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Atlantic Racing Scene
 


Well here we are again. All set to face a new winter and the driving hardships that it can bring with it. As we head into the winter months, faced with the prospect of snow, sleet and ice storms, bringing with them hazardous driving conditions, the importance of tires cannot be over stated. They are, after all, the only contact your car has with the road.

Bob Greenwood

 

Statistics show that three out of four car drivers will wash their car on a monthly basis, but only one out of seven, 15% of the drivers on the road, will think to check their tire’s air pressure. Tire under inflation is the leading cause of tire failure, according to Bridgestone Tire. A new trend in tire care has emerged over the past several years which seems to be gaining in popularity, filling the tires with nitrogen instead of air. However, unlike air which is free, there is a small charge for filling your tires with nitrogen.

The advantages, however, appear to be worth the expense, as Frank Connor, Executive Director of the Atlantic Tire Dealers Association, which represents 125 independent tire dealers in Atlantic Canada, explains: “The big thing with nitrogen, it holds the pressure, it won’t fluctuate, where regular air will seep out through the tubeless liner – that’s the big thing with the nitrogen, it keeps your pressure the same all the time and it is my understanding that it will also give you better gas mileage.”




Nitrogen is readily available at the majority of dealers and service facilities and Connor believes the use of nitrogen is becoming wide spread. Cars which have their tires filled with nitrogen are given green valve caps to identify them. Normally, with a nitrogen-filled tire, pressure would only need to be checked yearly. Of course, anytime a tire has to be removed from the rim, to fix a leak, for example, the tire would have to be refilled with nitrogen, although with a slow leak, the tire can be brought up to proper pressure with air to allow the car to be driven to a repair shop.

Tires, Bridgestone Tire points out, “are often the most neglected parts of a vehicle,” and yet, they are among the most important and easily cared for. Bridgestone lists a few things automobile owners should do to ensure their tires operate at peak efficiency: measure tire pressure monthly; have tires aligned annually; balance tires on a regular basis; rotate regularly; monitor tire wear and replace tires when necessary; check regularly for objects that can work their way into the tire and cause leaks.

These are rules that Connor agrees with wholeheartedly. “The big thing now with most cars being front wheel drive, is that you really have to watch the air pressure and there again, rotation is a big thing, you should rotate (tires) at least every 8,000 kilometres to get the maximum mileage out of your tires, that gives you a more even wear, a better ride and more control.



Most new cars, Connor says, come equipped with all-season tires, but he highly recommends a switch to winter drivers for the winter months. “There’s no question, a winter tire’s going to give you much, much better traction, especially out there in heavy snow conditions.

“If you’re driving just around town and you’re not out in the snow storms, you’ll get by O.K., but for the handling package, in the winter time, there’s no question, with the front-wheel drive cars, four winter tires on gives you the maximum traction and handling, and they have now this soft rubber compound for ice, they give you better traction on the ice.”

Needless to say, there are a great many different tires in the market, as a visit to any tire dealer will attest. Obviously, tires on a compact automobile may have a vastly different design or spec package than a truck which hauls heavy loads of lumber along rough and muddy forest roads.

Automobile manufacturers work closely with tire manufacturers to ensure that both are on the same page. It is important that the tire manufacturers are producing tires that meet the specifications laid out by the automobile builder to ensure the safest, most efficient and comfortable ride for the car owner.

And it is equally important for the car owner to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to be sure he is getting the best out of his car. As mentioned earlier, the vehicle’s tires are the owner’s only contact with the road, and putting the wrong tire on a vehicle can cause problems with handling, comfort and the life of your tires.



That’s not to say that a car owner is limited to one type of tire. Tires come in a variety of configurations, and the proper choice can depend on a number of factors. “Determine your driving habits,” Connor advises. “Particularly with an all-season tread which is going to be used for eight months, nine months of the year.”

Connor recommends working closely with the dealer to determine the best choice for your needs. “Any of the people selling tires today, they should be quite knowledgeable,” Connor says. “In the organisation that I represent, The Atlantic Tire Dealers Association, our guys are very well versed. We have seminars and a lot of the information we get is from the major rubber companies.

“How many miles you do, what’s you’re driving habits. If you do 40,000 kilometres a year and you’re on the highway a lot, or if you basically do city driving, a knowledgeable tire dealer can say, “this is the tire you should have to do city driving,” or if you’re on the highway, recommend a tire that’s going to give you better mileage.”

Connor also points out that all tires are speed rated, and it is important to choose a tire with the correct speed rating for the driving you do. Choosing the correct speed rating for your tire can improve tire wear life, handling and comfort. “The big thing is, you get these speed-rated tires, and you’ve got to be very careful with that stuff,” Connor warns. “Let’s say you’ve got one tire go bad, make sure you put the same speed rated tire on that car, next to the other one.

If you don’t you could be all over the highway.” While we have been talking mainly about cars in this article, the same rules apply to all types of vehicles from bicycles to large semi trailers. It is important to choose the tire that is designed for the vehicle you drive, and for the use you are going to put that vehicle to.

The best way to ensure this is what is happening is to study the manufacturer’s manual and to create a good dialogue with your tire supplier. Most are very up to date with vehicle specifications when it comes to tires. Having the improper tire mounted on your vehicle can lead to handling problems, excessive wear, bad mileage or a number of other problems.

As Frank Connor points out, most tire dealers today have the knowledge required to make the right recommendations to their customers. “I guess the bottom line maybe for me,” Connor states’ “is if you’re going to stay in business today, you have to be respectful and do the right thing for your customers, be respectful and you’ll get the business and also the repeat business. “The majority of the people that I know have learned that lesson years ago. It’s a competitive business and if you’re going to get an edge, you must look after your customers and treat them right, and be well informed as to what’s going on in the business.”

About The Author: Terry Waterfield is ta highly experienced editor to Auto Atlanttic
He may be contacted at (902)-422-1722 or email him at: terry@halifaxmooseheads.ca


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