Well, here we are in mid summer 2001 and we are beginning to see some signs indicating that perhaps we have bottomed out in this economic downturn we are struggling through.
Both tire and trucking companies have reported their financial statements for the first half and, quite frankly, some of the results are pretty dismal. Some people say the trucking industry is actually in a recession. Still others disagree.
Business is so slow at one commercial tire dealership I was in the other day that when a truck driver walked in to get change for a $20 bill, the owner wanted to make him a partner!
You can tell when we're in a recession because that's when the three-martini lunch is replaced by the full Coors dinner. This hasn't happened at my house yet, but what about yours?
It is times like this that make us strong.
Heck, we've seen worse...but we sure have seen better. What got us through the worse times was recognizing opportunities and making the most of them.
There are probably dozens of opportunities staring you in the face, but you haven't seen them for what they could be yet.
Just look at that pile of your fleet customers' tires that are all cut, snagged and abraded. Perhaps this is opportunity knocking-both for your business as well as your truck tire customer.
Sidewall damage is one of the biggest plagues of truck tires. It seems almost all the slings and arrows the trucking environment has are thrown at tire sidewalls. And it doesn't take much to ruin the tire...or does it?
In the last few years in which we were blessed with a bubbling economy and an oversupply of used tires, dealers and retreaders reduced the size of the repairs they were willing to make and fleets did not press them to save every tire possible. Perhaps now is a good time to re-examine sidewall repair limits and scrutinize each damaged sidewall to determine whether the tire can be saved, thereby reducing your customers' tire costs and increasing your repair and retread sales revenue.
All size injuries in the sidewall that damage ply cords or penetrate the casing are considered section repairs. This includes the pinhole that punctures the tire between two cables.
The size of a sidewall section repair is determined by both the length and the width of the injury. The longer the damage, the narrower the injury must be to be repaired, while the wider the damage, the shorter the injury must be.
For example, in medium truck tire sizes, a sidewall section repair can be 41/2 inches long but can only be 3/8 inches wide. On the other hand, another repair can be 11/2 inches wide but only 2 inches long. Your tire repair materials supplier will provide you with exact measurements for the repair units you use.
One of the most common causes of sidewall damage is a cut or snag that scrapes, gouges or cuts into the tire. Wash rack rails, pit rails, curbing, potholes and other types of road hazards are usually the root cause of this damage.
In every case, this type of damage should be carefully inspected with a probe to determine if the damage has exposed ply cords. If it hasn't, a spot repair can be made to restore the sidewall to its former beauty and prevent cut growth as the tire runs. If the cords are visible or damaged, the tire can certainly be repaired provided that the damage is within repair limits.
In many cases the extent of damage can only be determined by buffing the sidewall rubber off to get a good look at the area.
Vehicle or equipment damage also is a terminator of tire sidewalls. This scuffing or cutting that extends 360 degrees around the tire in a specific portion of the sidewall usually is caused by contact with the vehicle's components such as loose U-bolts, spring clips, fenders, mud flap hangers and trailer wheel housings.
If the damage does not extend to the ply cords, advise your customer to return the tire to service on a dual position. If the damage exposes but does not harm the ply cords, it may be possible to clean up the sidewall area around the abrasion and make, in essence, a 360-degree spot repair. But the economics of making this type of repair should be weighed against the tire's age and overall condition.
Rubbing against curbs or guide rails usually causes abrasion on large areas of the tire sidewall that extends 360 degrees around the tire. This is quite common in city delivery service. As with equipment damage, if the cords are exposed, the tire should be scrapped. However, if they are not then the tire can be returned to service. If the appearance is objectionable to drivers, the fleet can mount the scuffed side away from the curb.
Impact breaks and radial splits are types of damage that a lot of tire repairers shy away from. These are breaks that extend through the casings and are caused by a road hazard or pothole. Overinflation tends to propagate them. If the extent of the damage is simply a split between the ply cords that is less than 4 1/2 inches long and in the repairable area of the tire sidewall, these breaks can be repaired. If, however, the breaks take out a chunk of sidewall, cause a separation, or extend into the non-repairable area of the tire, it must be scrapped.
Punctures that penetrate the sidewall-especially those in the shoulder near the belt edge-often are dreaded by tire repairers due to the difficulty of repairing them successfully.
However, all damage, no matter how large, that is located within an inch of the belt edge in the crown and anywhere in the repairable area of the sidewall must be treated as a section repair by installing a reinforced repair unit. The reinforced repair unit will give these repairs the strength needed to support the tire if the repair otherwise is properly made.
Unless you're in Nome, Alaska, or Hell has frozen over and I missed it, you probably won't see chain damage this time of year. But if you see numerous pock marks around the tire on the mid- to upper-sidewall area, you're looking at what loose or improperly sized chains can do to a tire-or the effects that extended chain use on dry surfaces can have on a sidewall.
These pockmarks usually are cosmetic ``dents'' in the sidewall, but they can extend further into the tire and damage the ply cord. If damage to the ply cords is only in a spot or two, it often makes sense to repair the tire. If it is more than that and you essentially end up with multiple section repairs, it's better just to scrap the tire.
There are many radial tire sidewall conditions that can be prevented although they may not be repairable. Recommend that your truck tire customers take the proper action to prevent these conditions if you see them in their tires.
Petroleum or chemical product damage: Tires with this condition have sidewalls that appear swollen, soft and spongy. They usually smell of oil and in advanced cases the sidewall may be bubbled or distorted.
This condition is caused by contamination from oil, diesel fuel, antifreeze or other chemicals. Advise your fleet account to identify and eliminate the source of the contamination to prevent future tire damage.
Sidewall separation due to bead damage: Anytime you find a sidewall separation, inspect the tread for punctures and the bead for damage that allows air migration from the inside of the tire through the casing.
While punctures may not be avoidable, well-trained tire technicians and liberal use of bead lubricant easily can eliminate bead damage. If your company is doing the fleet's mounting and demounting, correct the problem inhouse.
Otherwise make certain the fleet customer is aware of this situation so it can take corrective action.
Damage from an object between the duals: A foreign object such as a chock block can get lodged between dual tires, and when this happens, a world of hurt is inflicted upon both sidewalls.
You will find localized deformation, cuts, abrasions or other damage on both tires that usually is non-repairable.
But check first to determine the size of the injuries before scrapping the tires. Let the fleet customer know it has this problem so it can review the proper use of wheel chock blocks and docking procedures with its drivers and yard switchers-or clean up its yard in order to eliminate this problem.
Don't forget, any time a sidewall section repair is made it's important to install the blue triangular section repair identification patch on the sidewall near the repair.
This will advise state vehicle inspectors that the tire has a legally acceptable sidewall bulge associated with a section repair and will prevent them from placing the vehicle out of service.
Just remember, you can make the best of a struggling economy...if you keep your eyes open for opportunity.