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About Those Alligators

(March 2017) posted on Fri Mar 17, 2017

Buying crane, bucket and pickup truck tires

By Darek Johnson

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“Ya’ll got a gator on the zipper at 172 and a full-grown bear at 174,” the trucker’s voice cracked from the CB radio I’d plugged into the power supply of my wife’s Accord Coupe; I’m on I-65, northbound, midnight to Chicago, where I’ll meet her in the morning. At 87 mph, I’m 121 seconds from the patrol car, so, naturally, I’m on the binders. With the speed needle at a licit 70 and the gator in my mirror, I lift the CB mic and thank the southbound driver for saving me from a serious speeding ticket. Coming back, he laughingly said, “Glad to help, bud. Glad to help.”

If you buy new tires, it’s quite possible that you’ve been ripped off for years. Really. Because, you may have been buying old tires you thought were new. Tire experts say new tires, even while chilling on the tire shop rack, will age, crack and harden. Think of a plain rubber band and then envision an old one, the kind that looks good until it breaks when you stretch it. Assign that vision to a tire, an old tire or a new one that has shelf-aged to a crisis point. It’s worse with motorcycle tires, because they require thick and sticky tread to adhere to the road, especially on sports bikes.

Old tires? On tire safety, the Atlanta-based Tire Safety Group presents four critical points.

First, tires begin to weaken and fall apart as they age. Second, the tire aging process happens regardless of whether a tire is on a vehicle or in a temperature-controlled room. Next, most tires begin to significantly degrade around five years from the date of manufacture. Finally, six years from the date of manufacture, most tires are no longer safe for use on a vehicle.

Retired over-the-road driver Bill Johnson said to not trust a tire that’s more than six years old. “That’s from the manufacture date,” he said, and added that old tires’ rubber loses its elasticity, easily heats up and, in certain circumstances, will blow off the tread, which explains the road “alligator,” CB lingo for the thrown tire tread often found along the highway’s dotted line.


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