'A potential defect' noted
The investigation appears to stem from a lawsuit filed after the fatal crash in November of Robert Monk of Orlando, Fla. In March, his widow sued Dill Air Controls Products, blaming its tire-valve stem for causing the right rear tire of her husband's SUV to fail, precipitating the vehicle's rollover. Shortly after the suit was filed, the Oxford, N.C., company approached NHTSA with a report of "a potential defect." The agency last month began investigating the valve stems the company distributes in the US.
Some 30 million suspect valve stems were manufactured over a five-month period in 2006 for Dill by Topseal, a subsidiary of Shanghai Baolong Automotive Corp., based in Shanghai, according to NHTSA's preliminary summary of its investigation. In May, Dill issued a technical bulletin to its customers: "We have received a number of parts showing surface cracks on the outside of the rubber near the rim hole.... Out of an abundance of caution, we are recommending that when customers return to your stores for regular service, you inspect the valve stems on vehicles who received valve stems during the period September 2006-June 2007."
The Orlando attorney for Mr. Monk's widow says more should be done.
"They talk about an 'abundance of caution' but aren't really following through," says Richard Newsome. "With summer vacation coming up and families taking trips, the right thing to do for consumers is issue an order to check valves and look for cracks."