It has been said that today's luxuries are tomorrow's necessities. However true that may be, it seems to me that our business has gotten that backwards.
Take, for instance, how we treat air pressure.
Prior to World War II, Michelin was noted for the use of the catch phrase ``Pump up your tires every Friday.'' But with the advent of butyl tubes and butyl innerliners in tubeless tires the necessity to inflate tires to correct pressures on a regular basis has become a ``luxury.''
Several years ago, an audience of tire dealers at the American Retreaders Association's World Tire Conference in Louisville was asked to raise their hands if they had checked their tire pressures during the previous month. Only a few raised their hands.
If tire dealers-those who know all about the problems of underinflation-don't check their own tires, is it any wonder that motorists check theirs even less?
Air is the tire's most vital component because it is air under pressure that supports the load of the vehicle, gives elasticity for riding comfort and ensures the tread maintains its correct road contact profile. But it also is the only component the manufacturer cannot control.
The tire industry finds itself in the odd situation of supplying a product lacking its most important part. We can say that no manufacturer produces a pneumatic tire at all. Instead, they only produce the casing, the tube (in the case of tube-type tires) and maybe the rim, but the tire does not become ``pneumatic'' until it is fitted to the rim and inflated to the correct air pressure.
The tire manufacturer may produce the necessary solid components, but it is-or should be-the tire dealer who assembles and balances these components and, by inflation, converts the assembly into a pneumatic tire.
From that point on, it is the user's responsibility to see that the tire is kept correctly inflated for its intended service.
Several years ago the ultimate story about underinflation began making its rounds: A motorist complained to a dealer in Indiana of fast, irregular tire wear. When the service technician checked the tires he found they were inflated to less than half the recommended pressure. When the technician pointed this out to the customer, he angrily replied, ``Why didn't you put the right pressure in the tires when I bought them two years ago?''
You might think, ``What planet was this guy from?'' But in all honesty, when was the last time you informed a customer purchasing a set of new tires of the correct air pressures and the need to maintain those pressures?
When I purchased a new car several months ago, the salesman spent almost an hour explaining the car's features and operations so I knew how everything worked. The dealer does this with every new car sale.
Of course, big bucks are involved in the purchase of a new car these days in comparison to the amount involved in a set of new tires. Even so, it only takes a few minutes to inform the motorist about the need for proper tire maintenance and to place a sticker on the door frame.
It is in our best interest to have tires inflated to the correct pressures. It is in the best interest of motorists and truckers, as well.
When surveys point out that most of the tires running on our highways, both passenger and truck, are not inflated to the correct pressures, its a sad commentary about our disregard of conserving scarce raw materials. Underinflation probably accounts for more tire damage and safety problems than any other factor.
Rolling resistance also is dependent on air pressure. The tire can only run at minimum energy loss when it is properly inflated for the load it carries. A drop of only 4 psi can cause a 10 percent rise in rolling resistance. That means fewer miles per gallon.
The most logical place to carry out routine pressure checks is at the tire specialist's outlet.
This type of service can distinguish an independent tire dealer from other sales channels while establishing customer loyalty.