Finding the Perfect Tires
Lately, I’ve been hanging out by the docks where the big ships come in from the high seas. (Editor’s note: You too?) Wait, that sounds bad. It’s not what you think. My Jeep needs new tires, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to pay full price for new ones. I’ve noticed some of the tires lining the wharves still have plenty of good tread left on them. What a waste. But alas, I haven’t been able to find what I needed. After all, with four-wheel drive, it’s important to get a matching set. This left me with no choice but to resort to more conventional means to find some decent tires.
This would probably be a good point to define “conventional.” From personal experience, conventional typically means expensive. I’ve heard wacky stories of people going to a tire shop, handing over lots of money, and leaving about an hour later with new tires. Where’s the challenge in that? I’ve rarely had to buy new tires, because as an automotive end user my vehicles usually expire long before the tires do, but this is not the case with my Jeep.
Furthermore, I think most folks are too picky about the condition of their tires. Adequate tread, for example, is highly overrated. What about those so-called tread wear indicators? These are the raised bars that run perpendicular across the bottoms of the tread grooves. In theory, when the tread is worn down to these bars, it’s time for new tires. That’s just a popular misconception. I’ve always considered these as “Last Chance Traction Bars” and would like to thank the tire industry for so graciously including them.
"I found my Goldilocks tires"
But alas, even my skinflint ways couldn’t overcome the need to replace the tires on my CJ-2A. On a recent four-wheeling trip, the front end started shaking. Nothing too serious, mind you, but just enough to draw notice at higher speeds. I hopped out (after stopping, in case I have to be specific) and carefully inspected everything. No loose lug nuts. No extra play in the wheel bearings, tie rods, etc. And the tires looked more or less round, with no missing balance weights. Three times I stopped to check, finding no problems. The last couple of miles the shaking got really bad, but at least I was able to limp home via the back roads. Jacking up the front end, it was easy to see one tire had gone out of round due to some broken carcass plies.
Even I had to admit defeat. If one tire had succumbed to old age, the others probably weren’t far behind. There was no option but to bid them adieu. Call me a sentimental old fool, but it’s not easy to say goodbye to a set of tires that had faithfully carried me for many years over countless trails. I thought a Viking funeral would have been a proper send-off, but my lovely wife, ever the level-headed one, suggested our neighbors (if not the fire department) would frown upon burning tires in the backyard. So when all was said and done, they (the tires, not our neighbors) were unceremoniously tossed onto the scrap heap.
But what to do for replacement tires? Would I have to rob a bank to put new rubber on my Jeep? Holy cow! Have you seen how much new tires cost? Don’t forget an advertised price is for the bare tire only, without installation, as if I was building an expensive backyard swing. It was time to start looking for secondhand tires.
If you’ve never visited a used tire shop, you’re in for a unique experience. There’s no coffee or popcorn. Forget about magazines to read while waiting. That’s a moot point, anyway, as there’s nowhere even borderline safe to sit.
For giggles, you get to fire the opening salvo and optimistically describe what you’d like. For example, you might say something fairly specific such as, “I’d like a set of traction tires, maybe a little less aggressive than mud-terrains, but with more oomph than all-terrains.” After nodding in a manner that convincingly mimics understanding, the proprietor shows you some ordinary street tires, the only thing he has. You then repeat yourself, speaking louder and slower for emphasis, which is a bit risky when dealing with a guy who looks like he could easily moonlight as a bouncer. At this point, you are then shown another set of unsuitable tires not much different than the first. You could play this game all day, as he’ll never admit that he doesn’t have what you want. (It’s eerily similar to a conversation with a young child who has no intention of admitting who put a slice of bologna in the DVD player.) And so it goes at shop after shop.
At least my perseverance finally paid off. Much like the theory of monkeys typing the works of Shakespeare, I visited enough places until I found my Goldilocks tires. Not too big, not too small. Not too knobby, not too slick. There’s no point looking down your nose at me, because somebody’s castoffs were just right for me. And most importantly of all, used tires were a great bargain. In fact, I saved so much I should be able to take care of some expensive dental work I’ve been putting off for years. I have this inordinate fear the dentist will say I have no choice but to get false teeth. Holy cow! Have you seen how much new false teeth cost?