The Recipe Matters – Even With Tires
There are two main enemies which break down a tire. One is heat and the other is oxygen. Warm weather makes Florida an area where drivers are more susceptible to tire failures, and tire design, particularly the tire ingredients are important to tire safety.
A tire is a highly engineered composite of different materials and compounds. The innerliner of a tire is a thin layer of rubber on the innermost portion of a modern radial tire. The innerliner is positioned next to the pressurized air which inflates the tire and its primary function is to prevent that air and moisture from entering into the internal parts of the tire. Accordingly, the innerliner is designed to be impermeable to air and moisture.
Rubber in general is to some degree permeable. That is why an inflated balloon will begin to sag over time because the pressurized air inside of the balloon will permeate to the outer atmosphere and leave the balloon less inflated. For the same reason, over time the tire pressure of tires should be checked on occasion because some loss of air pressure will occur naturally over time.
One of the main ingredients used in innerliners to prevent air from permeating into the internal components of the tire is a substance called halobutyl. Halobutyl was first patented in 1937 and has been recognized by tire experts to be 13 times more resistant to permeation than natural rubber. This is important because when air permeates into the internal components of the tire the oxygen acts to deteriorate the various compounds, which over time may lead to tire failures including tread separations.
When our firm is involved in tire failure cases we seek information regarding the percentage of halobutyl used in innerliner by various manufacturers. This information is closely guarded by tire manufacturers. The manufacturers typically object to providing this information as a trade secret. When this information is extracted from them, typically requiring court orders, it is commonly provided under the protection of a confidentiality order.
Some manufacturers have used 100% halobutyl in their tire innerliners on passenger and light truck tires. We have found a great variety in the percentage of halobutyl used in different tires by different companies, and where we believe the percentage of halobutyl is too low, we have addressed this as a design defect contributing to tire failures.
Tires are heated or vulcanized in an effort to have the various ingredients of the tire meld together as one unit which cannot be broken apart at the various interfaces of the different components. When something is baked to create one cohesive unit the ingredients are critical. Halobutyl is a critical ingredient to provide protection from air permeation in the innerliner of a tire.
At Halpern, Santos & Pinkert, P.A. we have had the privilege of handling tire failure cases against almost every major manufacturer of tires in the world. Tire defect cases are one form of product liability cases. In any product liability case it is extremely important for the attorney handling the case to become intimately familiar with the product in question.