By Bryan Martin, special to Land Line
It was a brisk autumn day in 2003. I had just bought a pair of new Michelin steer tires for $373 each, mounted and balanced. I got all my aluminum wheels polished for $20 each. Grumbling the whole time, because it was too much money.
Wow. How in the heck have tire prices doubled in the past few years? Even during these past two years, they have skyrocketed in price. And certain brands have been difficult to locate because of a national tire “shortage.”
Well, in this tough old world, it seems like nearly everything related to our trucks keeps costing more. That causes us to take all necessary steps to make things last longer or perform better in an effort to try and recapture the added operating costs. Let’s talk about a few things you can do to get a li’l more bang for your buck when it comes to your tires and wheels.
First things first, keep them inflated to the suggested tire pressure. Check them at least weekly. It’s no hardship to grab a pressure gauge and do a quick check when you are waiting around to load or unload. It will pay you back dividends both in prevention of premature tire wear and aide in obtaining optimum fuel efficiency.
Right behind proper tire inflation on the priority list is rotating your tires. Usually the rear drive axle tires show faster signs of tire wear than the front drive. So you may want to move tires from one axle to another for smooth and even wear.
Another good practice is, when your steer tires get worn down to about 40 percent, move them to your trailer. If that isn’t an option for you, often they will get a good trade-in allowance at the tire shop toward a pair of new steer tires.
It seems like once you run a drive or trailer tire low, or a tire starts showing signs of cupping out, it very quickly gets much worse, even if you correct the problem. Some items that minimize the likelihood of cupping out are tire pressure equalizers and automatic wheel balancers.
Tire pressure equalizers are typically $60 to $80 each. Four are required for a truck and four are needed for a trailer. They are simple to install in just a few minutes. Some of the benefits are:
- Checking tire pressure is easy (visual, just glance), and it’s easy to inflate, as one inflation point airs both tires.
- Exact same pressure in both tires is maintained for minimum rolling resistance.
- Tire life is maximized by providing “even” tire wear.
- There’s no danger of both tires deflating. Should one tire blow out or run flat, the tire pressure equalizer has a built-in safety check valve to prevent both tires from going flat.
- Generally, a set of tire pressure equalizers will pay for themselves in less than a year in cost savings (fuel efficiency and tire replacement).
Automatic balancers are selling for around $180 per pair. Anyone with a hydraulic jack and an impact wrench can do the simple install. They are also available for all positions – steer, drive or trailer axle. Some of the great benefits of automatic wheel balancers are:
- Smoother ride/less vibration;
- Reduced chance of tire cupping; and
- Increased tire life due to perfect balancing. Automatically compensates for a drum, wheel or tire that may incur an ‘out of balance’ situation
Shock absorbers. Here is another culprit that can lead to premature tire wear. Keep an eye out for oily, or grimy shocks that may have blown a seal and replace them as soon as possible. It is also a good practice to install new shocks every couple of years. Be sure to save an old one and you can use it temporarily if one of the new ones should fail.
Shock absorbers on the steer axle are particularly important to prevent premature tire wear. Try to obtain a high-quality shock absorber up front. It will pay you back.
I won’t spend too much time preaching on caring for your aluminum wheels. It is pretty much common sense, and all of us are familiar with the deal. If you run through snow or ice, get a wash at your first opportunity to get all those chemicals washed off your aluminum. Polish your wheels a couple times a year and follow up with a good hand-applied sealant to preserve the shine.
Food for thought: If a new aluminum wheel costs $350 and you have it polished for $60, twice a year ($120 annual maintenance expense), you may want to consider a wheel with a protective coating such as a DuraBrite or an AccuShield type wheel. They have a baked-on clear coating that eliminates polishing and requires only soap and water to get it back to its original new condition.
Or if you want to go full tilt, go chrome, baby! The new chrome-plated aluminum wheels we carry offer a five-year warranty and they shine like a mirror. No need for rubbing, buffing or machine polishing! Doesn’t that sound nice? Some retailers may even offer you a decent trade-in allowance for your used wheels toward the purchase price of new chrome wheels.
Every dollar saved is a dollar made, so how about we take a little time and money and implement some of these suggestions. Maybe you’ll have some extra jingle to spend at the chrome shop – of course, where else? LL