Drivers blame rail work for blowouts - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Drivers blame rail work for blowouts

AIEA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tire companies along Kamehameha Highway in Aiea are fixing more flats and replacing more damaged rims since rail work moved into the neighborhood.

"It's not like one car at a time. Sometimes it's 3,4, 5 cars all coming in at the same time," said Freddy Balmaceda, manager at Lex Brodie's.

Down the block at Bridgestone-Firestone, manager Troy Ribuca held up two thin rubber shreds, all that was left of a driver's custom tire.

"This is the bead of a low-profile tire," he said. "The blowout was significant enough to where he lost the whole tread of the tire as he was driving to a safe part of the road to pull over."

That driver and many others blame tire and rim damage on steel plates contractor Kiewit sets down while it relocates utilities for rail. Tire sellers also blame the plates.

"If you go a little bit too fast you're going to hit that thing pretty hard." Ribuca said.

Lex Brodie's recently replaced a set of rims on a Mini Cooper. Balmaceda said the customer felt her car wobble after she passed over a steel plate. Her bill was $2,500.

"If it's after market, then you're going to have to change all four because it's not going to match up," Balmaceda said.

Ribuca said narrow tires are more susceptible to blowouts.

"In a lower profile tire you're going to feel the impact pretty hard and it's going to cause damage to the tire and the wheel," he said.

Damage claims can be filed on HART's hotline at 566-2299. They'll want to know exactly where and when the incident happened. It helps if you have a police report and photos of the damage. Kiewit will remove the plates once the utilities work is done. Rail spokesman Scott Ishikawa said Kamehameha Highway will be resurfaced in early 2017.

In the meantime, Ribuca said drivers should slow down as they approach the steel plates.

"Don't hit them at 30 mph," he said.

Balmaceda said there's also a hidden danger. High-performing tires may not deflate on immediate impact, but split apart later without warning.

"I would hate to see that driving on a 55 mph zone," he said.

Ishikawa said since September HART has received five damage claims. So far this year the hotline has gotten about two dozen calls for tire damage and inquiries on how to file a claim.

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