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Tire Pressure Issues For Automobiles, Stay Safe America

   By: Lance Winslow

How far along has tire pressure monitoring come recently? Well it is making significant strides in the transportation industries for a variety of reasons; reducing fuel costs, safety and insurance savings, regulations stemming from the Firestone Affair in the SUV market and lobbying from consumer groups. The DOT has looked into these issues for passenger cars and the Tire Industry has had mixed emotions for a reason, often stating that the best thing to do is to educate consumers about tire pressure.

A recent survey during Car Care Aware Week showed that 54% of all cars had one or more tires, which were low on air, thus causing excessive wear, stability issues and poor fuel efficiencies. This was an interesting case in fact. We see this all the time when we service our customers cars. During this same study it was found that only 14% of the cars had one or more tires that needed tread and were worn out. It would behoove those in the car care industry to check tires as a courtesy for customers.

Jiffy Lube and other companies do this already as part of a multi-point check list. We believe that soon all over the road trucks will have some sort of low-pressure indicator either inside the cab or out side. Some already have sensors, which light up on the dash-board and along with GPS navigation which already indicates truck stops and repair stations which have tire shops or Tire chucks with air hoses. Recently we discussed the issues with Large Passenger van rollovers and the NTSB did a huge study showing these vans to be unsafe, yet many of the problems stemmed from low air pressures and poor loading in rear or on top. Once again issues of tires were the biggest. Under rated tires for the load or under inflated tires during the trip which contained the accident were a factor in the event itself.

Some shop owners have asked me why should I get involved with tire pressures because I might be sued (again the issue of our over litigated society, causing friction when you go to help your fellow man or customer?) if I put air in and someone has an accident and they determine that on a dirt road the car had too much air in the tires for that condition, when I put the additional air in because the dad said he was taking his family on a road trip to Colorado or Kansas for four days? I understand this comment and fear from lawsuits and admit that there are too many attorneys in the world, especially here in the States. But as a Car Care Professional you can prevent accidents and help people. This same comment about lawyers is what the tire industry is fearing.

The tire pressure issue was over turned by the NHTSA but expect it to come back stronger next time as consumer groups and politicians judging the wind flow see the political advantage of caving into such demands, which indeed will open the tire industry to more class action lawsuits.

The RMA Rubber Manufacturers Association wants to fight PSI level definitions, because it is not a one size fits all. Many things go into deciding proper inflation and PSI levels depending on such things: snow handling, wet & dry braking, braking & traction requirements, stopping distances, rolling resistance, fuel economy, noise, vibration, harmonics, comfort of ride, uniformity of tread ware, balance, cornering capabilities, , rotation interval specs, endurance ratings, tread ware tests, high speed performance, residual alignment torque, ease of mounting on production equipment, etc. You can see the issues manufacturers have with this. Many times customers will ask you can you check the tires, some shops are saying “no” while this is the best policy for not getting sued it is not good to keep telling customers “No” when:

A.) You can charge them for it and;
B.) They are willing to pay you for it and;
C.) You can make a good profit doing it.

After all with the increased news articles on tire ware and the significance of the firestone media frenzy, tires are on people's mind more than the ever increasing oil change intervals propaganda from Auto Manufacturers to sell more cars and their particular brand of in house oil. The problem concerning tires has much to do with: ice, snow, rain, mud, highway speed, dirt roads, gravel, canyon driving, off road driving, speed bumps, gas mileage, traction, etc.

The manufacturers are at odds with a government regulatory body dictating their specifications on a tire which may perform many different duties on the same car within it's life time. Manufacturers of tires are concerned with all these things and those listed above and also have to worry customers which modify vehicles, over load tires, drive monster mudders on freeways causing vibrations, harmonics, warped rotors, bent tie rods, bent steering rods, severe wear to breaking systems, cracked rims which in turn cause excessive ware including scalloped tires, radial separation, increased tire rotation intervals-some 4 X 4's as little as 3000 miles when usually 6000 is recommended. Not to mention human kidney issues. This offends people and causes stereo's to buzz and tires to roar into the night. When a recent survey came out on a scale of 1-10 tire noise was rated. Aggressive and dedicated Tire Engineers found that Cadillac, Mercedes, Bentley all scored high in the 7.5 range. Where high performance cars such as the Corvette, Mustang 5.0 and even the little Miata scored down into the 5 to 5.5 range. Stiffer tires gave better over all handling performance, great stopping and good grip, but were noisy.

GM has been offering sensor based tire pressure monitors and ABS for a while on some models and Daimler Chrysler on their Jeeps 2002-2004 models has a safety bulletin for installation of a tire pressure monitor dashboard indicator. When customers were asked in a survey by the TIA – Tire Industry Association;

31% said they check their air pressure regularly,

20% admitted to ignorance when it came to anything to do with tires

40% said their tries are totally safe.

54% had under inflated tires when they were checked

14% had either poor tread left or both.

In fact when the survey was checked against actual behavior in tire monitoring by the customer only 1 in 7 actually checks the tire pressure regularly. So it maybe something to think about when servicing your customer's car while doing the oil changes.

The DOT and Regulatory bodies want tire manufacturers and tire retail chains to fork over tire data and returns. Data on warranty issues and marketing data of what was sold where. The industry does not want to because it is afraid the information will immediately become public and therefore fall into the hands of competitors. Which I guarnatee is true. You would not believe how competitive the auto industry is, you have to participate to understand, the regulators have never had a real job or run a real company and as well intended as they are they are mere puppets in the game and clueless to a shame. Those fine folks in government and god bless, them, well, they just don't get it.

But of course Consumer Groups say the competition already has the data because the tire manufacturers share the data with their retailers and wholesalers. Discount Tires, Big O, Les Schwabb, etc. say not so, that their data is much different.

TREAD The Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act is wanting to demand more. This would be the most sweeping legislations since the Highway Act of 1966. Who stands to benefit? Well many after market safety equipment makers of things like seat belts, tire pressure monitor systems, Air-Bags, etc. Which would include some of the top fortune 500 companies and smaller companies with some huge political clout there in the newly upgraded section of “K-Street.” One interesting site to go to is the Consumer Report Tire Facility Testing Site which nearly rivals many of the Major Auto Company R and D or proving grounds. At the NACE Expo there was a lot of talk about tire pressure.

There are many changes coming due to political will, trial lawyer groups, accident rates and industry changes. All of these will affect the Oil Change Industry, which we or my company participates in, because as a retail auto service outlet you will be required to follow similar sweeping new changes in documentation. Great more paper work, just what you need right? Well speaking of paper work did you know that: GPEA – The Government Paper Elimination Act is a total failure. The Sarbanes Oxley Axe has increased paperwork three fold. The GPEA of 1998 has brought about some good changes in the way the government does business, but has lead to the creation of more paperwork for companies thus, more government paperwork. Elliot Spitzer's Office has caused the early death of almost as many trees as the California Fires, by threatening good companies and cases, which scare little companies into generating more paperwork back-up. The DOT, FDA, CDC, FAA, FCC, EPA, OSHA, FTC, SEC, DOE, etc. and all the other three-letter and lots of Four Letter (word) agencies are requiring more paperwork.

This is affecting every small and medium size businesses ability to compete, because they waste money on things not essential to serving the needs of their customers and you and I, well in my opinion and thinking we all lose as the businesses and as those agencies look to cover their butts. Even if the entire system were to go digital the cost in the collection of the paper work. This means more man-hours, higher manager pay and more training and more CYA. This will mean with regards to tire pressures that if you check the tires you will have to make a notation and then keep a triplicate copy of the information, including a CYA that you told the customer of the issues in the way of a signature.

We are seeing that we are transferring the responsibility to be alert and pay attention to those in business rather than the owner of the car who abuses their equipment and has a friend who is a lawyer? Tire pressures are very important to the over all desires of your customer base and they seem to be on their minds as more and more customers are concerned about tires and the pressure due to the news media. By you paying attention to this you can develop a stronger customer base, greater requency of patronage, more referrals, more consumer confidence and more satisfied customers. You will be putting customers at ease and making them happy.

"Lance Winslow" - Online Think Tank forum board. If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance;

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