Emission Checks – Who Needs Them?

Dear Tracy,

I recently moved to Harrison, Ohio, from Kentucky, and was wondering about automobile emission testing. My neighbor told me that it is not necessary in Ohio, but I have a cousin in Cleveland who insists that it is. How do I know who is right? I tried looking online, but there are a lot of websites with information out there, and I am not sure which site is the right one for official information. Also, I was wondering why some states require emission testing, and some don’t. Kentucky did not require an emissions test.

Lauren B.

Dear Lauren,

When moving to a new state, it is a good idea to get familiar with the vehicle and licensing requirements right away, so you are not caught off guard when your current license expires. Finding information online can be a bit of a challenge because a number of websites have popped up with official sounding names that are actually trying to sell you something – usually insurance. If you want up-to-date information, look in your search results for a “.gov” website. That should be the real deal and give you current requirements.

As an Ohio resident, a great resource for you will be the new resident section of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles website. You will find a lot of helpful information here, including whether or not you need an emissions check. Ohio is a state that is divided in terms of emission testing – some counties require it, and some do not. Your cousin, in Cleveland, is a resident of Cuyahoga County, and therefore needs an emission test. Since you and your neighbor are in Harrison, you are residents of Hamilton County, and do not need one.

The reason requirements are different from state to state, and even county to county, is because the decision to require testing is made on a state level. While the path leading to vehicle emissions testing began with federal legislation, the Clean Air Act of 1970, the standards set by that legislation are being met in more and more areas, due to factors like improvements in automotive technology and fuel efficiency. If an area meets EPA requirements, the state may determine emission testing is unnecessary.

Tire Tracks – Songs about My Favorite Subject

As the world’s biggest tire fan, it won’t be surprising for my readers to learn that I love a great song about tires! One of my favorites is the Brad Paisley song, Mud on the Tires. Why do tires make a great subject for songs? Tires make us think about fun and fond memories of long drives, cruising down Main Street, or 4-wheel adventures on back roads.

For most folks, your wheels are your freedom to explore the world, and what could be better than having an awesome soundtrack to accompany you on the road? Fun songs for the open road make any trip seem just a little more exciting. After all, who doesn’t feel cooler with the top down, sunglasses on and the bass pumped?  My favorites include classics such as Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild, Gold Earring’s Radar Love, and The Doors’ Roadhouse Blues. My playlist also includes road-worthy hits such as:

  • Rascal Flatts’ (the Tom Cochrane original is also great) Life is a Highway
  • Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car
  • Bruce Springsteen’s Pick Cadillac
  • The Beach Boys’ Little Deuce Coupe
  • The Beatles’ Drive My Car
  • The Eagles’ Take it Easy
  • Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally
  • America’s Ventura Highway

But are there really that many songs about tires? There’s Lenny Cooper’s hit, Big Tires, as well as a few others you will find off the beaten path:

  • Bonnie Tyler’s Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts
  • Joni Mitchell’s You Dream Flat Tires
  • Medeski Martin Wood’s  Flat Tires

On the humorous side, this video interpretation of the Phish song Contact  is really a trip. And these parodies of popular songs with a tire twist had me rolling:

These last few weekends, before winter sets in, make sure you hit the road for some good times. And don’t forget your music!

Nitrogen vs Air

Dear Tracy,

Are there real advantages to inflating my tires with nitrogen instead of air? Is nitrogen that much different than air?

-Karl M.

Dear Karl,

Nitrogen is becoming more widely available as an alternative to air for inflating tires. While the air ordinarily used to fill tires is already 78% nitrogen, advocates say that filling with pure (93% to 95%) nitrogen does make a difference.

Nitrogen is said to be less sensitive to outside temperatures and better at maintaining tire pressure. Since nitrogen is supposed to maintain tire pressure better under hot and cold conditions, it can improve gas mileage, increase tire life, and is safer because tires are less likely to blow-out when driven at high speeds. Due to the fact that nitrogen is dry and does not support combustion, it has long been used in applications such as aircraft tires and racing tires, in which tires run extremely hot.

Another advantage said to be gained with nitrogen is that, as a dry gas, it reduces oxygen and moisture. This is important because oxidation accelerates as the tires heat up, causing damage to the tire and wheel. Air contains moisture, which increases oxidation and pressure fluctuation.

Some of the research available seems to suggest that while there are advantages to nitrogen use, the actual benefits tend to be modest.  Since you typically have to pay for nitrogen inflation, some drivers may not feel the benefits are worth the expense.

It is important to note that a big factor involved with the benefit of nitrogen is tire pressure. Checking and maintaining proper tire pressure will provide you with a host of benefits including longer tire life, improved safety, and better gas mileage, whether you fill with nitrogen or regular air.

What’s in a Tire?

Dear Tracy,

I need to purchase new tires for my car, and I am trying to sift through all of the claims that the different manufacturers advertise. I think it would help if I had a better understanding of how tires are made, so I know what features are important.  Can you explain how tires are made in a way that is easy to understand?

-Jennifer J.

Dear Jennifer,

I think it is great that you want to be an educated tire buyer! Understanding the basic construction of tires is a great place to begin.

Tires are much more complex and technologically advanced today than ever before. Manufacturers combine engineering features and chemical formulas to create the best performing tires for a variety of road conditions, climates, and driving styles. The latest advances in tire technology offer the best in performance, ride comfort, fuel efficiency, safety, and reliability.

Tires are made up of many different elements, assembled in a tire building machine. The basic components of a tire include the bead, the body ply, the belt package, and the sidewall.

The bead, a loop of high-strength, rubber coated cable, is where the tire gets its strength. When tires are mounted on the wheel rim, the bead strength allows the tires to withstand the pressure of the mounting machine.

The body ply refers to the layers that make up the tire. Plies or layers of fabric are rubber coated, sealing and bonding the elements together. In addition to the bead, the strength of the tire also comes from the number of plies.

The belt package involves bands of steel incorporated into steel belted radial tires to reinforce the area under the tread. The belt package provides better road surface contact and puncture resistance.

The sidewall is the surface area, where you will find the identification letters and decorative features. The sidewall of the tire provides protection, stability, and resistance to abrasion.

After assembly, tires are cured and finished to precise specifications. It is during this step that all of the markings and tread patterns are molded into the tire. This is also when the heating or vulcanizing process bonds all of the components together in the final phase of creating the tire.

Tracy’s Tips: Don’t Labor over Buying Tires, Just be Prepared

Those of you who are in the market for new tires may be looking for some Labor Day tire sales this weekend. I thought this might be a good time to share some of Tracy’s Tips for buying tires.

There are many things to consider when shopping for new tires. If you can find a trusted tire retailer in your area, the tire buying process will be much easier. A knowledgeable and reputable tire dealer will be able to recommend the type of tire that will best fit your needs and your budget. A good tire salesperson will ask you questions about the type of driving you do and how you use your vehicle. He or she will guide you in considering factors such as tread life, ride and handling, and driving conditions, helping you to determine what is most important to you. It’s important that you and the salesperson communicate as accurately as possible so your requirements are clearly understood.

Before you start your tire buying adventure, here are some quick tips to remember:

  1. Consider the UTQG rating. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires each manufacturer to grade its tires under the UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grading) labeling system and establish ratings for tread wear, traction and temperature resistance.
  2. Think about your climate. Consider the types of weather you experience in your area. Whether it’s a lot of rain or heavy snow falls, your tires will have to meet the challenge. Make sure you make the safest selection to handle the road conditions you will face.
  3. Decide how important ride quality is to you. Some types of tires make your car look great but you may not get the smooth, comfortable ride you desire.
  4. Some tread designs cause tires to create more road noise. This varies significantly between tire brands and tread designs. If most of the driving you do is highway driving, you’ll want to consider your options, especially if you’re driving an SUV on pavement most of the time. A good salesperson will be able to tell you which tires are quieter among those you’re considering.
  5. Check the recommendations listed in your owner’s manual and information placard. It is important that your tire selection is in keeping with the manufacturer recommendations for the best and safest performance.

Once you have made your purchase, and ready to have your tires installed, remember to have other checks made, such as the alignment and balance. If a vehicle maintenance problem caused your old set of tires to wear out too rapidly, the same thing will happen to the new tires if the issue goes unaddressed.