Unwitting motorists are at risk of being caught out by tyre shops selling illegal, regrooved tyres and what’s worse, if a traffic officer spots the tyres on your vehicle, you will get a fine.
Regrooving is cutting new tread on a worn out tyre and it is illegal for passenger vehicles according to the National Road Safety Act.
Richard Coleman, spokesman for City Traffic Services, said: “You can regroove a tyre, but only for a truck tyre with a bead diameter of 430mm and more. Anything less is illegal.
“The City’s Traffic Services do find passenger vehicles with regrooved tyres and these owners or drivers are given a fine.”
Examiners at roadworthy testing centres and traffic officers know how to spot regrooved tyres.
“The tread pattern is uneven or skew because the regrooving is done by hand on a small tyre, while truck tyres are cut by a machine; and often the fabric or the cord that is used to construct the tyre is stained or dyed black to hide the grooves,” Mr Coleman said.
But what of suppliers or sellers of regrooved passenger vehicle tyres? Shouldn’t they face penalties too?
Siphesihle Dube, spokesman for the MEC for Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant, said: “Such should be reported to the SAPS, or to one’s local traffic authority for investigation.”
A tyre shop owner in Brackenfell spoke to this reporter on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
“Please don’t mention my shop’s name,” he said. “They may just burn us down and or throw bricks at us.”
The shop owner said franchised tyre shops did not sell regrooved tyres but were aware of the practice, which was “widespread”.
When asked where a tyre shop was likely to get regrooved tyres, he said it’s a “backyard, chommie-chommie thing”.
The reporter has found at least one tyre shop which sells regrooved tyres, at a cost of almost R300 each.
When we first spoke to the manager at a tyre shop in Mitchell’s Plain, he openly admitted to selling regrooved tyres.
The shop has painted signage on the walls declaring that there are no refunds or guarantees.
When asked later if he was aware that he was selling regrooved tyres, he replied: “Who told you that?”
He then went on to admit that the shop, which had multiple suppliers, knowingly sold regrooved tyres.
He, however, remained tight-lipped about who his suppliers were.
When the reporter pointed out that it was illegal, he replied: “It’s not dangerous” because “tubeless tyres don’t burst, the air just goes out of them very slowly”.
Nobuzwe Mangcu, the managing executive at the South African Tyre Manufacturers Conference (SATMC) said it was difficult to quantify how widespread the practice was among small tyre dealers.
She advised that consumers visit accredited franchisers to check if the tyres they purchased were safe.
SATMC is an industry body that assists tyre manufacturers.
“We find that the safety requirements are not being enforced and that the responsibility is passed on to the end user,” she said.
According to the SATMC website, retreading, which is legal is very different from regrooving. Retreading, which is also known as recapping or remolding, involves replacing the tread on worn tyres.
“Very little passenger tyres are still retreaded in South Africa,” it said.
On regrooving, it said: “The National Road Regulation states that it is illegal for passenger, 4×4, bakkies and taxi type vehicles to be fitted with regrooved tyres.
“Regroovable tyres for trucks are specifically manufactured with an additional tread depth of up to 4mm. This is called ‘tread stock’ and is located between the upper edge of the belt and the tread grooves. Tyres that may be legally regrooved are marked “Regroovable” on the sidewall areas, which means it has extra undertread thickness for regrooving purposes.”