By Halsey King
Halsey King (SAE) is a fleet maintenance consultant with over 30 years of world-wide fleet experience.
Everything in the make-up of cars, trucks, buses, and limousines has a life cycle. Regardless of the composition, be it paint, liquids, or rubber, it will only last so long. Of course, if we were to apply manufacturers recommended maintenance practices, we can coach a few more days and miles out of the product. However, ultimately that product will end up being thrown into the trash heap or recycled; not that recycling is a bad thing. Most fleet managers I know across the country have been recycling oil, coolant, and metal for so long they are now being recognized as originators of the process, behind the government mandates over the years.
But what about rubber and in fact, automotive rubber we use in engine hoses to carry anti-freeze, and rubber we use as door seals to keep out the rain, and what about the rubber we use in the tires we ride on? When we look at rubber, it is in two general categories - natural rubber from the Far East, and synthetic rubber, which is man made in a chemical plant or laboratory. While both of these products are quite similar in some ways and for various uses, they are really different both in their production process and chemically.
Nonetheless, we have various forms of these rubber products in each of our tires for different reasons. For example, in a modern passenger car tire, as many as 12 different types of rubber may be used in different parts of the tire. Some rubber compounds are best used for the tread to provide good traction in rain and cold weather, while another type of rubber compound is used to design the sidewall where a lot of “tire flexing” and heat build-up occurs. In addition to this, tires contain a host of other products that help to make it the amazing product it is. Some of these are carbon, black sulfur, oil, steal, and anti-oxidants.
Tires really are amazing products in that they hold up the vehicles weight, travel at high speeds, hold together on curvy mountain roads, and fit everything from go-carts to 18-wheel trucks. Tires have become increasingly expensive, but today they can get us further down the road than the earlier, less expensive tire. That is, if we inspect, inflate, and take care of our tires they will last much longer.
You can make tire buying easier on yourself by looking at the “tire sticker” on the door jamb. By DOT regulation, the sticker will provide you with the correct tire size and inflation pressure. From compact cars to limousines, the sticker needs to be attached to the vehicles.
In recent years, the US Department of Transportation also came out with a tire rating system that looks at tread wear, traction, and heat resistance. This information is available for you to see at www.safercar.gov/tires. This is an excellent guide for the first time buyer or anyone who wants to dig deeper into vehicle economies and safety.
Another and more recent addition to DOT’s newsworthy announcements are tire manufacturing dates, which are printed on the tire’s sidewall. Look at the end of a long series of numbers (usually the tire serial number), and you may see something like this – 02/19, which means this tire was manufactured during the second week of the year 2019. Now if the numbers read – 26/19, it means the tire was manufactured during the 26th week of 2019 (mid-summer), and so on.
As tires age, they naturally dry out (as all the oil and other chemicals change) and can then become dangerous. Some experts recommend getting rid of a six-year-old tire no matter what condition it is in. When you go to buy new tires, make sure they are less than one year old to get the most service life for your money.