Vorsprung durch Project Fear

Audi Lincoln was right. I have a problem with my A3’s Dunlop Maxx tyres. It was a bit like Mark Carney’s “scenarios”, or a greedy consultant urging surgery and I was sure I didn’t need to part with £456. But it raised questions 1) Will Audi and Dunlop call in a batch of tyres made in 2017? 2) Do Audi owners question alarmist videos? 3) Are the rules on redress for faulty tyres adequate?

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            It was a year since I took delivery of my A3 (Lincoln put on a nice little ceremony - it arrived with last winter’s snow, see below - I like Audis, search my blog) and I took up the offer of a free health check. Jayne kindly called me “with an update,” and sent a video claiming all four tyres needed replacing. They were not worn but each “has perished and exposed cords on the inner edge. This would fail an MOT.” I could have new ones at £114 apiece.

            I called the service manager.

            “Worn out. At 8000 miles? Surely not.” He claimed that if the tyre pressure monitoring system had been flashing they must have been running underinflated. The exposed cords, he said, were leaking air. I told him I had checked the pressures with an old-fashioned tyre gauge and never ran tyres underinflated. I would take it up with Audi. He replied, somewhat huffily I thought, that this was my perfect right.

            When I went to collect the car, Robynne asked me to sign a document, confirming I didn’t want the tyres replaced. She didn’t exactly say no signature, no car, but the inference was plain. It sounded like a ploy to panic nervous octogenarians into parting with £456.

            I had found the A3’s tyre pressure monitoring fiddly and sent a note: “(It) keeps warning about low pressure. I set it at front 30 and rear 28, which is probably too high and I would prefer 28 and 26. This car does not have the low-profile tyres usually standard with this model; I specified a quieter alternative from new. I have reset the system several times but the warning light comes back on again in a week or two. I take the pressures when it does. The systems seems either over-sensitive or faulty.”

            Jayne and Robynne were polite, offering a small discount on new tyres, however I went to four MoT testers who agreed those I had were by no means failures. I took it up with Audi Milton Keynes but Audi Lincoln stood its ground. I approached Which? but everybody, as everybody does when they don’t want to do anything, muttered about safety being paramount while sitting firmly on their hands. Dunlop kindly emailed me about my rights under consumer protection laws, which say in effect that disputed tyres must be returned to the dealer and it might take fifteen days to decide if I’m due a refund. Or I could invest £456 to stay on the road and hope for some recompense.

            I thought Audi Lincoln’s video unduly gloomy but keeping an open mind bought one new Dunlop Maxx for £81 and asked TyreSafe (2009 Prince Michael road safety Award) for an independent consultant. He reports: “Examination shows a processing fault. There is insufficient rubber covering the fabric layer at the tread edge. The cords are visible at the base of the lateral tread grooves at the edge of the inside shoulder. This tyre along with any others showing similar features should be submitted as a warranty claim.”

            A former Dunlop technician, he was impressed with Audi Lincoln spotting the cords. They are not easy to see. All four tyres were made at the same time in 2017 (the one I removed in week 33 see picture below)) and he confirmed there was absolutely no evidence of under-inflation and could not believe the exposed cords were leaking air as the video claimed. He also doubted that the tyres would have been MoT failures, so the testers I took them to were not mistaken. The tyres might become failures when worn but Lincoln had been exaggerating and there was no immediate danger of a blow-out. Question 4) What about Project Fear?