OK Film+Fashion+Fun readers, I heard you loud and clear. Pete Foster is back for another guest post today. He is keeping us safe, one tire at a time.
It’s Wednesday, guest blogger day, time for something different again at F3. Maybe this blog isn’t quite as much fun as usual here in the F3…but it might just save your life. On a recent trip in our Lexus IS 250 on I-35 – part of our family ran into some trouble with the car. They called me to say that they had heard a bang up front, but there were no engine warning lights. They got out to look but didn’t see anything too unusual.
I had them send me a cellphone picture. There was a piece of rubber on the ground, but they couldn’t tell where it came from and thought it was just something they picked up in the road. I told them to proceed with caution, and when they got to their destination, have someone look at the problem.
They came home without having the situation checked out by a mechanic, but did say they “took it easy,” just in case. We didn’t give it another thought.
The next day, Tanya called me again and said she heard the same noise. I suggested she take the car into the Lexus dealership where we purchased and service the car to check it out. They found a very serious problem; indeed, a disaster waiting to happen. Fortunately, it did not happen on I-35.
Tanya sent me a picture the problem – a front tire worn clear to its steel belts, but only on its inside edge. Saying a prayer of thanks, we replaced both front tires (the other front tire was wearing the same way). The engineer in me was curious so I looked further into this. This was unusual tire wear, especially since the tire had only worn excessively on its inside edge (as you can see looking at the picture). In fact, the tire’s tread had worn quite evenly, except for this edge. All the tread wear indicators showed there was ample tread life left on the rest of the tire, but the tire failed due to the edge wear.
The dealer’s explanation was that the factory specifications for wheel alignment calls for an unusually large amount of “camber” (this means the wheels are slanted “outward”) to improve steering response in certain models, specifically, the IS 250 and IS 350. Since the car had its 25,000 mile service only 3500 miles ago, I asked why the mechanic hadn’t pointed out this unusual wear to us. I thought this should have been done, especially since the invoice said the dealer had rotated the tires and the problem must have been apparent then. They said it wasn’t, and that the tires were not actually rotated because these cars have different sized tires on the front and back. Needless to say, the whole experience left me concerned.
So, what were the lessons and actions I’d recommend?
- Lexus failed to notify owners of potentially unsafe tire wear on two of their most popular models, the Lexus IS 250 and the Lexus IS 350. I think they should put out a safety bulletin about this problem so folks understand the issue and can take appropriate safety action.
- Lexus needs to train its mechanics better. The dealership apparently knew that these cars had a high camber angle on the front wheels, but the mechanics apparently don’t look for this unusual tire wear during vehicle inspections leading to potentially unsafe situations.
- Lexus needs its dealers to accurately state on their invoices what work was done when you bring your car in for service. If they didn’t rotate the tires during a service, they shouldn’t say they did.
So drive safely everyone, and watch out for your tires so they keep you safe.
ABOUT PETE FOSTERPeter Foster is an avid technologist, engineer and fan of US space operations. He has over 25 years’ experience as CEO of technology companies, 12 US Patents, has co-authored a book on speech recognition and is an instrument-rated private pilot with over 2500 hours.