NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered a recall of 450,000 light truck tires that could have an increased risk of tread separation. The company that imported Chinese tires at the center of a recall demand by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will recall the tires and replace them until the company, Foreign Tire Sales (FTS), has run out of funds.
U.S. safety officials say some Chinese-made tires are missing an important safety feature. The tires, made by China-based Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., have an insufficient or missing gum strip, a rubber feature that helps prevent steel belts inside the tire from separating or from damaging the rubber.
"If you have gum strip missing, eventually the bond between the steel belts and rubber components will weaken and break," said John Rastetter, director of tire information for TireRack.com. Without the gum strip steel bands could also cut into the rubber tire, causing damage, Rastetter said.
In the case of the Hangzhou Zhongce tires, the vehicle would not have to be driven at high speeds or on a hot road surface in order for problems to occur, said Rastetter. Simply driving on the tires could eventually cause the tire to fail. Heat and underinflation could also aggravate the problems with these tires, he added.
The tires involved in the recall are intended for use on larger light trucks such as heavy-duty pick-ups, large vans and ambulances. They are sold in the United States under the brand names Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS.
A 2006 ambulance crash prompted FTS to hire an outside lab to test several sample tires, according to documents. Those tests revealed that tires were being manufactured without the gum strip or with a gum strip that was too narrow.
Other tests, performed in March, 2007, showed that the tire treads began coming apart at about 25,000 miles, according to documents.
FTS says it does not know how many tires, in total, were imported into the United States through other importers.
NHTSA is also contacting other companies that have imported these tires to alert them to the problem.
The tires involved in the recall are the following sizes:
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