Tire warranties may not cover everything you think

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If your tire is under warranty and gets damaged, many think the company should replace it. But it turns out, navigating tire warranties can get pretty bumpy, as one Bay Area driver found out the hard way.

“All of a sudden, I’m in the right hand lane and I feel this huge explosion,” Gary Newsome described. “Like 'bam!'”

He held up a shredded piece of tire - the aftermath of his tire exploding.

“You can see how it just came undone. As you can see, this is completely unwound from there and beat this up,” he said.

Newsome’s 4-year-old Michelin tire was under warranty when it blew out on Highway 19 in Clearwater - causing $4,000 of damage to a van he takes care of meticulously.

“I don't 4-wheel in this van,” he said. “I am the only person who drives it.”

Newsome said when Discount Tires in Palm Harbor replaced the tire, employees told him there was no sign of external damage so they would honor his warranty, but he would have to leave the tire with them to return to Michelin. He didn't want to do that in case he wanted to file a claim or lawsuit down the line.

Instead, he chose to send it directly to Michelin, convinced the tire was dangerously defective. Michelin sent it back with a letter saying its tests show an impact of some kind split the inner lining of the tire, causing air to infiltrate into the casing, leading to a tread detachment.

“It indicates, at some point the tire struck an unknown object,” Newsome reads aloud, an assessment Newsome categorically denies.

When asked if he hit any objects or road debris, and he said, 'no.'

FOX 13 News asked Michelin how confident it is Newsome hit something. It sent the following statement:

“We cannot talk about individual cases, but tires can fail due to an impact event during its service life, which could have occurred days, weeks, or even months prior to the incident. We only deny claims when we are certain that a tire became unserviceable because of a non-workmanship or material related issue."

The car experts at Edmunds.com, meanwhile, said it's a common misperception to think a standard warranty covers everything.

Road debris damage is only covered by hazard insurance, additional coverage and cost. It’s only a good idea if you know you drive thru a construction zone regularly, for example, or put a lot of wear on your tires.

In Newsome's case - it's a 'he-said, they-said.'

“They have the more sophisticated equipment to determine [what caused the damage]. We don't know what we are hitting on the road,” explained Ronald Montoya with Edmonds.com

FOX 13 spoke on the phone with the mechanic who worked on Newsome's van. He said 80-percent of all tire damage happens to the right rear because people hit something and don't realize.

But Newsome is so sure something deeper is wrong, he spent another $1,000 to replace the other three tires, since they were all from the same lot.

“I went ahead and bought Michelin again. I’ve used them for 40 years and didn't anticipate any problems with Michelin,” he said.

Now, Newsome is $5,000 in the hole, and upset with a company he once trusted. His is a lesson for drivers - when it comes to tire warranties, tread carefully.