Ford Motor Co. recommended inflating the controversial Firestone tyres on their Explorers models to less than the maximum levels required to reduce the risk of roll-overs when turning suddenly, says local media (21/8/00) citing an internal company document.

According to 'Foxmarketwire', an internal Ford document dating back to October 1989 showed that the Explorer failed safety tests and was at risk of rolling over when fitted with tyres inflated to 35 pounds per square inch (psi).

Subsequent tests however found that the stability problem did not exist when the tyres were inflated to 26 psi. First reports of the Ford document appeared in the 'Washington Post' and 'The New York Times', (20/8/00).

Since the Explorer first went on sale in 1990, Ford has recommended that the tyres on the Explorer model be inflated to 26 psi, although Bridgestone/Firestone has urged customers to fill 15-inch tyres on the Explorers to 30 psi. According to Ford, a range of 26 to 30 psi is also acceptable.

Citing Ford company spokesman Mike Vaughn (20/8/00), the report says that Mr Vaughn could not confirm the information in the document. The document has been distributed to reporters by a Little Rock, Ark., lawyer who is taking legal action against Firestone/Bridgestone.

The report - quoting Mr Vaughn - says that tyre pressure is not the issue within the recall, with the Ford spokesman saying that in the last decade, Goodyear had made 500,000 tyres for the Explorer at 26 psi, with no tread separations problems.

Ford executives are said to be investigating whether the company's tyre pressure recommendations were contributory factors in the Bridgestone/Firestone affair, say US media.

A spokesman for Bridgestone/Firestone, Ken Fields, said that both the tyre-maker and Ford have agreed that 30 psi is the level at which to inflate the tyres. Mr Fields said that the recommended tyre pressure is set by the car manufacturer and not the tyre-maker.

Quoting Rae Tyson, spokesman for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), US media says that everything would be looked at to explain what is going on, and define the extent of the safety problem, if any.

Mr Tyson added that tyre inflation was also to be looked at.