When it's time to replace a tire on the car, most people tend to head straight to the tire store or auto shop to buy a new tire. What not everyone considers is that there is another option available in some circumstances: recap tires. Recap tires are not new; also known as remold tires, retread tires, and remanufactured tires, recapping is essentially the method in which used tires that have been pre-inspected and hand picked are retreaded and sold back to motorists. Put simply, recap tires are those tires that have been extended beyond their typical lifespan through tread rehabilitation. The different names are often used interchangeably, though a remolded or remanufactured tire is technically a retreaded tire with a sidewall that has had a new rubber surface applied to it. It's important to note that these are different to blemished tires which are instead first run tires that have a cosmetic defect or blemish.
Background and History
First established at the beginning of the twentieth century, tire retreading has continued to evolve and grow significantly as an industry over the decades. These days, there are close to 850 plants that make tire recaps in the United States alone. While some of these producers are mom and pop shops that will make merely a couple dozen remanufactured tires per day, some are very big plants that are capable of churning out upwards of one thousand retreads per day. Finally, there are plants that specialize in retreading tires for specific purposes or niches, such as construction equipment, farming machinery like tractors and combines, and off road vehicles like ATVs. When all of these various types of tire remanufactures are combined, this industry accounts for more than three billion dollars in annual sales throughout North America.
Pros of Recaps
- Lower Consumer Cost: On its surface, tire retreading is an attractive and cost effective alternative for motorists. Indeed, this option is on average between 30 and 50% cheaper than purchasing a new tire from a retailer. Especially in today's uncertain economy, this type of savings is more attractive to consumers than ever; for someone looking to replace four tires at $100 apiece, that's a couple hundred dollars saved in one tire replacement transaction.
- Benefits to the Environment: The retreading tire industry accumulates its materials by collecting used and discarded tires from fields, expressways, and other places where blown tires are left behind. So, rather than produce a new tire, a used tire is proactively picked up. Aside from cleaning up the environment of old tires that would otherwise end up in landfills, this also means a great deal of oil is being conserved – as synthetic rubber components of a tire are largely oil-based. Whereas retreading a passenger car tire requires only about two or three gallons of oil to manufacture, making this same tire from scratch requires seven to eight gallons of oil.
- Savings for the Trucking Industry and Commercial Airlines: Between the trucking industry and commercial and military aircrafts, the amount of tire usage is staggering. Fortunately, recapped tires help to extend the lives of many of these tires, cutting costs and preserving massive amounts of oil and preventing landfill waste. With the vast distances covered every day, using recap truck tires certainly represents a significant saving and keeps transport costs down across the board.
While there are clearly a number of benefits to retreaded tires, they are not always the most feasible or ideal choice for some motorists.
Cons of Recaps
- Lack of Availability: Finding and purchasing professionally retreaded tires may not be a big problem for the commercial airline of the trucking company, but for the average car owner who drives a regular passenger car, this is not always so easy. For certain sizes of cars, locating a retreaded tire might not be impossible – but these tend only to be available for specific sizes.
- Lower Performance: For those that are considering going with the retread, it is important to keep in mind that the performance of the tire will not be the same as that of the brand new version of that tire. So while a pair of recap tires on the old family sedan might not produce much of a noticeable difference in the drivability of the car, putting these on the new sports car almost definitely will create a noticeable different – and not a positive one.
Safety and Reliability Concerns
Unsurprisingly, there has been some speculation as to whether the retreads are as safe and as reliable as the new tire. The truth is that yes, they are both safe and reliable (as long as they are produced by professionals). In fact, President Bush mandated in 2000 that vehicle fleets among all federal agencies use retreaded tires whenever possible. Between military vehicles, taxis, fire engines, Postal Services vehicles, school buses, trucking fleets, ambulances and motorists, there are just as many retread tires on the road at any given time as there are original tread tires.