Tire shortages loom in America. For some, they may already have arrived. This story was inspired by multiple posts in Tesla forums by owners with flat tires. Some of these owners were surprised to find that they would need to wait multiple days to replace the tires on their vehicle after a flat or road damage.
Tire Delays Reported By Many Vehicle Owners
Out of respect for the privacy of the West Coast member who posted it, we edited this post slightly. Here is one example of the type of tire-related delay we are speaking about: “We got a flat tire on a Sunday. We didn't realize the car had no spare tire. Tesla roadside assistance offered two options; tow it to the service center and they could look at it on Tuesday or they can bring a loaner tire…”
Tire Installer Confirms Shortage
Though it was numerous Tesla posts that first caught our attention, this problem is not unique to Tesla. Similar posts are now becoming more commonplace across all brands. To find out if the problem was national, we reached out to our East Coast tire supplier, Boston Mobile Tire. This on-site tire service works with multiple wholesalers and retailers to source tires for the customers the company serves in the greater Metro Boston area. Franchise owner, Jay Condrick confirmed that tire delays are now becoming common.
Jay told us, “Over the past year I’ve been amazed at how unaffected by COVID-19 the tire supply chain has been. Yes, Saturday delivery isn’t available at three of the five vendors I use as it was pre-COVID, but otherwise, it’s been business as usual. Order a tire on a Tuesday night and it’s in my driveway early Weds for installation the same day. Until this past month. I noticed one of the most popular OEM tires I replace has been difficult to find and now the second choice is unavailable in many popular sizes. A call to the brand rep and the report is production impact from COVID. Apparently, they used to run 3 shifts but now have to stop production regularly to disinfect between shift changes etc. I’m seeing it with multiple brands.”
Global Rubber Supply Disruption
Bloomberg sees the delays and coming shortages in a different light. The upshot is that China has been stocking up on natural rubber, a primary ingredient in tires. China has been buying rubber from manufacturers (farmers) and the global supply chain is now impacted by this move. Read the story for more details. We think there is more to the story here. President Obama instituted a punitive tariff on Chinese tire imports. We are not taking a side on the issue and this writer leans towards protecting fair trade. However, that action may now have a consequence.
Related Story: Here’s Why Your Tire Cannot Be Repaired
So what can you do to prepare for a tire shortage? A few things. First, check your spare tire. Is it properly inflated? Is it less than ten years old? Does it have any visible damage or cracks? If so, take action and be certain you have a reliable compact or full-size spare tire.
Related Story: How To Check Your Spare Tire
Your vehicle does not have a spare tire of any kind? Shame on you. At least check that the can of gunk in the repair kit has not expired and try out the mobile pump. If you wish to add a spare, try Modern Spare. This aftermarket company has spare tire solutions for many models.
If your tires are more than 80% worn, consider replacing them proactively before the need is urgent. This can be done at your convenience and a delay won’t be a problem since your tires are working.
It may also be wise to check that your roadside assistance program subscription is still active. If the one your insurer or car brand provides is no longer active, consider AAA.
If you have had any tire-related delays, please tell us about your experience in the comments below. Your lessons learned may help a fellow motorist.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin