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New Life for Used Tires

A new pickup truck tire can cost as much as $400, but there is a cheaper way to replace your tires. Harvey Brodsky, managing director of the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB), says that both radial and bias tires can be retreaded for a maximum price of $150 per tire. Brodsky also says that retread tires may last longer than new tires.

The retread process

A tire retread is a used tire that has new tread rubber added to its casing. A tire must be less than five years of age to be retread and it must pass inspection. The most thorough type of inspection is called shearography, which allows an inspector to see inside the tire to determine if it is usable.

If the tire is usable, its old tread is buffed off, and new rubber is applied. The tire undergoes a final inspection to make sure it meets industry standards. Then excess rubber is trimmed, and the tire is painted.

All major brand truck tires are designed for up to three lives if the tires are regularly maintained. Key to top tire maintenance is a regular air pressure check, keeping vehicles properly aligned, and monthly inspections for tire damage. Tires also will last longer if the trucks aren't overloaded and truck operators avoid excessive acceleration and braking.

Dispelling myths

Brodsky says one of the biggest myths about tire retreading is that they are unsafe because they are the cause of “road alligators,” or rubber debris on the highway. In reality, he says, any tire can cause the rubber debris. “It doesn't matter if it's a new tire or a retread, if a tire is driven underinflated or overinflated or misaligned and given enough time, it's going to come apart and cause rubber debris to be scattered all over the highway,” Brodsky says.

Tire retread veteran Tom Henry, a Team FIN member, has retread tires for 25 years. Henry and his wife Roberta farm near Westhope, ND, and regularly retread tires for two semis. “I have never had a failure [with retreads],” he says. Henry likes the money he saves, shaving off at least a third of the price of a new tire. He does caution farmers to make sure enough tread is left on the tire before trying to retread it. If the cord is showing in the tire, it is not usable to retread, he says. It is also important to know the tire history so the retreader can give the tire the best retread possible.

Trading in your old tires and buying retread tires is another option that is cheaper than buying new tires. Henry buys retread tires if he doesn't have time to get his own retread. Then he trades in the usable casings and receives about $85 for each.

TRIB maintains that retread tires are as safe and sturdy as new tires. “There is a less than 1% chance of having a problem with tires retreaded by a top-quality retreader, but a 1 to 1½% average adjustment rate for new tires,” Brodsky states. “The adjustment rate for retread tires is actually lower than for new tires so users save money and have fewer problems.”

The Tire Recappers of Nashville retreads 85,000 tires a year. About 10% of the company's work is farm tires from tractors, wagons and farm implements and another 15% is from light trucks. Tommy Ford Sr. of Tire Recappers of Nashville says retreaders use a rubber in the retreads that is of higher quality than the rubber in new tires, which means significantly fewer failures. “Retreads are comparable to the average graded new tire and, in most cases, a lot better than the expensive new tire,” he says. In addition, retreads are put together with new technology that uses a casing with nylon overlay on the steel belts. This process helps prevent tire separation.

Brodsky recommends checking a company that retreads tires by visiting the plant and talking with previous customers. For more information or for TRIB's free “Retread Tire Buyers Guide,” contact Tire Retread Information Bureau, 900 Weldon Grove, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, 888/473-8732, visit or, or circle 153.

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