October 14th, 2010


Quest for the Tires

Over the past few weeks - nay, months - the Crossfire's tires have experienced a precipitous decline. The left-rear hoop started losing air ever-so-slowly during the summer until, a few weeks ago, that particular tire wouldn't stay inflated for more than a few days. Upon inspection, I noticed a big ol' crack opened up in the sidewall; that was new. And a bit scary. Thus the Crossfire dropped to in-town duty only.

Why not just run out and buy a new tire? Well, one doesn't just buy a single tire when they're at this stage of wear (never mind that it has only 15,000 miles or so; they're super-grippy summer tires), and in fact the front ones were looking pretty much past their prime, too. So buying one meant buying a set. No biggie, sez you, everyone has to buy a set of tires now and then. Quit whinging! Well, these are no ordinary tires. To replace the shoes that my beloved sports-car wore when new would set me back nearly two grand. Let's be precise: $1700, plus installation and so forth. For a set of tires. I've bought several entire cars that cost less than that. So I was delaying the inevitable, at least until spring, by which time I could save up a bit (didn't get paid last summer, still catching up).

Now let's complicate things: Last week, my other operational car (the forest-green 1994 Saab 900S convertible) blew some kind of coolant fitting somewhere under the hood (have yet to identify where), so now it loses coolant at an alarming rate. We'll call that car non-op. To further complicate things, I teach every Monday night in Kansas City, about 35 miles from home. Not exactly a destination designed for riding my Vespa, eh? So I've had to use KU rental cars.

(For those of you playing along at home, I also own some other non-op vehicles: A 1966 Chrysler Newport, out of service due to its engine being in pieces. This is a planned event, on account of hot-rodding it. I also have a full-size motorcycle, 1978 BMW R100S, also in pieces as it's undergoing restoration. Just for giggles, let's add the Aprilia RS50 that got wrecked in last year's accident, and the electric bicycle, which lost its power supply cable during removal of the rear wheel - another bad tire - due to a factory-stripped bolt. *sigh*)

So I needed to replace the tires, but was not willing to spend that big a pile of gold on 'em. My local shop found a different but still-excellent set of tires, Goodyear Eagle F1 All-Seasons, which would allow me to drive the Crossfire through rain and even *gasp* snow! Unfortunately, four of 'em in my sizes (very wide, 18" front and 19" rear) would cost $1400. Oof. That's if he could even order them, which seemed unclear. He suggested I check around elsewhere, because these are the only tires he could find for my car, and because he's not a Goodyear dealer, he doesn't get good prices. I love Performance Tire & Wheel - how many shop managers would say that? So I did check around.

NO ONE COULD GET ME MY TIRES. Oh, that's not entirely true:

1) Gregg Tire (the local Goodyear dealer as rec'd by Steve at Performance) thought they might be able to get a pair of the 19s from a place in California, but they'd call me back. Have I heard yet? In three days? No.

2) Sears (not the one in my town, of course, but one 40 miles away) could order them at a slightly cheaper price, but to order them I needed a Sears card. I am not shitting you. VISA was no good for them. So I called Sears' Bombay Division, because I think I have a Sears card, but it turns out that no, I don't. If you don't use it for a year, they cancel it.

3) At this point I was getting frustrated enough to check with Satan, Himself, and stopped by Wal-Mart's tire department. The girl (I intentionally use that word) behind the counter assured me Wal-Mart couldn't order tires in my sizes, but the mechanic who overheard her said I should check the website, order them, and have them shipped to the store. Seriously? That's a business model? Desperate I was, so I went home and fired up the interwebs to discover that Wal-Mart actually carried 'em for a little cheaper than Sears... but it would take 3-4 weeks before they arrived. Wha...?

"Okay, that's it," said I. "Damn trying to shop locally." I went to Tire Rack's online dealership and found my tires for WAY cheaper. But no way could I safely install those puppies by myself. With my tires trembling quietly in the checkout page (only 2 left in 19s, by the way), I called Steve at Performance Tire and asked if I could have them shipped to his store for them to install. Yes! Success!

Thus assured, I placed my order - totalling $720 with shipping - and expect them to arrive in about 4-5 days. That's weeks faster than Wal-Mart and $680 cheaper than ordering them locally. Holy crap.

If you've ever wondered why local stores are failing and why online sales have exploded, this Quest for the Tires should answer that question.


EDIT: And the saga continues: Just got a phone call from the Tire Rack informing me that Goodyear was recommending against using those tires for wear and noise concerns. *sigh* The nice Tire Rack guy found me a comparable set of Yokohamas that will last longer, run quieter, and provide at least as good wet-dry-snow grip as the Goodyears... at $150 more. *double-sigh*

EDIT 2: Lords of Kobol! The NEXT hurdle to overcome in the Quest: Apparently, VISA had my home address wrong, so rejected my order. Six calls and an hour later, I've corrected the problem. Egad. What's next?

Health Update

PS: Stepped on the scale this morning and discovered that I've dipped into the 160s for the first time since my first years in college! Digital scale sez 169.8 lbs. Woohoo!