Originally created 08/10/00

SUV drivers line up early for dealer replacements



A Firestone dealer replaced the tires on Susan Perkins' 1994 Ford Explorer on Wednesday at no charge, just hours after Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. announced a nationwide tire recall.

At least five other Explorers were parked in the Firestone Tire & Service lot on Broad Street when Ms. Perkins picked up her sport utility vehicle. More were getting new tires in the garage.

"I did it to be on the safe side," Ms. Perkins said.

Workers removed the recalled ATXs and put on Lemans ATs.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone/Firestone announced the recall to address concerns about the tires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received hundreds of complaints about the tires. In many of the complaints the tread separated from the casing, resulting in accidents.

The agency is investigating the cause.

The recall will be launched in three phases, Bridgestone/Firestone officials said Wednesday afternoon. Customers will be notified of the recall by mail and can call the toll-free hot line if they have questions.

Customers in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas will be first to get the replacements; then customers in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee; followed by customers in the rest of the country.

Eighty percent of the complaints came from the four states named in the first phase of the recall. That phase is expected to be completed by October. The entire recall is expected to take about a year, company officials said.

Company officials said Bridgestone/Firestone will reimburse customers who already have replaced their tires and will offer replacements to customers who, like Ms. Perkins, want to replace the tires before they are notified by mail.

Ms. Perkins said she wanted to replace the tires before she went on vacation to Florida.

Reach Frank Witsil at 823-3352.