Any professional tire tech worth his or her salt knows the importance of maintaining proper inflation pressure and its impact on tire life and performance.
And tire engineers will tell you that, from a technical standpoint, it's not the tires that support the weight of the vehicle—it's the cushion of air they contain.
Nevertheless, the driving public generally neglects tire maintenance and tends to take the performance of their tires for granted—until there's a problem.
Well, there's one heck of a tire problem all over the news today: Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s recall of 6.5 million P-metric light truck radials, most of which were fitted as original equipment on Ford Explorers and which have been implicated in scores of accidents and more than 100 fatalities.
Inflation pressure has been at the core of the debate over what caused some of these tires to suffer tread separations, resulting in an unusually high number of serious accidents.
Ford Motor Co.'s recommended inflation pressure for the Explorer was 26 psi. Bridgestone/Firestone now contends that pressure leaves little margin for safety, given the Explorer's size, weight and load-carrying capacity—and the natural tendency of drivers not to maintain proper inflation levels.
The combination of heavy loads running on underinflated tires is a recipe for tire failure—and has been cited as a possible reason for the kinds of tread separations reported among the Firestone Radial ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires that have been recalled.
Ford recently has agreed, at BFS' urging, to increase the recommended tire pressure for the Explorer to 30 psi.
This controversy has left us at Tire Business wondering just how bad the inflation situation is out there. How many motorists are driving around on underinflated tires—and just how underinflated are they?
Data gathered nationwide by the Car Care Council over the past four years indicate, on average, that about one in four passenger vehicles is running on underinflated tires (and that slightly more than one in 10 has tires with less than the legal amount of tread depth).
We'd like more detailed information, and we need your help to get it.
Conduct a survey
We're asking you and your fellow dealers nationwide to conduct a survey of tire inflation pressures on a random sample of your retail customers' vehicles, compare them with the vehicle manufacturers' recommendations and fax us the results.
We'll compile those results and report them in our Nov. 6 issue, which also will be distributed at the International Tire Expo/SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
More specifically, here's what we'd like you to do:
Pick a day during the week of Oct. 15-21 on which to conduct the survey.
On that day, check the tire inflation pressure on as many of your retail customers' vehicles as is reasonably possible. If you can't check every customer's vehicle, then choose vehicles at random. Try to select customers who are in for a variety of reasons, not just those in for tire-related service.
We'll be grateful for whatever data we receive, but the more responses we get, the more valid the results will be. Set a goal of recording pressure readings on at least 10 vehicles—more if possible.
Note the vehicle manufacturer's recommended tire pressure, even if your dealership would recommend something different. The manufacturer's recommendation usually can be found on a door post or in the owner's manual.
Use the form provided below to record the data. Cut it out and/or copy it. Make as many copies as you can use. If you have more than one location, consider distributing copies to all your stores.
As soon as you've completed your survey, fax the forms back to Tire Business at: (330) 836-2831. To meet our deadlines, we need to receive your data no later than Monday, Oct. 23.
Thanks in advance for your participation in this important project. We believe the results will be of interest to everyone in the tire industry—and beyond it as well.
If you have any questions about the survey, please feel free to contact Tire Business Managing Editor Larry Wingert: (330) 865-6130 or [email protected]