The recall targeted 130,000 snow throwers sold through hardware stores, home improvement centers and retailers like Kmart and Sears. They were sold from July 2004 through March 2006, for $500 to $800, under the brand names Yard Machines, Troy-Bilt and Craftsman.
The problem is the plastic wheels can explode as the tires are filled with air, sending plastic shrapnel flying.
More than 200 people, including a Milwaukee man, have been injured, even though more than 80% of the machine owners have been notified of the recall that began in October 2006.
"We think that we have exhausted every reasonable effort to contact people," but the work continues, MTD attorney Terry Hollister said Monday.
"We are resolving claims as they arrive, but more importantly, we are trying to prevent more injuries from occurring," Hollister said.
Based in Cleveland, MTD Products is one of the nation's largest outdoor power equipment makers.
The company said it initially received reports of 16 injuries, including fractured fingers, a broken toe and facial lacerations, from the plastic-wheel snow throwers when the tires were overinflated and the rims burst into pieces.
MTD cooperated with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in the voluntary recall and told consumers to immediately stop using the machines until they received a kit to remedy the problem.
"It's very difficult. But we have worked very hard to track down as many people as we could," Hollister said.
Still, the recall notice came too late for Jim LaFleur, of Hugo, Minn., who was seriously injured while inflating a tire on his snow thrower.
Both of his index fingers and his right thumb were broken. Doctors have implanted metal pins in his fingers, and he now suffers from arthritis in those joints.
A transit bus driver, LaFleur also has lost partial use of his hands.
"In a fairly tight spot, I can't even use my index fingers to put a nut on a bolt," he said.
LaFleur said one of the plastic wheels exploded after he had checked the tire pressure and was putting in a little more air to bring the tire up to full pressure of 30 pounds per square inch.
"It was 'bang,' just like that. There was nothing but pieces left of the wheel," he said.
This fall, LaFleur sued MTD for his injuries. He and his wife, Kristine LaFleur, are seeking an undetermined amount of compensation in excess of $150,000, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
MTD should have known that plastic wheels and inflatable tires weren't a good combination, said one of their attorneys, Victor Harding of the Milwaukee law firm Warshafsky, Rotter, Tarnoff & Bloch.
Over time, plastic degrades and can become brittle. The wheels were not strong enough to handle the tire air pressure, according to Harding, whose firm has settled at least four similar lawsuits against MTD.
"The company says the tires had to be over-pressurized to explode, but I don't think that has been established yet," Harding said. "I think the company tried to save a nickel (by using plastic wheels), and it has come back to bite them in the butt."
Others have sued MTD, including a 56-year old truck driver who was blinded by plastic shrapnel when putting air in the tire of his snow thrower.
The company has since issued a free service kit, with pressure relief valves, labels and instructions, for consumers with the recalled snow throwers.
MTD says inflatable snow thrower tires should never be filled with high-pressure air compressor.
"Air compressors are high-volume, high-psi machines capable of over-inflating a tire, possibly causing it or the rim to burst," MTD says on its Web site.
For information on the recall and snow thrower safety advice, visit MTD Products at www.snowthrowersafety.com.