My Tires

My father was an early adopter. He was the first person in our community to have air conditioning in his car, an aftermarket installation in our ’64 VistaCruiser, and the first person to buy Michelins, my father swore by Michelin tires, before Sears rebranded them and drove them over railroad tracks to prove the superiority of the radial tire.

And I’ve always driven Michelins since.

They came on my BMW 2002. The XAS. Which over the eleven year lifespan of that car morphed into the XVS, but it was essentially the same tire, and each set lasted 60,000 miles when they were warranted for 40,000, when that was seen as stratospheric, before the low-rolling resistance wonders of today which can be warranted for 60,000.

My BMW 325e came with Pirellis. Always an also-ran, with a famous calendar. But despite that car going 190,000+ miles I never switched to Michelins, because every time I’d be about to, Pirelli would have a sale, and it just didn’t seem economically prudent to switch to the French brand with an American factory, even though the P6s never lasted that long.

And the car I’m driving now came with Bridgestones. What crap they were. Only lasted 12,000 miles. And noisy! God, my car is noisy to begin with!


I couldn’t buy Michelins because they didn’t come in my size.

So I went with the Pirellis.

Now you have to understand, my high performance car came with high performance summer tires, which you truly can’t drive in the cold, because they firm up and slide all over the place, not an issue in SoCal, but just about everywhere else…they’re a no-go or you need two sets of tires (and maybe two sets of rims!) Furthermore, summer tires wear more heavily. In addition, if I want to take my car to the snow (that’s how they say it down here, where the snow never falls in the city, you GO to the snow)… But I never have, even though my machine is four wheel drive. But I switched to the all season iteration, of the aforementioned Pirellis, and they were much quieter than the Bridgestones and drove much better but around 20,000 miles, they were worse for wear. But damned if I was gonna buy a new set, they were so damn expensive. So I kept driving them and driving them…

Until I made it to 30,000 and became too scared. You see my car has a quirk. It wears out tires on the outside of the front wheels. Save me the alignment comments, I get my car aligned twice a year, I bought the lifetime contract, more of which later. And I keep looking at other four wheel drive cars to see if they have the same issue, but they don’t. Then again, they are not WRXs with STi steering racks. Yes, my unique Saab which is really a Subaru has that, a mixture of standard and extreme. And I got an insane deal on it, $9500 off, but I’m sacrificing on resale, because Saab went out of business, even though my 92x is superior to the equivalent WRX, which could fetch 10k, but I keep driving it, because it’s paid for and I don’t have to worry about it, and I’m a serious worrier.

And you need a Japanese car, you always want to buy a Japanese car, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise unless money is no object. Sure, buy a Tesla or German automobile, better yet, LEASE ONE, if you’re not worried about costs, because the repair bills will kill you. The window regulator on my physical therapist’s BMW just went and it was $600 to fix it, at the INDEPENDENT! You don’t want to pay that.

And having OCD and being an inveterate i-dotter and t-crosser, I took my car to Pep Boys three weeks back to have the tires rotated and aligned, which I do every 5,000 miles, to ensure the warranty will be honored, and they wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t rotate, wouldn’t touch it, because the damn tires were worn out in the same way! On the outside!

Did I tell you I switched to Michelin? Once they made them in my size, after the Pirellis.

The first set went 20,000 and fell apart, the warranty was honored.

This is the second set. They only had 24k on them. But they said I needed new ones.

No way.

These tires cost the better part of a grand. ENOUGH ALREADY!

So I’m continuing to drive. But I’m scared. There’s that OCD for you. I’m catastrophizing in my mind. And when the car squirms over the Botts Dots, I fantasize accidents. And I’m thinking how far I want to go in this car, and then I think I should get the tires replaced, but after the major service, the dealer will rotate the tires for me, I know they will, the rears have a bit more life in them than the fronts, even though at Pep Boys they said the rears were done too.

So last Friday afternoon I’m driving to Brentwood and I hear a thump. Driving over a gutter that I cross all the time. And the radio was off, I’d just been talking to my mother on the phone, I felt I was being super-sensitive.

And after my appointment it wasn’t in my mind.

But I heard that sound on the freeway. And descending the hill to Felice’s house. And when I got out of the car, figuring I’d check to see if there was a problem, even though I knew there wouldn’t be one, the tire was nearly flat.

Oh boy.

The physical therapist was coming in a little over an hour.

But if I left the car until the next day, the tire would certainly be flat, and then I’d have to call AAA, and they’d have to install the donut, so I Googled, there was a Pep Boys on Sepulveda, the PT said she could do Sunday if necessary, I decided to drive.

And now I’m really anxious. Am I gonna make it?

And when I get to the Mobil station I see the air hose and decide to pull in.

And the tire is essentially flat, but it won’t fill up all the way. I can hear the air hissing out. I can see the nail in the tread. I only have two more miles to go, will I make it? I’m so worried about ruining the rim.

And I do. And tell this new Pep Boys shop to rotate after fixing.

And they said yes and then said no. BECAUSE OF THE WORN OUT EDGE OF THE TIRE! They wouldn’t touch it. Could I make it to the 76 station, they’d fix it, right?

Oh, I forgot to mention. I couldn’t buy new tires BECAUSE THEY DID NOT HAVE THEM IN STOCK! Not until Tuesday, and what was I gonna drive until then?

Maybe Pirellis. But they were not only not in stock, they were more expensive!

And the clerk is searching and finally he says…

He can have the Michelins tomorrow.

Now there’s the matter of the price.

The guy in Santa Monica said he’d charge me $1200. Including the lifetime alignment. You see I bought that at the predecessor shop, Discount Tire, but now Pep Boys was no longer honoring it. So I’d have to buy it again. But that was way too much money. But then he said if I paid for them then, he’d give me an all-in deal for $900. Which is still insane. Especially since he said he had to order them and they’d come with no warranty.

Then I decided I’d join Costco, where they’re friendlier and the price is better and they fill the tires with nitrogen so you don’t have to check them, but then I found out…

They don’t do alignments, so that’s a no-go.

So now I’m waiting for this Pep Boys guy Sal to figure out a price. And he keeps on hitting the same screen on the computer again and again. My eyes are rolling, this guy is illiterate. And then he can see me looking and he explains it’s not his fault, you have to do it this way.

And when he’s all done, he comes up with a price, including the lifetime alignment, of $560!!! Even cheaper than Costco, I’m in! You see all that computer work was about honoring the 45,000 mile warranty, it had to be done tire by tire, I was getting $69 off per tire!

He says the tires will be there the next day between 11 and 2 and he’ll call me but the phone doesn’t ring so I dial him and he says they just came in and my car will be ready in an hour and a half. And I ask him if he’s gonna be there, and he says until they close up shop.

But he wasn’t.

And the new guy, Henry, he’s looking at the bill and says Sal made a mistake, and now the price is gonna be deep into the 700s. And they’ve got me over a barrel, and I’m gonna pay, and it’s still less than I had budgeted, but why is it always something. And I’ve been through so much I’m just standing there mute, and Henry says it’s actually the computer’s fault, this happens, it only writes up installation for one tire instead of four.

So Henry says he won’t charge me full price for installation.

And I just stand there.

And then he lowers the price on the lifetime alignment, and it’s down to $625, and WTF, I’ll just pay.

Meanwhile, it’s pouring cats and dogs. That’s right, all pedigrees, no half-breeds. And I can’t even check whether they put the right tires on, since there’s too much water on the wheels. And I had this problem once before, of them ordering the wrong tires, so I’m anxious. That’s a bad thing about getting older, you’ve seen too many mistakes, you always expect the worst.

But when the sun came out and I got back in my car…

The ride was softer. And they’re Michelins, so they’re dead quiet. And i was no longer scared. But the PERFORMANCE! This is the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+. The best they sell. For my car anyway. And suddenly…

The transition from the 405 to the 10. I’m glued to the curve.

And I’m hitting 80 on the freeway and it’s like walking. And my car has the power, the turbo fires up and the four wheel drive with the twitchy handling allows you to meander all over the road and a smile crosses my face. This is FANTASTIC!

I know, I know, they’re only tires. People are dying every day. Maybe not starving in Europe anymore, like my parents used to tell us at the dinner table growing up, but life is challenging.

But it’s the little things that put a smile on your face, that make you feel everything is all right.

That’s why I buy the best, that’s why good isn’t good enough.

Like I said, this is not a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz, but it’s the best of the pedestrian performance automobiles. I could save money and buy noisy Goodyears, or some off-brand junk, but why cripple the car? Why not let it fly free, do everything it’s supposed to?

That’s what my father believed. You pays your money and you gets your results. Sure, you want a deal, but if you buy the best you get the performance and these companies honor the warranties. Well, in this case they did!


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