Automobile tires have changed over the years. So have the tire dealers and the sales methods they employ. Twenty years ago, I was just a teenager when I purchased my first car. It was an old V8 that was more noise than poise, but my girlfriend really liked it....
The car lasted longer than the girl; I still have the car in my garage. These days, the V8 runs on natural gas to reduce emissions. It's been rebuilt a few times, ranging from a quarter mile barnstormer to the environmentally friendly, retro-tech classic it is today.
I ran into my old girlfriend at our high school reunion -- she remembered the car more than she did me. Specifically, she remembered the first set of tires I purchased, probably because she and her husband own a tire dealership.
My first car was a familiar story many know, bald tires, clouds of smoke from the tail pipe and oil leaks that never ceased. Not to mention the rust. It was in need of a lot of parts and care and my first purchase was a new set of automobile tires. (The local constabulary had suggested I take care of that problem before they had to.)
My girlfriend and I pulled into an old service station on a Friday afternoon and an old guy in overalls came out to give the car a glance. Inside the shop, he had the radio blaring and a pick-up on the hoist.
He was an intimidating old guy with bad sideburns, "How much did they pay ya to take that" He laughed, winking at my girl as the faint sound of Smokey Robinson played away in the workshop.
No matter what I thought of his personality issues, the old guy really knew his stuff. We talked about tire sizes and the differences between the brands I had heard of. He talked me out of spending too much saying he charged extra for the name on the sidewall.
These days, its difficult to get that sort of advice from a dealer; many of them tend to rely on what their computer says. They have an understanding of how tire sizes work, what they mean and a complete vocabulary of tire nomenclature. However, the customer seems to know as much, if not more than the dealer sometimes.
When I pull into a tire dealer these days I'm more likely to find low paid clerks, instead of an old guy with thirty years of tire knowledge. The person selling me my automobile tires could easily be the person who bagged my groceries the week before.
I'm not trying to badmouth today's tire dealers; it's just that tires have gone the same way as most things and have become mass marketed commodities. The mass merchants seem to dominate and all thats left over are franchisees, kind of like the burger industry, so when you find a really knowledgeable dealer, it's a real delight.
My last set of tires I researched online. I use large 20 inch wheels and low profile tires as opposed to the 15 inch, high profile wheels I ran in the eighties. My wife drives an Explorer and spent as much time as I did researching her tires.
My car has been scrutinized, complete with engineers certificate, to run the sort of big diameter, low profile tires typical of the todays car enthusiasts. I guess you would label them sport tires.
My wife's vehicle was designed with intensive study going into the type and size of tire that will best suit her Explorer. The safety of my wife and son is paramount. Her tires are more expensive than mine; she wants the best when it comes to tires. I believe she actually knows more about things like treadwear than I do.
People research their purchases, often online where information is at their fingertips. They know to compare treadware and consider why a different profile might better suit their driving needs. They want to know the great deals and they want to know the frauds , too.
The way people buy things has changed and is still changing. The internet is now a major resource for the car enthusiasts, busy moms and teenagers researching their next cell phone, a book as a Christmas gift, even their next set of tires (we like Tire-rack's Special Offers). Who knows where well be next, perhaps technology will take over and cars will think for themselves.
In the meantime, one thing has not changed. There are two types of tires, the ones you should buy and the others you should not. More than ever, the choice belongs to the consumer.
More than ever before, the control belongs to the consumer, too. It only takes a little research to develop a strong understanding of tires. This will save you time and money, as you learn to get the most out of the tires mounted on your car. Browse around this site, I'm sure you'll find it useful later, if not sooner.
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