Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Tires and the Ozone Layer

I'm a tree-hugger. I'm even willing to embrace them despite their obvious attempts to assassinate me regularly by blasting pollen in my face. So, I dutifully recycle, print duplex, and try to think about creative ways to use all those glass jars I've got. I brought my first CFL bulb close to 20 years ago. Obviously, I try to minimize my driving and it should not shock you when I fess up and say my 7.5 year old car has less than 35,000 miles on it. So I was distinctly annoyed when I discovered a crack in the sidewall of one my tires. The rating on the tire was about 50,000-60,000 miles.

What gives? Defective tires? Should I sue?

Consulting the ever-wise Click & Clack auto column, led to quite a trail of web discussions on the interaction of UV radiation, ozone and rubber. At the molecular level it's a bit complicated but at 30,000 feet pretty simple. After about 6-7 years, tires take enough UV damage that mileage is irrelevant. The rubber breaks down due to oxidation and your tires crack into pieces. The heaviest damage will occur at the sidewalls where the highest sun exposure occurs.

Grumbling about how my lifestyle changes had not delayed my tires from entering the wastestream and emitting mild screams of pain after missing the $70 coupon off the price of new tires at Costco, I vowed I would do sometime to extend the life of this new set. A fresh start.

Basically, I started looking for sun tan lotions for cars.

It really helps if you use the right keywords, try " UV protectants cars" in your search engine.

I promptly ran into numerous warnings about the products in this category. Apparently, while all of these products contain UV protectants of various efficacy, many also contain petroleum distillates which will damage your tires.

Damage as in dissolve the rubber.

Gah. Could it be true?

Off at the nearest Wally world, I started reading labels. Indeed, many of these products for tires boldly proclaimed the presence of petroleum distillates in their ingredient list.

What to do?

When in doubt, go to the people who will follow a product to the death. Who will form societies to discuss and compare the performance of UV protectants for tires. The fanatics. The antique car owners...

There I found several recommendations for a mysterious product called "303 Aerospace Protectant" designed to prevent UV damage on a variety of materials including tires. Not only had this product picked up recommendations from the websites of fanatical car/boat/RV owners but manufacturers were endorsing it. This seemed to offer better odds than picking up a random bottle off the shelf...

With confidence, I purchased a trial sized sample and applied some to the tires. I was quite proud of my strategy to extend the life of my tires and was sure they'd last at least a year or two longer. Well, I was sure until I picked up a nail in the sidewall of one of my new tires. Now, I wonder how long the warranty on my tires will last

Stick around, I still have 3 original tires. In only 4.75 years, we'll see if this product lives up to its reputation.

In the meanwhile, the stuff can be used to protect all your plastic, vinyl, rubber, fiberglass and a host of other materials. It goes on somewhat glossy and stays that way for quite a while. My dashboards have looked shiny and new for close to six months after the last application before I had to dust and refresh the application.

Not that it's about the gloss... i mean eventually the UV radiation will damage the plastic in the dashboard too...i apply it to surfaces where gloss is not an issue....really....honest...

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