Tire repair is a subject that should be getting a lot more attention due to present-day economics. Economy makes sense and tire repair is economy in action. With available consumer dollars buying less and less, repairing has become a necessity-and there is nothing that helps a business grow more than being able to save the customer money.
Tire repair, as we know it today, began soon after a pneumatic tire was mounted for the first time on a motor vehicle by Michelin in 1885. B.F. Goodrich followed in 1896 in the U.S. Between the hazards of sharp stones on dirt roads and discarded horseshoe nails, you were lucky to travel 100 miles without a flat tire. The need for increasing tire mileage and making repairs had to be met.
The only method of dealing with a flat tire at that time was to take out the tube and patch it. Permanent repairs could only be made by the time-consuming, and costly, hot vulcanization process. A temporary repair could be made by using a surface patch affixed by cold cure acid and the casing made serviceable by a ``skied boot.''
Neither method was satisfactory and the only effective way of dealing with a tire failure, until about 1920, was the fitting of a new or replacement tire and tube.
Specialist manufacturers of tire repair materials emerged following World War I. Some American companies had amusingly different claims about their origin, and one I have often repeated in seminars was written up in a 1920 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.
It was about a man in Oklahoma City who, with his pet monkey, visited a friend's bicycle repair shop. He placed the animal on a worktable while watching his friend repair a tire using the only known method at that time-a long, drawn-out process consisting of a liberal use of a sticky cement, a patch cut to size and a long wait while it was vulcanized.
During the visit, there was a loud crash of tools and cans-the monkey had overturned a large can of rubber cement, an acid container and another solution.
While trying to clean the mess from the monkey's paws, the man found that when he rubbed his palm over the monkey's paws, he warmed the cement and little rolls of material came off. But as soon as he finished, the monkey was able to knead the rolls into a ball, since the cement had set and was no longer sticky.
Meanwhile, his friend became angry when he found the vulcanizer was not heating up properly and despaired at completing the tire repair. The man picked up some of the new rubber concoction, spread the gunk on the tire and asked his friend to try it as it might cure without vulcanizing.
After waiting several minutes, he pulled on the patch. It stuck. The tube was inflated and dunked under water.
The men realized that they had developed a patch that would withstand the pressure of inflation and cured without heat. The patch was perfected and a few years later Dallas-based ``Monkey Grip'' claimed to be the largest manufacturer of tire patches in the world.
Shortly afterwards a ``hot patch'' was developed by another American company. This type of patch was vulcanized by igniting a built-in fuel pan and a tube repair could be completed in about 10 minutes.
This was followed by a further development which used a fuel pan that could be ignited by a cigarette. That particular company named its patches Camels, Lucky Strike and Chesterfield after the well-known cigarette brands of the time.
European manufacturers were just as busy. The next major development came in 1926 when Dr. Fritz Hesselbein introduced the Pang chemical vulcanizing patch which was effectively a one-piece patch with a built-in face gum which relied on chemical activators in the cement to form a tight bond between the patch and tire or tube and which needed no further heat generation from a vulcanizer or from the road.
Today, all major rubber companies have adopted the Pang principle of self-vulcanization.
In the meantime, further developments and improvements have been made and the chemical self-vulcanizing materials can be said to have reached the ultimate in terms of application and efficiency in operation.
With the advent of the tubeless tire in the 1950s by B.F. Goodrich, attention changed from the repair of tubes to the repair of tubeless tires.
A host of different repair methods found their way onto the market. The tire manufacturers themselves often recommended the use of a rubber plug inserted by a needle from the outside of the tire.
Each manufacturer seemed to have a combination of different methods of tire repair all backed up by ingenious and sometimes conflicting claims as to their technical merits, methods and applications. And it still goes on.
Then along came the radial tire. Michelin imported the first radials into the U.S. in 1956. These were truck tires and it would be another 10 years before a radial would be installed on an American-made car.
Until then, only a few sizes were imported for European cars, although some sizes could be used on domestic vehicles.
The radial's profile, which gave the impression that the tire was underinflated, initially caused a lot of concern and resistance among the buying public. But the tire was gradually accepted.
I recall taking my '64 Olds into a shop for service and having the service manager tell me my radial tires were defective, saying ``My mechanic put 45 psi of air in them and they still looked flat!''
Many people are unaware that no new-tire manufacturer today recommends the use of sealants, putty, bubble gum or any outside-in method of repair. Such repairs are only temporary at best and provide for no inspection of the tire interior for other damage.
The plug is not what holds the air in the tire. The plug simply fills the hole. It is the repair patch that holds the air in the tire.
Ever since the first pneumatic tire was mounted on a vehicle, there has been a need for repair to save money.
As I have pointed out, the repair industry has improved methods and products immeasurably over the years. They have also operated schools and courses for their customers, as well as issued well-written and illustrated leaflets on the subject.
It's rare indeed that you find a repair failure due to product quality. A properly made repair can add thousands of miles to an otherwise worthless casing.
A repair can only be made safe and successful by a thorough inspection, the use of correct tools and techniques and repair materials of the highest quality.
Anything else is considered a dangerous practice and hazardous to the motorist's health.