Submitted by Don Doman
You would think I’d learn and maybe this time I will.
Several years ago I purchased a modern classic sports car, a beautiful little red 1988 Buick Reatta. My wife just rolled her eyes. It was in great condition. It wasn’t a practical car for me, but I loved driving it occasionally. The problem was I didn’t drive it much and then when I wanted to drive it the battery was always dead. So, I had the man who mowed our lawn drive it around the block a few times every two weeks when he mowed the lawn. Then one day he couldn’t because it had a flat tire. It turned out the tires were old but still looked new. Even if a tire has a guarantee for so many miles, that is negated over time. Tires deteriorate regardless of the miles put on them. We replaced the tires and eventually gave it to a granddaughter.
In an on-line article entitled “How Old — and Dangerous — Are Your Tires?” by Edmunds, the car expert people. they quote an expert, Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., who compared an aging tire to old rubber bands. “If you take a rubber band that’s been sitting around a long time and stretch it, you will start to see cracks in the rubber.” Safety Research & Strategies is involved in research, analysis and advocacy on safety matters for the public. They work with attorneys, engineering firms, supplier companies, media and governments.
A few days ago I attended a meeting of the Lakewood Rotary Club to hear a presentation by John Munn of Lakewood Playhouse as he talked about their latest production and their upcoming season. I spoke to John and other friends at the meeting and then began my trip home. I got on I-5 at the Ponder’s Corner on-ramp and headed back to Tacoma. It was a nice day and I probably should have been glancing at my gauges. As I passed 84th street I knew something was wrong. The road noise didn’t sound right and then the steering didn’t feel right I pulled over to the shoulder as I saw my instrument warning to “check tire pressure.”
I carefully got out of my car. The tires were fine on the driver’s side, but my right rear tire was in shreds (zero tire pressure). I called my wife, Peg, and she arranged for a tow truck by calling All Transmissions & Automotive. They don’t do tire repair, however it was the perfect call. Within forty minutes on a clogged freeway, Brian of Tacoma Towing showed up. He had been clocking out, but because All Transmission called, he responded. Their flatbed trucks were all out on assignment, but Brian came in an actual tow truck and said he would change the tire. I opened the trunk and he pulled out the emergency spare tire, which had never been used before in my 2005 Buick LeSabre. He put air into the spare and then jacked up my car.
While I was waiting for Brian, a WSDOT truck stopped to see if I was alright and the gentleman explained that I-5 in Washington is all a tow-away zone. If the Washington State Patrol stops by and no one is with a vehicle it is considered abandoned and they have the right to tow and impound. He called the State Patrol and informed them that towing help was on the way. I stayed with the car.
Brian soon had me on the road about with my tiny spare tire and I drove to Nalley Valley to leave my car.
I parked my car and talked to Miles at All Transmissions. Although they don’t repair tires, it was time for maintenance anyway, plus I wanted them to look at the wheel, which I was afraid might have suffered damage. We looked at the front tires and Miles checked the birth date on my tires. The were almost ten years old. Miles explained, “Tires have a useful life of six to ten years.” On tires you’ll see “DOT” followed by a few letters and numbers, and then another section with the actual ID number. The last four digits of the Tire Identification Number reveal the information. There are 2 digits used to identify the week immediately preceding the 2 digits used to identify the year. So, if the last four digits are “5107” it means that the tires were created the week before Christmas in 2007. That would have been a good thing to know.
Good looking tires with lots of tread, don’t mean a thing. Age means everything with wine and tires. One gets better, the other doesn’t.