ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (Oct. 23, 2006) — Are you a redneck? Are you married to a redneck? Do you have redneck in-laws or friends? The only reason I ask these questions is that the world looks different to rednecks.
Sometimes the obvious to some folks isn't really clear to a redneck. Or what is obvious to a redneck does not appear that way at all to other people.
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy is renowned for his observations of rednecks. His definition of redneck is “a glorious absence of sophistication.” I guess anyone who thinks fast food is hitting a deer at 60 miles an hour may have a “glorious absence of sophistication.”
You can assume your brother-in-law is a redneck if the door mat to his trailer home doubles as a mud flap for his pickup truck. Your best friend might be a redneck if he recycles motor oil by moving it from the car to the truck. You know you're a redneck when the biggest city you've been to is Wal-Mart.
Viewing the world differently with various levels of sophistication is what makes each of us unique. That's why some people are Republicans, others, Democrats; a lot of people are liberals, while others are conservatives. We each have different ways of looking at things. But when it comes to tires and wheels, we should all be looking at them the same way and seeing the same conditions.
This is never more important than when doing an on-vehicle tire/wheel inspection. When you inspect tire/wheel assemblies on a truck or trailer, there are many things that you've got to look for if you are doing a thorough job.
You should always start at the left front steer tire by the driver's door, work your way around the back of the vehicle and end at the right front steer tire position.
Some people begin their inspection on the other side of the vehicle, but this is backwards. (This is like putting an ashtray on your StairMaster—which is a totally redneck thing to do.)
The reason for starting at the left front tire is that the vehicle unit number is found on the driver's side of the power unit, and the trailer unit number is found on this side of the trailer, too. Before you actually start your inspection, you also can jump in the truck and document the odometer mileage and locate the last PM sticker on the driver's door or any other information the fleet attaches to the vehicle.
Once you've recorded this information, you're ready to begin. First, tire pressures should be gauged in each of the tires on the vehicle. If the pressures are within 20 percent of the fleet-specified air pressure then the air pressure should be adjusted to the correct pressure if necessary. If the air pressure of any tire is 80 percent or less of the fleet's targeted pressure, the tire should be removed for further inspection to determine its condition.
Any tire that is flat or has an air leak should be removed from the vehicle. If the air pressure is above the recommended pressure and the tire is cold, it's OK to bleed air from it to attain the correct inflation, but never bleed air from “hot” tires.
By now you've already found any wheels that have been installed with mismatched hand holes. If you have found this condition, reposition the dual wheels so the valve stems are accessible and as close to 180 degrees apart as possible.
While you are crouched down checking the air pressure, inspect the wheel bolt circle and disc face. Any wheel accessories such as wheel and lug nut covers and simulators should be removed to ensure a thorough inspection is made of all components. Look for missing valve caps and replace them. If you find bent or damaged valve stems, repair or replace them as well.
Check those studs
Next, look for missing lug nuts. Replace any that are missing and retighten all the others to the proper torque. Odds are, if one is missing the rest are loose. Check also for cracks in the washers of hub-piloted wheel nuts. Replace the damaged nuts and tighten them to the proper torque.
While you're inspecting the nuts, also scrutinize the number of threads that extend past each nut. The nuts must have all of their threads fully engaged on the threads of the studs. If the stud does not extend to the top of the nut and you can see some threads in the nut, all of the nut threads are not engaged. It is not necessary to have the stud threads extend past the nuts since those threads aren't doing anything to hold the wheel on.
However, if you see variations in the number of stud threads protruding beyond the nuts on a wheel, this may indicate loose, backed-off nuts or mismounted components. Check for correct torque and proper alignment of the wheel on the pilot pads.
Rust streaks extending from the bolt holes usually indicate worn, poor quality or loose wheel nuts. Make sure that the correct nuts for the wheel system are being used and inspect the wheel bolt holes for wear or damage.
Check the torque on the nuts as well. Once you do this, don't forget to remove the rust streaks. And before you get all excited about the streaks you see, make sure they are orange rust streaks. If the streaks are black, that's just the zinc phosphate coating washing off that was applied to the nuts when they were made. Don't worry about that.
If you find a broken stud, replace it and the stud on each side of the broken one. If two or more studs are broken, replace them all.
If you're still crouching and are over 40 or played high school football, you may want to change your position to a kneeling one. Then check all metal surfaces thoroughly including both sides of the wheels and between the duals for cracks or other damage. Replace any wheel that exhibits these conditions. This includes pitting or corrosion that has reduced the metal thickness.
As a general rule of thumb, if the manufacturer's stampings on the disc face are no longer legible, replace the wheel.
Finally, make sure that the wheel types are the same and the correct fasteners are being used. Replace any wheel or nuts that don't belong in the wheel system. You should see pilots on the hub if the vehicle is equipped with a hub-piloted wheel system.
Don't tread lightly
Now that the wheels have been thoroughly inspected, you can get off your hands and knees and inspect the tires. Check the tread depth of all tires on the vehicle at the lowest spot of a major tread groove. Avoid the tread wear indicators or wear bars as well as the stone ejectors.
If the tread depth is below the fleet's specification or DOT requirements—4/32nds inch on steer tires and 2/32nds on all other tires—replace the tire.
While you're finding the low spot on the tire, look at the tread design. If the tread designs on dual tires are mismatched (for example, one has a lug design and the other has a rib design), replace the tires as required by the fleet's policy.
While you're inspecting the tread, note evidence of any irregular wear patterns. These can be caused by misalignment, loose or worn components and dual tire mismatching. If you find conditions that lead you to believe the vehicle has a problem, let the fleet know so that it can have the unit properly repaired. If you think the dual tires are mismatched by size, check them with a tire square. The diameter of dual tire assemblies must be within a quarter inch, and the smaller tire should be mounted on the inside.
Then inspect the sidewalls and tread for cuts, snags, punctures, cracks, weather checking deeper than 2/32nds, separations, exposed or damaged cords, bumps, bulges, knots and anything else that looks weird. If any unserviceable condition is found, replace the tire.
The only exception to this is if you find a tire with a bulge up to 3/8ths inch due to a section repair that is noted by a blue triangular patch on the sidewall. This is a serviceable condition.
If you find nails, screws, metal shards or other objects penetrating the tread, pull them out. If they don't puncture the casing and produce a leak, let the tire run. If allowed to remain in the tread, this debris will eventually be pushed into the casing and cause a leak down the road. If they have punctured the casing and allow air to escape, replace the tire.
If you find radial and bias tires or tires of different sizes mixed on an axle, replace the odd tire. Tires of different constructions or sizes must never be installed on the same axle.
Differences in tires are a problem, but differences in people are what make us all interesting and amusing. I am reminded of the redneck who called a radio advice show and asked, “If I get divorced from my wife, does that mean she ain't my sister no more?”
Rednecks may have especially close family ties but they make great friends. Just remember, rednecks don't let friends drive home drunk, they get drunk and ride with them.
Next time you do an on-vehicle tire inspection, do it right and “Git 'er done.”