Tire dealer liability claims commonly come from two scenarios: incidents where tires have come detached from a moving vehicle or situations where a vehicle’s safety system isn’t working properly. Both of these issues are serious and the consequences can result in accidents, injuries or even death. Customers bring in their vehicles with the expectation that tire dealers will service their cars and return them in safe working order—that’s why we’re providing some risk management tips to help protect tire dealerships and reduce their potential liability.

Proper wheel torquing

Improper or unchecked torquing of wheel nuts are the most common causes we see for claims where wheels have come detached from moving vehicles.  When wheel nuts are over-torqued, studs can become stretched and eventually break. Rims can also crack as a result of over-torquing. In both cases, excess force is placed on the remaining wheel nuts and studs, which weakens them and causes them to break, resulting in a detached wheel.

Under-torquing can be just as serious, as it can lead to the wheel nuts being loosened easily under much less force. Again, the result can be a detached wheel.

There are some products on the market that can provide assistance by either alerting when a wheel nut has lost torque, or preventing the wheel nuts from backing off. However, proper torquing by a qualified technician can be the best preventative measure. When the wheel nuts have been removed for tire repair or replacement, it’s essential that the wheel nuts be torqued to the manufacturer’s specifications.

But your obligation shouldn’t end there. Wheel nut tightness should be checked after a certain period of use, usually 80 kilometres. The customer should be made aware of this requirement and be advised to return for a follow-up appointment. Should a lawsuit arise, keeping the documentation indicating that you advised the customer accordingly could help. Many businesses record this information directly on the customer’s invoice.

To help prevent claims and ensuing lawsuits, be sure to torque the wheel nuts to the manufacturer’s specifications and advise the customer to return for a follow-up appointment.

Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems

Tire dealers have a legal obligation to their customers to ensure the safety devices on their vehicles are in working order before the vehicles leave the shop. Although repair of a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) is not mandatory in Canada, it’s an important part of the overall vehicle safety system on vehicles where a TPMS is installed.

Tire dealers have a legal obligation to ensure that the correct tire is installed on the vehicle, that the wheel and tire do not come off while driving, and that all safety systems are working properly. Whether a product is faulty or the work is done incorrectly, damages can go beyond just physical damage to a vehicle; serious motor vehicle accidents can lead to bodily injury and even death.

Tire dealers have a higher level of tire expertise than the average consumer. Customers depend on their tire dealer for advice, so the dealer’s expertise must extend to the selection of tires, and to situations where the tires are unsafe or where there’s an unsafe mechanical condition. Tire dealers are obligated to warn the customer if an unsafe condition exists and to recommend the repair or replacement of tires or parts.

The best practice is to ensure that the TPMS system is fully functional when it leaves the shop and to refuse to do the work if a customer wishes to ignore or bypass the safety system. If you’re a tire dealer and you decide to do the work and/or release the vehicle, you could help limit your liability exposure by having the customer sign a waiver.

If the customer refuses to have the work completed, it’s imperative that the dealer document the unsafe condition on the invoice or work order and have the customer acknowledge by signature that they’re aware of the unsafe condition and refused to have the work completed. Courts have found repair garages responsible for accidents occurring from unsafe tires where the customer was not warned or where the dealer could not provide documentation to support the warning.

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.