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THE GOODS | YOUR WHEELS

Bad Alignment Can Wear Down Your Tires Too

February 20, 1996|RALPH VARTABEDIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The average car on American roads today is 8 years old, meaning that consumers are laying out more money every year for service, repairs and replacement parts. Predictably, the car-parts industry knows that motorists want "lifetime" warranties these days.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber is offering a lifetime warranty on a new premium tire, the Infinitred, designed to last more than 100,000 miles. The original tires on most new cars will last at least 40,000 to 50,000 miles, meaning that somebody buying a 100,000-mile tire is planning to keep a car until it approaches 150,000 miles.

How good a deal is an Infinitred at roughly $100 per tire?

Nikki Miller, a Goodyear tire engineer, said the new tire has several innovations that allow it to get both long tread life and good wet-road traction. Historically, tires involved a compromise because harder rubber that would hold up for more miles would typically not grip the road as well, particularly a wet road. The new tire has a larger footprint and the tread elements are deeper and stiffer, meaning that they are less likely to squirm around on the road surface.

Fine . . . but. In many cases, the life of a tire depends more on a car's suspension and the owner's driving habits than on the quality of the tire.

One of the biggest determinants of how long a tire will last is whether a car can hold its front end alignment.

While some cars such as the Honda Accord have reputations for never losing their alignments, others such as the Ford Taurus have reputations for needing realignments as frequently as every 6,000 miles.

If you wear out a Goodyear tire--or any tire for that matter--the dealer is not likely to stand behind the warranty if your car is out of alignment. The company's warranty statement says as much.

In fact, Goodyear's warranty is full of exceptions for things such as road hazards and underinflation.

If all conditions are met, Goodyear will replace a worn-out tire free of charge for up to three years and at 50% of value thereafter.

* Vartabedian cannot answer mail but will write about automotive questions of general interest. Do not telephone. Write to Your Wheels, 1875 I St. N.W. #1100, Washington, DC 20006.

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