Tires and Tribulations

Today was my first day driving the van more than a few miles since I got new tires. As I drove along, I noticed the rear end bouncing a bit more than it used to. Certainly, different tires feel differently, but it was worth stopping to check them out. The bottoms looked a little bit squished. When I ran my fingers over what was a sharp edge at the outside of the tread, it had just barely started to round off after just about 100 miles. This is a classic sign of underinflation.

I made my next stop a gas station with a tire pump to check the pressures for myself. After spending $2 just to activate the pump, it told me all my tires were at 40 psi. The factory rating is 50 front, 80 rear. The fronts weren’t bad, but the rears were HALF what they should’ve been! That’s where most of the weight is, between the interior build and the motorcycle hanging off the back. Even worse, the regular gas station pump wasn’t powerful enough to inflate them. I actually saw the pressure drop as it tried.

So I looked up the closest truck stop, which will definitely have a high pressure pump. Pilot in Joliet, Illinois did not disappoint. Though the gauge on the pump wasn’t quite accurate, it got the tires up to an indicated 80 psi. The van felt fine after that, go figure.

What really grinds my gears is that when I was talking to the tech who worked on my van, he flat out told me he set the pressures to 60 front, 80 rear. I figured great, I’d buy a high pressure gauge and drop the fronts back down to 50 when I had a chance. It turns out he flat out lied to me.

CarX on Bowman Avenue in Danville, Illinois had the tires I needed when I needed them, but they left my van in a dangerous driving condition. A less attentive driver than me would’ve gone on driving, unaware, and trusting that the shop that installed the tires knew how to set them to the correct pressure. This should be a safe assumption, but my experience proves otherwise. At best, the underinflated tires would’ve worn out very quickly, resulting in a possible warranty battle with a good chance it wouldn’t be covered. At worst, the soft tires could’ve caused a crash, injury, or even death, not to mention the complete destruction of my home on wheels.

I will never trust a tire shop to set the correct pressure again. I’ll always check it myself. I bought a high-pressure tire gauge to keep an eye on them from now on. I’m also seriously thinking about a high-power inflator of my own, just so I don’t have to keep driving around on soft tires if I find myself low. The ability to air down for dirt and back up for pavement would be nice, but mainly I just want to make these tires last, since I made a significant investment in them. Maybe I can also help others I meet in my travels who have soft tires, too.

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