Regrooved Tires: The Risks and the Law

Tire regrooving is a service that intends to improve vehicle mileage, fuel efficiency, and traction. Truck drivers, construction workers, and farmers often regroove tires to cut costs. It allows them to maximize tire use, eliminating the need for new tires. Regrooving tires involves carving a tire’s grooves to restore tread depth and improve friction.

Car mechanics use either a handheld tool or a regrooving machine to do this. Tire regrooving is resurging because of increased fuel and tire manufacturing costs. But a regroove tire comes with real risks.  The result is sometimes a personal injury case that makes it to a courtroom.

How Do Regrooved or Retreaded Tires Work?

Regrooved tires, also known as retreaded tires, are tires that have had their worn-out treads removed and replaced with new tread material. This process extends the life of a tire, allowing it to be used again after it has been worn down.

Regrooving is typically performed on truck tires, as they are subjected to heavy loads and high mileage, making them expensive to replace. By retreading tires, a significant portion of the tire’s original structure is still intact, including the casing, belts, and sidewalls.

The process of regrooving involves removing the worn-out tread down to the tire’s base, which is then inspected for any damage. If the casing is in good condition, a new layer of tread material is applied to the tire and cured, usually through a combination of heat and pressure. The finished product is then ready to be used again, providing a cost-effective alternative to buying a new tire.

What federal laws cover tire regrooving?

Tire regrooving is subject to federal regulations.  Specifically, 49 CFR Section 569.3(c) defines a “regroovable tire” as tires that are “designed, and constructed with sufficient material to permit renewal of the tread pattern.” This means tires can only be legally regrooved if they have enough rubber to maintain its original tread pattern. Non-commercial vehicle tires are not regroovable because they are too thin to preserve its tread pattern.

Section  569.7 prohibits the sale of regrooved tires with different tread patterns from the original. It also requires retreaded tires to have a 3/32-inch thick protective covering over the cord material. Regrooved tires with groove cracks or tread separation cannot be sold or used. These regulations prevent the tires from deteriorating on the road, potentially causing an accident. Before buying regrooved tires, please ensure they follow these regulations.

Section 569.9 requires manufacturers and distributors of regroovable tires to include the word “regroovable” on each tire with a letter height of 0.38 to 0.50 inches. This informs consumers that they are purchasing legitimate tires that follow federal regulations.

So retreaded tires do have safety standards and undergo – theoretically – regular inspections to ensure their safety and longevity.  Whether those standards are being met is a different question.  In many cases, they are not and it puts all of us at risk.

Why is tire regrooving sometimes dangerous?  

Tire regrooving is controversial. Regrooved tires are more susceptible to punctures, blowouts, tread separation, and skidding. Trucks with retreaded tires may endanger everyone on the road, including themselves. This can be caused by exposure of the steel breakers.

The regroover (assuming that is a word) sometimes the knife in too deep and goes through the rubber down to the steel breaker.  If water gets into that hole, there is going to be rust and tread separation that is going to leave the tire at risk for groove cracking and intrusion for rock and other hard objects on the road.

Some truck drivers may attempt to regroove their tires since grooving tools are readily available online. Despite this availability, only certified mechanics should perform this difficult task. While regrooving your own tires cuts costs even further, poorly regrooved tires are riskier than professionally regrooved tires. It is not wise to regroove your own tires. If you choose to have them regrooved, get a reputable mechanic.

But even then, think twice.  One of the reasons for not putting regrooved tires on a steering axle is we are talking about tires that usually have run through all or most of their tread life.

Other risks of regrooving a tire include:

  • Reduced Mileage: While regrooving may extend the life of a tire, it may not provide the same mileage or performance as a new tire. It’s essential to weigh the cost savings against the potential decrease in tire performance.
  • Liability: We are lawyers so our minds go to this right away. If a regrooved tire fails and causes an accident, there may be legal liability issues, especially if the regrooving was not performed correctly or in compliance with local regulations.
  • Over-Regrooving: Over-regrooving a tire can weaken it, increasing the risk of tire failure. It’s essential to adhere to manufacturer recommendations on the maximum number of regrooves.
  • Incompatibility: Not all tire types and sizes are suitable for regrooving. Using the wrong tires or regrooving tires not designed for it can lead to safety issues.
  • Warranty Implications: Regrooving tires may void their warranties, leaving you responsible for any tire-related issues.

Can regrooving weaken a tire?

Cutting rubber out of the undertread or out of the grooves does weaken the tire. So you are not always certain that the tire has the strength it needs to withstand regrooving.

What are the risks of a regrooved tire?

If the regrooved tire gives out, it may explode. When a tire explodes on a highway, the driver often loses any control and the vehicle will spiral out of control.

Why would anyone take the risks involved with regrooving a tire?

You regroove or retread a tire to save money. It is cheaper than purchasing a new tire.

Regrooving tires is not something done in a back alley. You see it a lot with firetrucks and bus tires because those tires can run in the thousands of dollars.  You also see regrooving with construction, mining and agricultural equipment.

Selling Regrooved Tires as New Tires

Another issue with regrooved tires involves selling them as new tires online. Scammers take a regrooved tire and sell the tire on sites like Craigslist. You endanger everyone when you mistakenly buy these tires. When buying tires, new or used, only buy from trusted individuals. Your best bet is to buy from reputable sellers in person.

What is Maryland law on regrooved tires?

Unlike many states, Maryland has laws that regulate regrooved tires. Under § 22-405.1, an individual may not sell a regrooved tire or operate a vehicle with regrooved tires unless it “is specifically designed to be regrooved” and complies with the Department of Transportation standards. It also requires tires to display a label or marking indicating it was regrooved on its shoulder sidewall. Individuals who violate these regulations are subject to a prison sentence of six months or less, a fine of $500 or less, or both.

How can you know if a tire has been regrooved?

The rubber base of a regrooved tire is removed during regrooving. You can also expect the groove bottoms that are smooth.

Is There Liability for Injuries When a Regrooved Tire Blows?

Just because a tire blows, it does not automatically make the owner or operator of the vehicle liable. The victim must proved that the tire was defective and the operator knew or should have known it.  If the driver does not know of the unsafe condition of the tire,  there is no responsibility for a crash (at least in Maryland).

But the victim’s lawyer is at the top of her game, her investigation will show that a regrooved tire caused the crash.   From there, it should not be hard to establish that the defendant should not have used a regrooved tire.

Regrooved Tire-Related Lawsuits

We know of two personal injury lawsuits involving trucks and regrooved tires.

Florida Goodyear Case

A dump truck’s regrooved Goodyear tire blew out on the Seven Mile Bridge, causing it to enter the opposite lane and strike a 33-year-old man’s vehicle. The man’s wife died at the scene. The man survived but suffered permanent arm and hand injuries that left him with limited mobility.

He also suffered a severe skin tear around his foot, which required skin grafts. The man was hospitalized for three months. He hired a truck accident lawyer who filed a lawsuit claiming the dump truck driver improperly placed the regrooved tire in front of the dump truck. The man alleged that this negligence caused his injuries and his wife’s death. He also claimed that Goodyear failed to warn consumers of the dangers of using regrooved tires as front tires. Goodyear denied liability, arguing only the dump truck driver’s negligence caused the incident.

The man settled with the tire distributor for $290,000. A jury found Goodyear 0 percent negligent, the tire distributor 80 percent negligent, the dump truck driver 2 percent negligent, and the body shop that repaired the dump truck after an unrelated accident 18 percent negligent. They awarded a $6,198,458 verdict.

grooved tire lawsuits

Michigan Gas Tanker Case

A gas tanker’s left front regrooved tire blew out, causing an accident and a fire that killed its 32-year-old driver. The tire distributor who sold the tire to the deceased admitted liability. A jury awarded the man’s surviving grandmother a $350,000 verdict.

Ultimately, are regrooved tires safe?

Properly regrooved tires pose less of a threat on the road than improperly grooved tires. However, even the most experienced mechanics can make mistakes that yield fatal results. If you are a truck driver, please carefully consider whether you want to regroove your vehicle’s tires, especially with front tires. Think about whether it is worth saving the money by regrooving the tires rather than replacing, them. Sometimes, it is a “pay now or pay more later” situation.  

Thoughts on Regrooved Tires

We get the appeal of regroovable tires. Here are some key points to consider about regrooving tires:

1. Tread Depth: Tread depth is crucial for tire performance and safety. Tires with worn-out treads are more prone to hydroplaning on wet surfaces, have reduced traction, and are at a higher risk of punctures.

2. Legal Considerations: The practice of regrooving tires must comply with local regulations. In some areas, regrooving may be restricted or prohibited for safety reasons.

3. Suitable Tires: Not all tires are suitable for regrooving. Typically, only commercial or industrial tires designed with thicker tread compounds are regroovable.

4. Professional Equipment: Regrooving should be performed by trained professionals using specialized equipment to ensure the safety and integrity of the tire.

5. Tread Pattern: The new grooves should follow the existing tread pattern and maintain proper spacing to preserve the tire’s structural integrity.

6. Limits: There are limits to how many times a tire can be regrooved safely. Over-regrooving can weaken the tire, making it susceptible to failure.