Rubber shortage, pandemic fueling tire supply issues at stores & dealers in U.S.

Jacksonville tire store manager says he’s seen some customers wait up to a month, another says up to 90 days

If you’ve recently had a hard time replacing an unrepairable tire or tires that are low on tread life -- you’re not alone.

Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic has not only slowed down the production of tires, but it has also slowed down the shipping of tires into the U.S. It’s impacting tire stores and automotive dealerships across the U.S., including spots in Jacksonville.

Notably, there’s a natural rubber shortage in Asia, which supplies a great deal of rubber to companies that make tires.

“I’ve actually seen them have to wait up to a month,” Matt Jones, store manager of Tubel’s Tire and Service in Jacksonville, said of recent customer orders.

Aaron Nelson, owner of Aaron’s Car Care Inc. in Jacksonville, said there’s a Jeep Cherokee in his shop that’s been waiting for a set of performance tires.

“Two to three months,” Nelson said of the wait. “I have found them. They’re almost double the price.”

Jones says there is one type of tire that is readily available, but says consumers should be cautious.

“The market is completely flooded with Chinese tires,” Jones said. “So the consumer has to be very careful what they are shopping for.”

That’s because tire experts say some Chinese tire brands are made with less technology and poor rubber compounds, which can restrict how fast, how far and for how long you can drive on them. According to, Goodride, AKS Tires, Telluride and Compass tires are considered inexpensive Chinese tires. So safety, durability, and braking distance should be considered when buying them.

This is why experts are urging people to do their homework if they’re left with no other choice but to buy Chinese tire brands.

“You have to be careful of the treadwear dating on them. They are so cheap, they’ll last 10,000 miles and then they’re shot,” Nelson said.

“It’s going to safely put you on the road to the very minimum specifications required by the Dept. of Transportation,” Jones added.

Even though Chinese tires have flooded the market, Jones says he’s noticing the supply is starting to run low.

He says if you can’t find a Chinese tire that suits your needs or simply don’t want to go that route, be even more careful about buying used tires.

“Used tires are somebody else’s problem. They came off the vehicle for a reason,” Jones said.

“Most people don’t get rid of tires unless there’s an issue,” Nelson added.

While looking into this problem, I discovered another issue. People who own expensive high-end European cars are even more likely to run into a problem because some of those cars have a specific tire size that is only made for a certain make and model.