone. The company has said it will pay for comparable tires from other manufacturers.At Les Schwab, mechanics have been replacing the recalled tires with their own brand. Midway Tire and Muffler has generally been using a Cooper Tire Company replacement.Les Schwab General Manager Dick Eggen said the Bridgestone/Firestone Company is working hard to get the bad tires off the road.They've really stood up to the plate. They're taking care of their customers, said Eggen. He warned vehicle owners not to overreact. The recall applies only to certain sizes and styles, and failures have been linked to other problems such as incorrect inflation pressures and extreme heat. A lot of people are worried for no reason, he said. A quick inspection should do the trick.Sanders said that because there may be a shortage of replacement tires for a while, customers who wait too long may have to pay a bit out of their own pockets for a higher-grade replacement. Bridgestone/Firestone will only pay up to a certain amount of the replacement cost.I'd say you'd better get it done now, she said.If nothing else, the recall has certainly raised people's awareness of their tires. Sanders said that's a good thing. She said maintaining proper tire pressure is important no matter what kind of tires you have. Too little or too much can dramatically affect tire safety.We had one guy come in who had 100 pounds of pressure in his tires, she said, rolling her eyes. Normal pressure is around 30 pounds. The boss told him he was lucky to be alive.The recall at a glanceWHAT: 3.8 million size P235/75R15 Firestone radial ATX and radial ATX II tires produced in North America, and 2.7 million Wilderness AT tires produced in Decatur, Ill., and carry the code VD.WHEN: The Bridgestone/Firestone Company issued a voluntary recall on Aug. 9.WHY: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received numerous reports of tire failures - particularly at high speeds and in hot weather. Accidents resulting from the failures have resulted in many injuries and more than 60 fatalities. VEHICLES: The following vehicles may have been equipped with the recalled tires when purchased:*1991-2000 Ford Explorers (Excluding Eddie Bauer and Limited Edition models) *1991-2000 Ford Rangers *1996-2000 Ford Mountaineers *1991 to 1994 F-150 trucks (Only a small number of these trucks are affected)WHERE TO GO: Any Firestone outlet, a reputable tire store or auto dealership can do an inspection.MORE QUESTIONS? The Firestone hotline is 800-465-1904. Information is also available online at www.bridgestone-firestone.com. "

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