Tuesday, October 11, 2011 09:42
I was riding in the right-front seat of an old Cadillac when the right-rear tire tread left its assigned position. Still partially attached to the tire, the tread whipped by my right ear like a giant, steel-reinforced Weed Whacker string.
The flailing tread cleaned off the outside mirror, door handle and door trim in the first couple of passes. Then it smashed the rear passenger window. I knew tire-tread separations were dangerous, but I had focused more on the potential loss of control than the havoc it can cause immediately upon the separation.
This was in a controlled environment. We were doing a demonstration for a tire company, allowing people to experience a tread separation from behind the wheel. The tires were cut in a manner to ensure a quick separation. Fortunately, the car had its inner fender panels reinforced with armor plating, which kept that tread from slicing into the passenger compartment. After the run we stopped allowing people to ride in the right-rear seat during demos.
I’ve described how to survive a blowout and the basics of tread separations. This is a bit more on tread separations. For those too lazy to click there and back, here’s a quick primer: A tread separation is when a tire’s tread and belt package departs from the tire carcass. Tread separations are far more common than true blowouts and many tread separations are incorrectly called blowouts. Those “road gators” from 18-wheelers strewn alongside Southern highways in the summer are almost all tread separations and not recap failures. More...
Monday, October 3, 2011 08:00
It’s easy to argue that a tire tread separation is even more dangerous than a blowout. Neither need to result in disaster it you know how to handle the emergency. (Read: How to Survive a Blowout.)
The main reason: It’s almost impossible to fail to notice a true blowout. A true blowout sounds almost like a gunshot and the road wheel makes a horrible grinding noise as it rides directly on the pavement. I guess you can play Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” loud enough to overcome these noises, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the vehicle—especially an SUV or pickup—drops several inches when the tire instantly deflates.
Tread separations, which are more common than true blowouts, act in the opposite manner. (First, a definition: A tread separation is when the tire tread departs from the tire casing. Those truck-tire “road gators” strewn alongside the road are almost all tread separations rather than failed recaps.
Prior to a tread separation, an attentive driver will notice a light slapping noise and possibly an uneven ride. Things change when the baby road gator is about to be born. The tread will start slapping the inner fender panel with a hammering racket. If the tread flies off quickly, the noise stops and the car will ride smoothly again. The ignorant or overly optimistic may think the tire has magically cured itself. The truth: The tire is now a time bomb. With the tread gone, the tire’s fabric inner carcass is the only thing touching the road. That fabric provides almost no traction, so if you turn the wheel the car will either spin out or plow straight off the corner. Sooner or later, the fabric will fail and the tire will deflate, perhaps even blow out.
A tread separation can cause other damage, including ripping through the inner fender and slicing through human flesh. With that happy thought, we’ll leave you and return another day with tips on how to handle and prevent a tread separation.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 05:00
You need to have lived under a rock to miss the historic land-rape just perpetrated by Mother Nature upon America’s deep south. It was bad—super bad. The epic kind of bad, bad enough do divert Americans’ gaze across the Pacific at earthquake and tsunami-blasted northeastern Japan back homeward.
As rotten as some of the situations and suffering that were cast upon these fellow citizens must have been, you can’t help yourself but to have watched more than one of the near unlimited videos of the disaster. We’ve got a video that you need to saddle up and watch yourself. Call it a positive tale that emerged from the rubble, and a bit of a product endorsement by Ma nature herself of the trucks made by Ford Motor Company.
We call it “Tornado Proof Dude with Big Brass,” but it just as well could have been a handful of Prozac. Meanwhile, YouTube calls this American pickup kinda guy and his video, “Video by Steven Hoag: Wilson NC Tornado AS IT HITS WALGREENS.”
When you consider that you and every other American fixates on the cars in disaster videos, you realize that the automobile is a reference point for all manner of folk. How many times have you said, “Dude, look at where the truck landed,” and “Holy crap, that Camaro was thrown 1000 yards!” The effects of disaster on our cars help us grasp the scale of that disaster, and put it into perspective. Cars can be our touchstone in so many experiences.
A compliment must be registered to the gent in this video (Steven Hoag, perhaps?) who, without anything more durable than a standard-issue Ford F-150 (is this an ad waiting to happen?), he blithely sits out a tornado as it grinds its way across the landscape less than 100 feet away from his person. This, my dear friends, is a man’s man. His voice doesn’t even wobble as he calmly chats with his mother while the finger of God (whichever one you prefer) digs a trench in the landscape.
If for no other reason than to have a little more perspective about how good you’ve got it, spend a few minutes with a man and his truck, who didn’t flinch when many others would.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010 03:45
If the electronic stability control system in your car engages, you’re best bet is to do nothing. Anything you do is probably going to be wrong. Or futile.
That was prompted by a question from a reader from Milwaukee in response to one of many articles I’ve written about ESC, which is called a variety of names by different manufacturers. (If you just moved from Manhattan to America and are learning about “cars” for the first time, ESC uses a computer to sense that your car is about to spin out or plow straight off the road. Then it does magical stuff with the brakes and engine in a not-always-successful attempt to save you from your dumb, no-drivin’ self.)
“My wife went out to run errands on the snowy suburban streets. She returned and described the sounds and warning lights that were being generated by the (ESC) and traction control, and ABS.
“In the past we drivers were always taught to steer into a skid. My question, is this still the case when driving a car with a system like (ESC)?” More...
Monday, November 15, 2010 04:44
When you find a story that makes you think, it’s not always the story that matters. In this case, a brief overview of the confluence of Toyota and Honda recalls spurs some serious manufacturing and OEM thoughts that affect anyone who buys a new car.
The article is titled “Honda Joins Toyota in Brake System Recall. 472K Cars Affected.” Read it for yourself. Its nothing special, describing a Honda recall of about a half-million cars and minivans, and how the same simple brake system part – a seal in the master cylinder being broken down by brake fluid – just caused a mill-five recall for Toyota.
There are questions and thinking left after flitting through this story. Honda says, “Certain types of brake fluid could affect the seal” – what does “affect” mean? What kind of fluid? If it wasn’t an approved brake fluid, then it would void parts warranties, and Honda (and Toyota) wouldn’t bother with a recall, which means this seal (probably part of the plunger in the master cylinder), is being destroyed by brake fluids that the manufacturer has recommended. Whoops. More...