Air on the side of safety
Hot weather and poor care add up to big problems for your car’s tires
By Jennifer Hadley 09/12/2013
I wasn’t prepared for how alarmed my boyfriend would be when I told him I had never replaced the tires on my 2005 Nissan Xterra. In my defense, I don’t drive a whole lot, so my truck only has 72,000 miles on it. However, I’d been warned last spring by Glendale Nissan that my tires were officially worn down to dangerous levels. I had plans to get them repaired; I was just trying to gather the strength to part with hundreds of dollars for stupid old tires. The way my boyfriend reacted, though, you’d think I’d have told him I was driving around with a little bonfire constantly burning in the passenger seat. Geez … settle down.
But then my friend Crystal got a fix-it ticket. Crystal explained, “The cop pulled me over for speeding. [He] said I was pushing 80. I actually disagreed, because when my car gets up to 80 it starts shaking so badly I need to slow down. After he took my license, insurance and registration he took a walk to the front of my car, came back and asked, ‘Do you realize your tires are bald?’ I said I didn’t, and he proceeded to tell me I have no idea how many people flip their cars because of tire blowouts. Then he said he wasn’t going to write me up for speeding but was giving me a fix-it ticket for the tires. He came back and advised me never to argue with a cop about speeding.”
With that, I started to think maybe I was taking a gamble every time I got in my car, and as it turns out, I was. In fact, just recently the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had released a new warning reminding us of the dangers of driving on worn and underinflated tires, particularly in the heat (nhtsa.gov). According to the advisory, “The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today cautioned motorists that hot weather and underinflated tires are a dangerous combination. In the summer months, while vehicles are being driven at highway speeds, the heat and hot roadways contribute to the breakdown of tires and a greater likelihood for tire failure.
The NHTSA estimates that tire failure causes approximately 11,000 crashes a year. The most common cause of failure includes tread separations, blowouts, bald tires and underinflated tires. Underinflated tires and worn down treads are major causes of failure. Under inflation also leads to poor fuel economy, sluggish handling, longer stopping distances and increased stress on tire components.”
Zoiks. That didn’t sound good at all. Tires weren’t going to cost much more than my deductible if I crashed, and I certainly couldn’t afford any kind of hospital visit. Moreover, I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt somebody else because of my irresponsibility. It was a done deal.
I picked my tires out online and made an appointment with Discount Tire. I allowed the sales guy to up-sell me their Certificate for Refund, Repair or Replacement. According to their Web site (discounttire.com), “If a tire fails due to a defect or an unrepairable road hazard, and still has legal tread remaining across the tire, and it has been in use less than three years from date of purchase, Discount Tire will give a refund of the full purchase price, together with the applicable sales tax and give you the option to purchase the same new or comparable tire at the refund price, with the payment of any applicable sales tax. There is no prorating, no disqualification for any reason such as run-on damage and no mileage adjustment.”
The certificate worked for me. I didn’t, however, let the sales guy talk me into more expensive tires. Of course, he tried. It’s his job. But he wasn’t rude when I told him politely but firmly that I was on a budget.
I picked up my car less than an hour later and my dismay about spending a bunch of money on tires changed to sheer delight as I drove home. My SUV drives like a brand new truck. It’s quieter, less bouncy, that annoying tire pressure light is off and I can say that I actually “feel” safer driving it.
I’ve told Crystal all of this, actually bubbling about how nice my new tires have made my car, but, as of press time, she was still leaning toward concert tickets over new tires.
Contact Jennifer Hadley at email@example.com.