September 7, 2008

Faulty Valve Stems: It Happened to Me  

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On Friday, September 5 I came across this article at Jalopnik.com about faulty valve stems that were imported from China by Dill Air Control Products in North Carolina. 30,000,000 of them. That's right, up to 30 million of them have been distributed in North America. According to the article, a man in Florida was allegedly killed due to a rollover caused by one of the faulty valve stems.

According to the source article at Consumerreports.org, the faulty valve stems were manufactured between August 2006 and November 2006. The article further states that anyone who has had tires or valve stems replaced since the Summer of 2006 is potentially at risk, and should at least have their valve stems inspected for cracks.

A second blog at Consumerreports.org states that Tech International, a distributor of Dill Air Control valve stems has issued two recalls for the faulty valve stems. Oddly, Dill has yet to officially issue a recall, but their website does contain information on how to check for faulty valve stems, and Dill explains how dealers can institute a claims process for being reimbursed for replacing faulty valve stems.

My car has faulty valve stems

My wife's Honda Odyssey had new tires from tirerack.com installed by a recommended local tire center in June 2007. I just couldn't get this valve stem thing out my head, so I went home at lunch that day to check the valve stems. I was shocked at what I found. All four valve stems, just 14 months old, were severely cracked at the base of the valve stem near the rim. Of course, you can only see the cracks if you bend or rotate the valve stem sideways. In the normal resting position, the cracks are almost invisible. All four valve caps had the name "DILL" written on them.

Valve Stem Cap says "DILL"


Left Front Valve Stem


Left Rear Valve Stem


Right Rear Valve Stem - The Worst One


Right Front Valve Stem


I called the tire center, American Tire and Auto in Hamilton, NJ, and they asked me to bring the vehicle right over. When I got there, they couldn't find my name in their system. I no longer had the receipt for the tire installation, but I did have the credit card bill. The counter guy took the time to look through all the tickets for that day and found the one that matched the dollar amount of my credit card bill. It appears that my name and vehicle information was never completely entered on the invoice, hence the problems looking me up by name.

No worries though, because 20 minutes later, I was down the road with new valve stems and no questions asked. I have to admit, I was very pleased with the service and willingness to accommodate me immediately at American Tire and Auto.

Now, I did not get to view the inner part of the valve stem to see if it said "Dill" on it, but it seems rather obvious that these were indeed the faulty valve stems, especially since the valve caps all were labeled as "DILL."

My experience illustrates a big problem that was mentioned in the Consumer Reports article: most retail outlets don't have adequate records of all valve stem installations, which means they cannot notify the vehicle owners of the problem. So, your kind of on your own.

No rubber valve stem should ever deteriorate like this in only 14 months. Ever. I have an Olds Cutlass with 8 year old valve stems. They still look great.

My advice
If the shop that installed the valve stems wants to charge you, or tells you that this is normal wear and tear, tell them to shove it. Call them a liar. Print out the recall notices and warn them of the risks not only to you, but to every customer they've installed tires for. And if you can't get free replacements, don't ever do business with that shop again.

  • At the very least, visually inspect all valve stems for cracks, and replace any that are questionable.
  • If you had valve stems installed anytime after the summer of 2006, contact the shop that installed the valve stems and have them dismount the tire to check if the valve stem was made by Dill, and if so, insist on replacement.
  • When in doubt, just get the valve stems replaced.
Here are some useful links that can provide additional information on the Dill faulty valve stem issue:

Article at Jalopnik.com - This is the first article I read about this problem.
Techno-Fandom.org - In depth article on Dill faulty valve stem failure with photos.
Consumer Reports blog - Very informative, detailed information.
Consumer Reports blog - 2nd blog with additional information.
Plaintiff Attorney website - Shows photo gallery of defective valve stems.
Tech International Recall - Info on the recall by Tech International.
Dill Air Controls - Procedure for checking valve stems.
Dill Air Controls - Claim procedure for valve stem installers who replace faulty valve stems.
NHTSA - Investigation has been opened for Dill Air Controls.
Discount Tire - Defective Dill valve stem advisory.

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