Could it be that passenger tire repairing, like passenger tire retreading before it, has landed on the tire industry's version of the ``endangered species'' list? If so, many of the reasons are the same: poor quality-often the result of poor workmanship; and a failure to adapt rapidly enough to new technology-particularly the advent of the steel-belted radial.
And as in retreading, learning to use the proper materials and follow the correct procedures makes all the difference in assuring the quality and performance of the finished repair. To this end, training is of critical importance.
Tire repairing has been a viable industry since the first pneumatic tires were installed on a motor vehicle about a century ago. In those early days, repairing was a necessity, because tires were expensive and lasted a few thousand miles at most, while roads were rough and often littered with nails that had worked out of horses' shoes.
Tire repair work enjoyed a boom during the 1940s, as the demands of the war effort kept new tires from being generally available to the public. Everything possible was done to extend tire life.
This pressure to keep tires in service often meant repairing tires and retreading casings that in other circumstances should have been scrapped. And while this practice kept people on the road, it also increased the incidence of failures and heightened the general public's skepticism regarding tire repairing and retreading.
In the late 1950s, competition in the tire industry increased, and the price of tires dropped drastically. It often was cheaper to buy a new tire than to have an old one repaired and/or retreaded.
The advent of the radial tire highlighted the need for skilled, specialized tire repair procedures. The introduction of steel cord represented a radical concept in tire construction and required new repair techniques.
Tire repairing was a skill often passed on by more-experienced technicians, but the knowledge of those experienced in repairing textile bias-ply tires was not applicable to repairing steel radials. Therefore, it was necessary to stress education and training in radial repair techniques throughout the industry.
The radial age began in earnest when U.S. makers began radial tire production. Manufacturers of tire repair materials had to expand their product lines to adapt to radial construction.
Truflex/Pang led with the introduction of the center-over-injury repair system. Technical Rubber Co. (now Tech International) established a facility to train tire repair people with a program evenly divided between classroom and hands-on training.
Rema/Tip Top, generally recognized to be the leader in chemical-cure repair systems, established an aggressive training program and promoted one-day seminars. The company later expanded the program with the establishment of a modern training center and early this year added a mobile training unit.
Because such a small percentage of persons performing tire repairs have had formal training, slovenly workmanship remains one of the greatest curses of our industry. And poor repairs definitely take their toll.
According to Jim Osborne, Rema/Tip Top's vice president of technical and sales support, ``Fifty to 75 percent of all premature truck tire failures are due to poorly or improperly done repairs. This clearly demonstrates the need to improve the knowledge and abilities of repair technicians.
``Truck fleets are losing countless thousands of dollars each year in tire costs because of premature tire failures or casing damage caused by poorly done repairs.''
Over the past several years, tire repair material manufacturers have set up training centers and courses for their customers, and have issued well-written and -illustrated brochures on the subject.
However, in a recent survey of tire dealers and retreaders, 78 percent of the respondents indicated they believe repair material suppliers are not providing necessary training; 84.5 percent graded available training programs as ``average'' or worse-a response I simply cannot believe.
One factor seldom considered in evaluating such survey responses is the attitude of the trainee toward his training. Many resent being required to take a training course and have a negative attitude toward the program.
Often, a person who has been repairing tires for years discounts information provided by an experienced instructor, ignoring his advice and continuing his work as before. One such ``expert'' used bias-ply patches in radials because he thought they eliminated the bulge problem. He never thought about the high failure rate down the line.
Today, almost any damage on any tire can be repaired. The question for the user, however, is whether the repair will prove effective, with a cost in keeping with the anticipated mileage.
Because of the many problems resulting from poor workmanship, I'm afraid that passenger tire repairing, like passenger tire retreading, is rapidly dying out. Truck tire repairing will continue only if consistently high quality is maintained-and that means training and more training of repair technicians.