Maine clamps down on tire dealers with restrictive legislation

Aug. 26, 2004

Revisions to Maine´s vehicle inspection law are causing problems for tire dealers in the state.

The revisions -- which were enacted last September -- say that if the rim size on a vehicle is modified, the overall diameter of the wheel and tire "must be within the vehicle manufacturer´s specification."

In addition, vehicles may only be outfitted with replacement tires that meet or exceed the load and speed ratings of the vehicle´s original equipment tires.

To complicate matters, state inspection guidelines published in 2001 state that "vehicles equipped with an anti-lock brake system may not be altered."

Unfortunately, the guideline did not go into further detail, according to Dick Cole, executive director of the New England Tire & Service Association (NETSA).

"And there´s nothing in the revision that refers to anti-lock brakes," he says.

Maine requires all vehicles to undergo a multi-point safety inspection each year. If a vehicle passses, it receives a sticker. If a vehicle fails, it´s supposed to be taken off the highway.

"The state of Maine is saying, ´We´ll just go with what the vehicle originally came with.´"

The result? Confusion among dealers and consumers.

Some tires sold before the law was revised last September don´t comply with new vehicle inspection standards, according to Jim Rocha, president of Bangor (Maine) Tire Co., which also performs vehicle inspections.

"You might have sold (customers) tires two years ago and now at inspection their car won´t get a sticker" because those tires don´t meet revised inspection standards.

The revisions also throw a monkey wrench into the sales process, he says. Dealers may not be able to give customers what they want. "It´s another hassle at the counter."

"We´re having a heck of a time addressing not only changes in size from OE but also changes in speed ratings," ays Dick Aronson, president of Century Tire Co. in Portland, Maine.

"To comply with the law, we have to go to the door jamb and see what the car´s original speed rating was."

Making sure their tires are compliant with revisions can "get very expensive for customers, especially with the speed rating thing. If a customer is only going to keep his car for another year or so, he doesn´t want to buy a (more expensive) V-rated tire!"

Cole reports that the Maine State Police Department, who oversees the state´s vehicle inspection program, is planning meetings to possibly recommend revisions to existing revisions.

"We´re waiting for (them) to tell us what we can do to rectify this," he says.

Meanwhile, Cole has stepped up NETSA´s lobbying efforts and has gained a position on the State of Maine´s Inspection Advisory Committee.

"These are revisions that we in the industry did not have any input about."

Check back with as this story unfolds.