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Sean Phillips

Sean's Tires & Wheels Blog


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United Tire & Service: A Bunch Of Commies

Wednesday April 30, 2014

President Ken Sylvester and other United Tire owners cut the ribbon. Collectively.
Photo © United Tire & Service

I recently had the chance to attend the Grand Opening of United Tire & Service, a new-ish conglomerate of 17 formerly independent and now semi-independent tire dealers in the Philadelphia area who have banded together to take advantage of the greater purchasing power inherent in such a collective.

Effing Commies...

I'm just kidding of course. I'm actually fascinated by the idea. With profit margins on tires lately doing their unique impression of a Wallenda brother with inner-ear problems, small independent tire dealers are looking for creative solutions to compete against "big-box" retailers, and this is certainly one way to do that. While each store will remain essentially the same, keeping the same ownership, management and staff, they will be able to avail themselves of centralized accounting, marketing and training services provided by the umbrella organization. In addition they will have the purchasing power of the largest independent tire chain in the area and will be second only to Pep Boys as the largest tire chain in their market.


Michelin's New Premier A/S

Sunday April 27, 2014

Michelin Premier A/S
All photos © Michelin North America, Inc.

Michelin recently debuted their latest addition to the explosion of new tire technology that we've been seeing in the last decade - the Premier A/S. And it's kind of a doozy.

The Premier A/S features what Michelin calls EverGrip technology, which starts with "extreme amounts of silica and sunflower oil" in the rubber compound, providing excellent wet grip and flexibility in cold-weather conditions. But the technology doesn't stop there. The Premier A/S also features a specialized form of water evacuation grooves and siping channels that get larger as the tire wears down.


Email Me Maybe?

Sunday April 20, 2014

It's an unfortunate truth that sometimes male tire technicians have difficulty dealing with female customers. While managing a wheel repair shop and selling tires alongside my wife for 10 years, I saw or heard of many examples of this phenomenon, all the way down to having to fire technicians who could not find a way to treat women - whether customers or supervisors - as reasonable human beings.

Now that I write for a living, and have an audience of people in the tire industry, I have a project in mind. I'd like to do what I can to try and change some attitudes, or at least lay down some reasonable ground rules for tire techs and tire salespeople on what to do and what not to do when communicating with women as customers. For example, I happen to know that it's a very bad idea for a tire technician to ask a female customer if she needs to call her husband or father for help in making purchasing decisions. I've seen that happen. I had to personally fire the tech that refused to stop doing it, but would have never for a moment considered asking a man if he needed to call his mom.

I could certainly write an article completely from my perspective on what I've seen and what I think about the issue, but there's one problem with that - I am rather emphatically male, and at least self-aware enough to know that I don't always know how women think or feel on these matters. I'm not arrogant enough to think that I can be the last word on the issue. I know that it's not enough just to say, "Treat everyone the same" not just because some people have a hard time doing that for reasons which passeth my understanding, but also because it would make for a prohibitively short article.


What's With The Runflats?

Monday March 31, 2014

Demotivational Poster by Very Demotivational.com

It's been a busy month, and I'll have some major articles coming out soon on reconditioned wheels and the new Bridgestone Blizzak WS80, but I have had some time to work on my email backlog here and there.

So here we have the case of a guy who bought a car that comes with runflat tires and regrets it.

"I recently bought a BMW, which comes with runflats. I admit to being a completely non-car person, and obviously did not ask the right questions, because I was not even aware of the fact that the runflat tires came with the car until I went to buy my winter tires - I didn't even know that there's no spare with the car. Great service at the dealership, right? Had I known, would it have affected my decision to purchase? I don't know, as I don't know whether I would have understood about the disadvantages of the runflats."

Runflats always sound pretty good on paper, but it's that part about understanding the disadvantages that you never really hear about from the dealership. Knowing that they tend to ride like rocks, cost a lot more to replace and make your wheels more vulnerable to impact damage is rather valuable information when making your car-buying decision At the very least, when buying any new car you should really be asking if it has a spare. Runflat tires might make a spare less necessary, but that means you are locked into runflats without one.

So if you've been hit upside the head by runflats, or if you want to know how to avoid it, go ahead and check out Ask The Wheel Doctor: What's With The Runflats?

If you have a question for The Wheel Doctor, you can email me at tires@aboutguide.com or reach me via Twitter @AboutTires.

Not-So-Compact Spare

Friday February 28, 2014

Demotivational Poster by Very Demotivational.com

I get so much email now that I've decided to start a new feature here: Ask the Wheel Doctor! If you have a question for me, you can email me at tires@aboutguide.com or by Twitter @AboutTires.

Our first question is about a not-so-compact spare tire...


I just took delivery on a 2014 Audi RS5 Coupe with optional titanium 20in wheels and sport differential. When I looked in the trunk to make sure that the spare wasn't missing, I only found a can of tire sealant, a jack and an air compressor! On questioning the manager at the dealership, he explained that in the quest for gas economy and weight reduction Audi is delivering their cars without spares. He is on their product development committee and stated that they were even thinking of run flats !!! OH NO!!! Say it isn't so. I lost 10 tires in 3 years on the last BMW I owned and won't buy another one. But that's another story.

Read More

Nokian Concept Tire: Retractable Studs

Monday February 17, 2014

Matti Morri, Nokian's Technical Customer Service Manager
All photos © Nokian Tyres

Nokian Tyres has announced a new concept tire. Call it Studs on Demand, or just call it awesome. The tire is a copy of a studded Hakkapeliitta snow tire, but features studs that are recessed below the tread surface. Find yourself on ice and need more grip? With the touch of a button inside the car the studs pop out and Voila! Studded tire! Back on a dry road? Hit the button again and the studs retract so that you're driving on an unstudded tire once again.


Going Rogue: Parking Lot Autocross

Wednesday February 5, 2014

Well I guess I should've gone ahead and run
But somehow I just couldn't resist the fun
Of chasing them all, just once, around the parking lot.

Well I had 'em all out there steppin' and fetchin'
Like their heads was on fire and their asses was ketchin'
But I figgered I'd better go ahead and split before the cops got there...

-Charlie Daniels Band, "Uneasy Rider"

Steppin' and fetchin'.
All photos © Sean Phillips

It all started when Yokohama got in touch with me to see if they could send me some tires to review. "Sure." I said, because I'm not dumb and I like getting free tires, not to mention the whole "it's my job" thing. I'd be happy to throw some Yokos on the Prius and try them out.

"What tires are you thinking about?"

"Well, we're thinking about the Advan Neova AD08 R's." (See my full review here.)

"Oh my..."


Ah, Vegas

Thursday January 30, 2014

Chillin' with Ivar.

Ah, Vegas. To be frank, I'm really not that into you.

Okay, so I do like feeling like a veteran going into my second year at Bridgestone's summer launch event, and said event is traditionally held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I like that quite a bit. It's the whole casino thing I could do without.

Yes, I know. Poor baby, has to stay in a luxury casino hotel. Tire people's problems, right? My wife reminds me that any time I tire of the lodgings, the restaurants and the driving of nice cars, she would be happy to go through the arduous launch events in my place while I stay home with the toddler. Since she could probably do it as well as I can, that generally shuts me up.

But to get anywhere more than 100 yards away in a casino inevitably seems to involve walking about 5 linear miles, and the idea of being pre-charged a substantial amount of money just in case I might take something from the minibar would be actually offensive if the fact that it's basically par for the course in Vegas didn't already speak volumes. Plus the whole "soulless maze designed to part fools from their money" thing just rubs me the wrong way, I guess.

View from the top.

However, none of that is Bridgestone's fault, and no amount of complaining about the lodgings can obscure the fact that Bridgestone always puts on one of the best launch events in the tire industry. So fast-forward to the next morning, bright and early.


Discount Tire Direct

Tuesday December 31, 2013

Photo © Discount Tire, Inc.

Many people have commented on my article Where to Buy Tires and Wheels Online, mostly asking for more information about the various online retailers I list. When I add that to the email I get from online retailers themselves asking me to take a second look at their sites, it tends to suggest that some expansion of the subject is in order.

So next month I'll be taking an in-depth look at sites such as the mighty Tire Rack, the 400-pound gorilla of the online tire industry, as well as a site called Tiresbyweb.com, which holds the distinction of being one of the vanishingly few online retailers that gets to carry Nokian winter tires. I'll be attempting to find out why. But this month it's all about Discount Tire Direct.

DTD is a clean and easy to navigate site that does not overwhelm the user with facts and reviews about tires. It has excellent search functions, a very wide inventory of both wheels and tires, a great information section and a section solely for winter tires. While DTD's prices tend to be a bit higher than Tire Rack, they tend to carry tires that Tire Rack does not, so that the sites actually tend to complement each other. While DTD cannot knock Tire Rack off the first-place throne for online retailers, they do stand a good bit above the rest of the pack.

Discount Tire has a history going back to 1960, when founder Bruce Halle began selling tires out of an old building in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Halle began with a total of six tires and no air compressor, requiring him to run to the local gas station with a portable air tank whenever he needed to install a customer's tires. This one-man fly-by-night operation has grown to become the largest independent tire retailer in the world. So remember kids - when you go to start a business, be sure to not include the most critical equipment, because that is obviously the recipe for success. Have fun!

Holiday Stocking Stuffers For Car Guys And Girls

Monday December 23, 2013

I try every year to put out a Holiday Gift List For Car People, because why not? I also put on my blog my Holiday Stocking Stuffer List, because hey, I've got overflow from the gift list.

As my wife says, "Putting one of these gifts in a car guy's stocking says either, 'I get who you really are' or, 'I hate the smell of Old Spice.'"

Photo © Tire Rack, Inc.

For that spouse always concerned about the tires, a digital tread depth gauge allows for tracking wear and comparing inner and outer shoulder depths to catch irregular wear problems before they become problems.


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