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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Are you smarter than a tire dealer? Part 1

With apologies to the TV show "Are you smarter than a 5th grader"...

I sometimes wonder if RV owners are or at least need to be smarter than the average tire salesperson.

I bring this up based on a few recent observations and experiences. Let me give you some examples and then some suggestions to help you get the tires and service you want and need for your RV.

I have read a number of examples where RV owners had their tires inflated by a tire dealer only to later discover a variety of issues such as too much air, too little air, loose or missing valve caps or even loose valve cores. While I am sure that many dealerships want to provide good service, I think it important to remember that many times it is the "new kid" that gets the job of doing a pressure check and the on the job training may be done at your expense.
I would suggest that if you are going to have a dealer do tire inflation, it is in your best interest to provide the tire tech with clear instructions on the pressures you want. If you have more than a single inflation (fronts different than rears for example) maybe just an index card with a simple graphic along with the inflations you want will avoid confusion. You might even consider specifying a few psi higher than your real Cold Inflation Pressure or CIP so the next morning when you do your check with your Master Gauge you can let the pressure down which is always easier than needing to add a couple psi.
Also I suggest a quick walk around after the inflation check to be sure you have metal caps on all your valves. A light tightening twist may not be out of line to ensure you don't loose a cap on the way home.

Now the biggie Tire Buying.

 Next to going to the dentist, buying tires may be one of our least favorite activities in life. I do not expect to change your mind on this and turn the act of visiting a tire store something you look forward to, but I would like to offer some advice to make the task less stressful and possibly extend the time between visits so you have to go tire shopping less often.

Here is where some fact based knowledge can pay off in making the activity less stressful and might even end up saving you some money in the long term for I believe that a better purchasing decision will lead to lower probability of problems.

Lets start off by deciding if we are simply "replacing" out tires with more of the same or if we are "shopping" for tires that might deliver better performance, fewer problems or longer life.

Tire Replacement
If the tires you currently run have delivered satisfactory service, why would you think you need to make a change to a different size, type or brand? To me this would fall under the "It ain't broke, but I'm gonna try and fix it" approach. If your plan is to simply replace the tires you have with a newer set then you have it easy, simply shop for tires identical to what you already have.
When shopping I suggest you first go out and read the sidewall of your current tires. Note the Brand i.e. Goodyear, Michelin, Maxxis, Duro, Cooper etc. Next the type or design. This might be a name like "Marathon" or a number like "S637". Finally and maybe most important the COMPLETE tire size this includes the letters and numbers in front of and after the dimensional numbers and would also include the Service Description part, if any, that comes after the rim diameter. Service Description has two parts: Numbers for Load Index and a letter for the Speed Symbol or Speed Rating

For size something like "235-15" isn't correct and if that is what you tell the tire dealer, what you are really doing is sending the message that you really don't understand tires so an unscrupulous dealer may try and take advantage of you.
Technically an "LT235/75R15 107/110Q Load Range D"
is a different tire than an "LT235/75R15 Load Range D".

If you are not completely clear on this you might want to review THIS post that covers the differences for Passenger and Light Truck type tires.

Trailer or "ST" tires will have markings similar to LT type tires

Class-A Truck Bus Radials or TBR type and European commercial tires will also have size information similar to LT but with no letters in front and of course bigger numbers like "275/80R22.5 Load Range G". For TBR type tires the Service Description part is optional. If your current tires have a Service Description I would include that information when identifying the tires you want to the dealer.

You may find that shopping on the Interweb an exercise in confusion as I find many tires listed with incomplete or even incorrect tire information. Poorly designed web site may not be an indication of the competence of the dealership but it is not a good sign. This might be the first sign that you actually are smarter than the tire dealer.

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