tire tread separator

Is This The Fix? - Nissan issues TSB on 350Z tire wear, extends warranty

From Autoweek Online, By Mac Morrison
April 2004

One of the biggest enthusiast car controversies of 2003 might finally be laid to rest. Nissan on Monday issued to dealers a 21 page technical service bulletin (NTB04-043) intended to solve 350Z front tire "roar" caused by uneven front tire wear. The company also announced it would extend all 2003 Z front wheel alignment warranties to two years from the car's original in-service date. Owners will be happy to learn Nissan may (depending on tire wear levels and mileage) pay for new tires, reimburse owners who already replaced their car's rubber, or pay owners a prorated portion of their incurred cost.

Approximately 40,000 2003 350Zs are said to be affected by the tire wear issue. No official word yet if the problem has become an issue for 2004 Zs.

When last we reported the issue (AW, Dec. 8, 2003), Nissan claimed it assigned a team of engineers to look into the problem after the company was bombarded with owner complaints; indeed, a December review of one 350Z owners' website revealed over 1000 posts on the matter. Four months later, Nissan has not strayed from its original analysis of the problem's root cause. An official statement we received states in part:

"Nissan engineers have investigated the tire noise issue and determined that, when the noise occurs, the root cause is chassis alignment-specifically, the toe adjustment. Toe-out can cause a tire wear pattern (i.e., excess feathering) that creates tire noise. A technical service bulletin addressing alignment was issued to all Nissan dealers in January of 2003..."

"Nonetheless, the problem has persisted for some customers due to an apparent failure to properly set the correct alignment. Because of the sensitivity of this vehicle/tire combination to proper alignment, Nissan has advised dealers...that it is critical to refer to the actual alignment number that is displayed for the Toe Setting, and reminds dealers that it is very important not to have any Toe-Out when they are finished aligning the car...Nissan is also requiring dealers to document proper calibration of their alignment equipment..."

"Nissan has been following vehicles carefully aligned with no toe-out and has found thus far that, once set correctly, the Z's alignment remains set correctly over time, and that tire noise does not occur on those vehicles."

Nissan will begin to contact affected 350Z owners at the end of April. The company will notify those owners of the problem, its cause and available remedies, though the official statement stresses, "this is a consumer satisfaction issue that does not impact the handling or safety of the vehicle." The company asks Z owners to direct their questions to Nissan's consumer affairs division at (800) 343-0294.

NISSAN'S FULL STATEMENT:

FULL TEXT OF OFFICIAL NISSAN SERVICE BULLETIN

Summary:

Approximately 40,000 2003 350Z customers will have the warranty extended on their Front Wheel Alignments. If the front toe alignment on these vehicles is not correct, an irregular wear pattern can occur on the inner edge of the front tires. The wear pattern can cause a noise described as "tire roar" or "tire growl." This noise may be most noticeable during low speed braking.

The extended Front Wheel Alignment Warranty for all MY 2003 350Z's will be two (2) years, from the original in-service date. For vehicles experiencing this noise, Nissan will inspect the tires for this irregular wear pattern, and will rotate or replace affected tires per the protocol noted in the technical service bulletin (see attached). For vehicles whose front tires were previously replaced due to tire roar or growl, Nissan will reimburse customers for front tires that were replaced with less than 30,000 miles of usage at the time of replacement based on documented front tire noise complaints (prorated from 21,001 to 30,000 miles).

Background:

Over the past year some 350Z owners have experienced a tire noise issue, predominately during low speed braking. This has been described as tire "roar" or "growl." Some owners have also described tire "feathering." It is very important to note that this is a consumer satisfaction issue that does not impact the handling or the safety of the vehicle.

The 350Z was designed for maximum dynamic handling performance and is equipped with tires with optimized handling characteristics. This performance set-up requires very accurate front-end alignment, and Nissan has determined that the 350Z tires are sensitive to any toe-out whatsoever. This noise/excess tire "feathering" issue is not related to camber. Nissan has been following vehicles carefully aligned with no toe-out and has found thus far that, once set correctly, the Z's alignment remains set correctly over time, and that tire noise does not occur on those vehicles.

Nissan engineers have investigated the tire noise issue and determined that, when the noise occurs, the root cause is chassis alignment - specifically the toe adjustment. Toe-out can cause a tire wear pattern (i.e., excess feathering) that creates tire noise. A Technical Service Bulletin (NTB03-006), addressing alignment was issued to all Nissan dealers in January of 2003. In June of 2003 the affected VIN range was identified in NTB03-006A.

Nonetheless, the problem has persisted for some customers due to an apparent failure to properly set the correct alignment. Because of the sensitivity of this vehicle/tire combination to proper alignment, Nissan has advised dealers not to use the "Go/No-Go" color indicators commonly found on some alignment machines. Rather, Nissan is advising dealers that it is critical to refer to the actual alignment number that is displayed for the Toe Setting, and reminds dealers that it is very important not to have any Toe-Out when they are finished aligning the car. This was documented in a revised Technical Service Bulletin (NTB03-006B) in December of 2003. Nissan is also requiring dealers to document proper calibration of their alignment equipment.

Nissan Action:

To ensure the highest levels of customer satisfaction, Nissan is extending the warranty for front wheel alignment on customers' 350Zs to 2 years from the original in-service date. Like all Nissan New Vehicle Limited Warranty service, this extended warranty is only available through a Nissan dealership.

Beginning in late April, 2004 Nissan will contact affected 2003 350Z customers by mail. For Model Year 2003 350Z vehicles that exhibit front tire roar or growl noise, during the extended warranty period Nissan will inspect vehicles to determine the wheel, tire and suspension equipment installed on the vehicle. Then Nissan will:

  • For vehicles equipped with original equipment tires and wheels (or with genuine Nissan chrome or NISMO accessory Z wheels), Nissan will:
    • Inspect the tires for irregular wear pattern on the inside portion of the front tires and, if necessary, either rotate the front tires from side to side or replace the front tires as determined to be necessary by formal repair criteria.
    • If tires are either rotated or replaced, check the front wheel alignment and adjust, as needed, to ensure proper toe-in adjustment.
  • For vehicles equipped with replacement tires and original equipment wheels (or with genuine Nissan chrome or NISMO accessory Z wheels) , Nissan will:
    • Check the front wheel alignment and adjust, as needed.
  • For vehicles with replacement tires that are not the original size, or with wheels other than those listed in number 1 or 2 above or, or with suspension modifications other than NISMO-S Tune, this warranty extension is not applicable unless the wheels, tires and/or suspension are first returned to original factory specifications and the vehicle is then presented to a Nissan dealer for repair prior to expiration of this extended warranty.

Note: If it is determined that replacement of the front tires is covered and necessary: Tires with less than 21,001 miles of usage will be replaced free of charge; Tires replaced between 21,001 and 30,000 miles will be prorated and Nissan will pay for a percentage of the tire replacement cost.

Statement: On some 2003 MY 350Z's, customers have experienced tire noise described as tire "growl" or "roar." The root cause of this type of tire noise is front-end alignment. Nissan will extend the front wheel alignment warranty for this tire noise to two (2) years, with unlimited mileage. Nissan will contact all customers who may be affected. These customers will be invited to bring their car to a Nissan dealer if they believe they may be affected by this issue. Nissan will inspect the vehicle and perform the appropriate repair which may include wheel alignment, front tire rotation and, in some cases, front tire replacement. All 2003 MY 350Z customers will be notified that they may be eligible for reimbursement of prior expenses related to this warranty extension which were incurred during the extended warranty period. Reimbursement for repairs or tire replacements due to normal wear are not included in this program. Nissan is committed to a high level of customer safety, service, and satisfaction and is working with its dealers to promptly address this condition."

Please direct any consumer inquiries to Consumer Affairs at (800) 343-0294.