Have you ever had the experience of having some "professional" person ruin something you cherished? Has someone ever told you to your face that you don't know what you're talking about even though you are knowledgeable of the issue? Have you ever been so mad that you wanted to reach inside his throat and pull out his liver? Well, I had just such an experience last month.
I drive a sports car for which I purchased some great, but very expensive, high-performance tires 15 months ago.
These tires are great on dry and wet pavement. They stick to the road no matter how fast I go around curves or highway entrance ramps. Their only problem, which I discovered last January, is that they don't go very well at all on ice and packed snow.
So I ordered a set of snow tires. They didn't come in until winter was almost over, so I stored them away and decided to put them on in December before the impending snows of Michigan hit this winter.
I called the local tire dealer in town whose sign claims he represents the tire brand I purchased and asked if the day and time I wanted to bring the tires in was good for him. He said, "Come on down!"
So I dropped my car off with the snow tires and left instructions to replace the high-performance tires with the snow tires and put the removed tires in my car.
I returned two hours later to find the technician just pulling my car into the bay and was advised to come back in 45 minutes. When I returned an hour later, the technician was just pulling my car out of the bay. The tires were loaded in my car so I paid the bill.
When I got home, I unloaded the tires and found that three of them had damaged beads.
One bead had a small knick in the bead toe, but the other two were much worse. One had a 3 1/2-inch chunk missing from the bead exposing skim stock, the other bead had been kinked and a large chunk of bead had been torn from it as well.
It was obvious that no bead lubricant had been used to demount these tires, as they were dry as a bone. I returned to the store with the tires and met with the store manager, who advised me that he had seen the tires and the damage before they loaded them in my car!
He attempted to convince me in a very condescending manner that these tires (that had 8,000 miles on them) were fine.
When I gave him my card and told him my middle name was "Truck Tires is Me," he asked me: "So how many high-performance tires have you mounted?" He said I should take the tires to other dealers in the area and ensured me they would tell me the tires were fine.
I told him I would call the tire maker's engineering department and would have them call him. He said, "No matter what you do, I'm still not going to do anything about these tires." Great customer service, huh?
I called the tire manufacturer and found out that the tires should be replaced and the customer service manager arranged for me to get a whole new set of tires from a company store.
Now that is customer service! You can be sure I will not patronize that dealership again—nor will anyone else I can influence.
Bead damage is a leading cause of truck tire failures, too. How do you handle this situation as a commercial truck tire dealer?
What do you do when a fleet customer presents you with tires your technicians damaged during mounting/demounting? I trust that you handle things better than the retail dealer I encountered does.
Torn beads and kinked or distorted beads are really senseless damages because they are probably the easiest out-of-service tire conditions to prevent. These conditions are caused by the improper use of tire tools, incorrect techniques used when mounting and demounting tires, and lack of bead lubrication.
The key to averting this damage is to ensure that your technicians are trained properly to mount and demount tires and that they use plenty of bead lubricant. This implies that you have bead lubricant on hand.
I can't tell you how many times I've been at dealer locations that have run out of bead lubricant, but the technicians are still mounting and demounting their customers' tires. I saw beads being torn right before my eyes.
To prevent bead carnage in your company, first have every one of your service personnel properly trained to mount and demount tires and have them demonstrate to you that they know how to do the job right.
You have to do this to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, anyway. All too often, the newest hire—no matter how green he or she is—is given the job of busting tires with little or no training.
This is not only bad for your customers, it is a violation of OSHA regulations. (All employees must be trained before they service truck tires, according to the federal government.)
Both the International Tire and Rubber Association (ITRA) and the Tire Association of North America offer programs you can use in-house to train your inexperienced or newly hired employees in truck-tire servicing and help you meet OSHA requirements.
If you don't already have a training program, these probably will do.
Then make sure that your service area is properly equipped. Throw out old tire tools that have been honed to a sharp edge over the years, purchase good-quality tools that are designed for truck-tire mounting and demounting.
Make sure you have a good inventory of vegetable-oil-based bead lubricant approved for both tire and wheel use and adequate mechanisms for triggering reorders when supply gets low. (Do not use petroleum- or solvent-based products.)
OSHA also requires that current charts or rim/wheel service manuals containing instructions for the type of wheels being serviced are available in the service area. These can be obtained from the ITRA or from wheel/rim manufacturers.
Don't forget to check your service trucks, too. They should be outfitted with good tire tools and lubricant.
Of course, not all bead damage is cause for scrapping a truck tire. If a bead toe has been torn but no rust is evident, as in situations where the tire bead has just been damaged, and there is no damage to the wire, the bead can and should be repaired.
Also, if the tire has a bead chafer or reinforcement that wraps around the bead bundle and lays over the ply cords (the chafer runs at an angle to the bead, while the ply cords run perpendicular to the bead), damage to the chafer can be removed and the bead can be repaired. But if the ply cord wire is rusty, gouged, kinked or broken, loose or separated, the tire cannot be repaired and must be scrapped.
Now, you still may have instances in which your service personnel damage truck-tire beads. I suggest that you establish a policy for handling this situation immediately and appropriately with your fleet customers.
Specify what type of damage should be repaired at no charge to the account, as well as the action that will be taken if the tire must be scrapped. Imagine these are your tires.
You don't want to lose a good customer by telling him: "No matter what you do, I'm still not going to do anything about these tires."