Automotive Advice for Clean Hands – Tires #1 Under Pressure

The Tire

To you, a plethora in evolution and unequaled versatility,

cracks and potholes tremble at your approach.

Without the speed of your embrace,

feet drum against the earth in an endless quest.

(And that is the extent of my poetic talent for this portion of the tour. If you’d like to know more, please see the vendors in front of the venue.)

But what are tires? We put our lives in the figurative hands of tires everyday. Most of us don’t pay attention to them at all, unless they fail. We’ve all been there. You wake up late. You get ready for work in record time. You crack your head on the door as you practically dive into the drivers seat, but after the vehicle starts to roll you hear the undeniable sounds of a flat tire. It’s in those moments that the tire becomes one of the most hated objects on the face of the planet. It was holding air just fine yesterday, you tell yourself. So how could it go flat in the last eight hours between eating dinner and hitting your head on the car door? Sometimes the answer will come in the form of a nail, but most of the time your tires have been trying to talk to you for the past few days, if not longer.

“Check your oil, and check your tire pressure.” The mantra is something worried fathers’ repeat around the world. If you’re really lucky in the father department, he’ll remind you to change your blinker fluid on a regular basis as well. The grin on his face should tell you to stop listening at that point. There’s no such thing as blinker fluid. Not yet anyway. Leave it up to a bunch of engineers to do the impossible. I’m getting off track here, though. Where were we? Tire pressure.

 Age, temperature, and altitude can all effect the air inside your tires. Temperature and altitude can be dealt with in similar fashions. High altitudes, like hot temperatures, will increase the pressure inside your tires, which increases the chance of a blowout. Low altitudes, like cold temperatures, will decrease the pressure, causing a flat.

Here’s a couple examples:

Spring is early, bringing in a premature summer with temperatures teetering on ninety. After two days of shorts and tank tops, a cold front moves in reminding you it’s still mid-February. Bundled up and cursing Punxsutawney Phil, you go outside to start the car and what do you find? A flat. You can thank the drop in temperature for that.

Or,

Lets say you live in New Orleans, down where the food is spicy and the French Quarter is never closed. Feeling excited about that summer vacation, you and your lovey-dovey pile into the Ford and take a road trip to the Rockies. The two of you push through, night and day, alternating drivers to reach your destination as fast as possible. The two of you sing Kumbaya as the Ford makes its way up another steep mountain. Your journey is almost at an end, and then BANG! A tire blows out. Not a great place to stuck on the side of the road.

Now, these are somewhat extreme. It’s not everyday you decide to take a twelve-hundred mile road trip. Nor does the weather rise and fall drastically enough to effect most tires. Also, there are loads of other factors to consider, most of them outside forces: nails, quality of the tire, over/under inflation, and age. I know now, you probably want to know how often you should change tires, and I hate to say it but I don’t have much more than a vague answer, “Change them when they need to be changed.” Tires are rated for so many miles, but depending on how you use them is what will determine how long they last. For the most part, they should be visually inspected every 2-4 weeks, which is a mechanics way of saying, “Let’s see if I can find any nails.” Want to know a secret though? You can do the same inspection any day of the week. Or, if you’re like me, you can wait until you’re sitting on rims. It happens.

The point is to check your tires. Tire pressure can effect your vehicle enormously. It will change the way the vehicle handles and how it reacts. Outside forces can also effect your tires. A casual inspection of your tires can catch a lot.

I don’t mean to cut this short. There’s much more I want to say on the subject of tires, but I don’t want to get into the habit of making crazy-long posts. So, until next time, keep those hands clean.

 

Future Topics:

-Tires #2 The Rubber Messenger

-Alignment

-Brakes

-Steering

-Suspension

If you have any questions, or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me or leave a comment.

 

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