TodayApril 17, 2022

Tire Basics

It’s not easy being green

What other product does a consumer put on, use, abuse, and neglect and expect to have last forever? – Matt Blake, S&S Truck Tire Center, Huntington, WV

Tires are the only part of the car that touches the ground, yet people will buy a really expensive car, and then they don’t understand why the tires are so expensive. Hauck, the retailer I was driving with told me, “Sometimes you have to tell customers; No, I’m not putting that on your car.”

Whether it’s the Manufacturer selling to the wholesaler or the wholesaler selling to the retailer, anyone who is around tires all day sees the importance much more than the person who buys the tire and drives them till they have to be changed. I spent a day with all three of these guys and we tested four different Bridgestone tires; the Turanza EL400, Dueler H/L Alenza, Fuzion-Hri, and the Firehawk Wide Oval.

Tires are a necessity. Braking and handling begin and ends with tires. Depending on where you live you may need two sets; one for winter and one for summer. Fitting the right tires to the right car is an important job. Tire companies are now making tires for older cars as well, as they need a different type of tire. Tires have also gone from being a necessity to a luxury item, from a factory item to an after-market bling item.

I want the bling-bling or just good old-fashioned longevity tires or tires that decrease noise there are basics to look for. This article is not going to focus on rock-bottom price, but on premium silica replacing the manufacturer supplied tires. First, the basics. It’s amazing how different each tire is when you think that they are all just a container of compressed air. Since it’s the air in your tire that carries your vehicle, air pressure is very important.

When deciding on a tire you need to choose the proper load index, which indicates the maximum weight a tire can move a load and support a load. You can overload a vehicle by either loading up a pickup bed, which is what I do every time I borrow my neighbor Sheri’s pickup, or by having too little air pressure. Look for the load index on the tire. I just bought a set of 225/60R16 97V for my Lexus LS400. The 97 is the load index per tire; my car can hold 1,609 pounds per tire. The lower the load index the less weight is expected to be put in a vehicle. I won’t be hauling on my 97s when I can borrow Sheris 120s.

We were test driving an Impala with Bridgestone Turanzas and then with Michelin harmony tires when David Hauck, Wells-Hauck Tire & Auto Center, Alton, IL said, “Horsepower means nothing if you can’t get traction.” Turanzas are for performance and like all tires, their tread composition is designed to operate within specific temperatures. Bridgestone has winter, summer and all-season tires just for the diversity in the weather.

If a tire gets too hot it tends to go soft and wears rapidly. Below a certain range, the tire becomes hard and won’t conform to the road surface. If you are in an area that has four seasons your best bet is to have two sets of tires. Obviously, the better the tire the more expensive it will be. Maximize the length of your tires by rotating your tires in the correct rotation pattern. You want the tire to see all four positions on the vehicle. Rotate your tires twice a year, or every 5,000-7,000 miles. If it is front-wheel drive rotate from back to front diagonally and from front to back parallel. If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive rotate from front to rear diagonally, then from rear to front parallel.

Lastly, check your tires folks. Tires are porous, like a sponge. Leakage cant totally is stopped. Remember, it’s the air pressure that carries the load. Check your air pressure when it is cold and never, never bleed your tire when it is hot. By 2007, the Tread Act will require 100 percent of tires to have sensors on all tires that say when they are 30 percent below the required amount. All the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) that tells you is that your tire is flat. Check your tire before it goes flat.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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