COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) — A bill that would ban unsafe used tires from being sold in South Carolina, and defining what’s unsafe, is stuck in the state Senate. The state House passed the bill last year, but Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, is blocking it in the Senate. “I’m really out to protect those small, independently-owned and operated tire repair stores, like many in my community, that plug tires for folks that need them plugged without having to buy a whole new tire,” he says.
The bill’s definition of “unsafe” includes tires with: tread depth of 2/32nds of an inch or less on any area of the tire; damage exposing the reinforcing plies of the tire, including cuts, cracks, bulges, punctures, or scrapes; an improper repair, which can include a puncture that has not been both sealed with a patch on the inside of the tire and repaired with a rubber plug that goes through the hole.
That’s the part that has Sen. Sheheen concerned. “I really don’t have a problem with restricting the sale of tires that are not safe. I mean, we don’t want unsafe tires being sold in South Carolina. But I’ve got a big problem with this government, at the behest of some big out-of-state corporations, telling local tire repair shops that they can’t plug a tire when they think it’s okay to plug it,” he says.
Todd Brantley, owner of Professional Tire and Radiator in Columbia, says he doesn’t use the old tire repair plugs that everyone used to use until recently. “The Department of Transportation has determined it is not safe, so we don’t do those anymore,” he says. “It’s an inside plug patch or replace the tire.”
An inside plug patch has a patch on one end, that goes inside the tire and seals it there, combined with a stem that goes through the puncture and seals that hole. He says the new method does cost more, since the tire has to be taken off the rim, patched, and then rebalanced. The old plugs cost about $8 to $10, while the new patch plugs cost $22 to $25, he says, because of the additional time and labor involved.
Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, sponsored the bill in the House. He says he is not trying to ban the sale of all used tires, since used tires are a good alternative that are much less expensive. “What we are trying to combat are those sellers that are unscrupulous, that go out and then sell tires that are at 3/32nds, have a sidewall puncture and that sidewall has been plugged. You talk to any tire folks, you go to a tire repair shop, they will not plug a sidewall. So what we’re trying to do is create the environment not to get rid of used tires but to keep all tires safe,” he says.
He says allowing unsafe used tires on our roads puts everyone in jeopardy, since a car with a tire blowout may hit other vehicles around it.
Sen. Sheheen says he’ll continue to block the bill in the Senate.