One of the worst disasters a driver can face is when a tire sheds its tread. But CTV News has found imported tires from China prone to that kind of failure for sale in Canada, despite a recall in the United States.

The light truck tires are blamed for two deaths in a U.S. lawsuit, after the treads peeled away and a van lost control on a turnpike last year.

"The belts can come apart, the tire will overheat and it will basically just disintegrate," Kirk Robinson, an independent mechanic and host of a call-in cable TV show in Toronto called "Auto Talk," told CTV News.

He said the tires could be as dangerous as the defective Firestone models taken off the market in 2000.

Transport Canada has asked any Canadians who have experienced safety issues with the tires to phone its toll-free complaint number at 1-800-333-0510

The Chinese plant that manufactures the tires has been accused of neglecting gum strips -- the material that helps hold the belts of tires together. According to U.S. officials, some of the gum strips only had a width of about 0.3 millimetres, half of what they expected.

American officials have responded by ordering the American importer to recall half a million of the Chinese tires.

Transport Canada said it monitors U.S. recalls but makes independent assessments of questionable products. While the agency said it doesn't know of any of the tires on Canadians shelves, CTV News found two sets in a single day -- along with several stores willing to order the exact models recalled by the U.S. government.

Mississauga, Ont.-based importer Aziz Rakla, of Rakla Tires Inc., claims to be the exclusive importer of the products in Canada.

Rakla refused to speak on camera, but said the tires are tested at the Chinese factory, owned by Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., and are fine for use. He also said he orders and sells the tires "by the container full," from B.C. to Newfoundland.

The tires are sold under the names Westlake, Telluride, Compass or YKS. The sizes involved in the U.S. recall are:

  • LT235/75R-15 CR861 CR857
  • LT225/75R-16 CR861
  • LT235/85R-16 CR860 CR861 CR857
  • LT245/75R-16 CR860 CR861 CR857
  • LT265/75R-16 CR860 CR861 CR857
  • LT31X10.5-15 CR857 CR861

Apparently unknown to Transport Canada, there are two major distributors of the tires in Canada: Remington Tire and Canada Tire Inc.

While Remington did not return phone calls by CTV News, a spokesperson from Canada Tire said the company would immediately stop offering the models.

"Canada Tire Inc. has decided to stop selling the Westlake light truck line in question (models CR857 and CR860) at the present time until we get further clarification on the situation," Harold Busner, vice president of Canada Tire, told CTV News in an email.

He also said the Chinese tires only made up a very small minority of products sold by company.

Meanwhile, Transport Canada has said it wants to obtain some of those tires to test their safety.

"We certainly don't want to alarm anybody," said spokesperson Lars Eif. "We need to get our facts straight before we take action on this."

He added: "The chances of someone in Canada experiencing a tread separation tomorrow morning with a vehicle equipped with these tires is very, very low. So we are not really calling this an emergency at all."

Under Canadian law, importers cannot be forced into recalling products. But the government can require them to inform their customers about any safety issues.

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