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Whining Tires

Q. 1997 VW Passat 4dr sedan, VR6 engine, automatic, 50,000, fuel injected, ABS P/S, P/B (abs), A/C, rack and pinion steering. About 8,000 miles ago I replaced the OEM tires (Eagle GA'S) with an identical set from Goodyear size 215/50R15 They have developed a loud humming or growling tire noise that is prevalent above 20 to 25 mph and is drowned out by wind noise above 45 mph.

When the dealer attempted to rotate the tires the noise drastically increased and he immediately returned them to the original position on the car and told me not to rotate them as they had taken a "set" which he claimed was a problem with some tires and cars. My original tires (exactly the same) were rotated on a regular basis and never sounded as loud as these replacements.

What, if anything, can I do at this time? Will Goodyear honor a claim based on noisy tires that have taken a set and can't be rotated? The tires were properly balanced when mounted 8,000 miles ago, there is no vibration problem, alignment is correct and tire pressure, maintained at 32 psi, is checked on a regular basis.

What recourse do I have, if any??

A. A lot of this depends on where you bought the tires. What are they willing to do to make you a satisfied customer?

Back in the old days it was said that radial tires could only be rotated front to back. Now the accepted rotation is the unpowered tires get crossed to the powered wheels and the powered tires go straight to the unpowered wheels. In a front wheel car that means the LF tire goes the RR, the RF goes the LR. The RR goes to the RF and the LR goes to the LF. So, so much for a tire getting "set".

The only time rotating tires will make a noise is if the rear shocks are bad and the rear tires have developed a "cupping" pattern. This will be plain to see and if you run your hand over the face of the tire you will feel the high and low spots on the tire. If the tires are cupped, then you have no recourse because the problem is in the shocks or struts, not the tires.

If the tires are in good shape, then express your displeasure with the dealer who sold you the tires and strongly suggest they do something to correct the situation. If they won't do anything, then a call to their headquarters (if it is a chain store) or to Goodyear may yield more desirable results. At the very least, they can pro-rate the tires (pay for the use you got out of these tires) and apply the difference to a new set of tires.

Other than that, then a trip to small claims court is your last ditch option. There a judge will decide if there is any other amicable settlement.

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