The Truth About Cars » Tires http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:36:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Tires http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i-premium/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i-premium/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=995058 The SUV craze of the 1990s caught Subaru by surprise. The company simply did not have a product that everyone wanted. The North American division of Fuji Heavy Industries had no choice but to play the cards they were dealt.  The engineers looked into the VW Golf Country 4×4 for inspiration, then took a Legacy […]

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2015 Subaru Outback side

The SUV craze of the 1990s caught Subaru by surprise. The company simply did not have a product that everyone wanted. The North American division of Fuji Heavy Industries had no choice but to play the cards they were dealt.  The engineers looked into the VW Golf Country 4×4 for inspiration, then took a Legacy wagon and lifted it, added some molding, big fog lights with mesh screens, and a roof rack. The marketing people ingeniously called it the Outback and hired the best known Aussie in America, Paul Hogan, to promote it.

The results of this marketing brilliance were sales that exceeded expectations, possibly saving the company. The Outback was such a huge hit Volvo and Audi followed suit and jacked up their own wagons, creating the Cross Country XC and the allroad quattro.  At the 2014 New York International Auto Show, with yours truly in attendance, two models first dressed as vegan organic French-press coffee drinking hipster hikers, and later as that blissfully ignorant well-dressed couple that every thirty year old yuppie think they will always be, unveiled the fifth generation of the Outback.

2015 Subaru Outback front

Three inches taller, four inches longer, and five inches wider than the original, the new Outback is the same as the old Outback. Some found the styling of the new car lacking originality. Those are the same people who would have complained that Subaru killed a great product had the Outback looked any different. I was never a fan of the previous generation Legacy/Outback, so I found the new, dare I say more generic, look rather refreshing.

But Subarus have never been about looks. In fact I would go so far as to the say that most Subaru cars have been ugly in a cute way, sort of like a Pug or a Bulldog. Subarus have always been about functionality, reliability, all-weather traction, and price. The new Outback continues these traditions placing function over form and cost over perceived opulence. From the outside, the two-tone scheme of the original has been reduced, the fog lights got smaller, and the roof rack more pronounced but the two-box shape on stilts cannot be mistaken for anything other than an Outback.

2015 Subaru Outback interior frotn details

Inside, functionality and simplicity triumphs, but its quality has significantly improved over the previous generations. The infotainment system is much improved, it is now easier to see, and simpler to use and set up. The test vehicle did not have a navigational system, but controlling the radio, phone, and auxiliary input devices is similar to using a Windows tablet. In the front of the center console is an auxiliary audio input and two USB ports (that’s two more than Audi). The audio system did sound pretty good, too, for what is essentially a base vehicle. Looking from inside out, at night, the headlights are not overly bright given the recent technical advances in headlight technology.

Dual zone climate controls are equally simple to use, but there are no vents for rear passengers. There are cup-holders in the center console, bottle holders in the doors, big door pockets, sunglass holder on the roof, a simple covered cubby for phones, and a large glove box. It’s these little things that make daily life easy and it’s amazing how many automakers cannot get that right (I’m looking at you Range Rover). Nothing is perfect, however, and my eight year old daughter, who reads a dozen books a week, completely wrote the Outback off for not having reading lights for rear passengers.

The front seats are comfortable, but the headrests could use a rake adjustment and bottom cushions could be longer. Someone at Subaru finally figured out that heated seat buttons are invisible when they are located under the center armrest and moved them to climate control panel. The rear bench is wide with plenty of leg and head room. The seatback is split 60:40, but there is no center pass-thru, so skiers with more than two rear passengers have to use the meaty-looking roof rack. That roof rack itself is functional, too, with standard cross-bars that slide and fold into the rails when not in use. There are also four tie down loops which can secure up to 150 pounds of cargo.

2015 Subaru Outback details

With high ground clearance and a high center of gravity, Subaru did not intend to make a driver’s car out of the Outback. The 2.5-liter pancake engine also won’t impress anyone with its 175hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. Worse, this engine is attached to a continuously variable transmission. This powertrain combination makes buzzy and whiney noises turning an otherwise quiet cabin into a noisy one. For that noise buyers are rewarded with fuel economy of 25mpg in the city and 33mpg on the highway, which was once considered excellent for a small econobox. Despite all that, the Outback somehow manages not to be a soulless appliance and is somewhat fun to drive. Perhaps it’s the car-like seating position and the jacked-up ride height, along with suspension tuned to nicely absorb the winter ridden roads, that create the feeling of being a rally driver.

Subaru makes a big deal of their AWD system, so it was a nice coincidence that the Northeast got hit with a big snow storm while the Outback was in my possession. It is common knowledge that tires are the most important thing in winter driving but this car was equipped with a set mediocre Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport. Automakers like to use these tires because they are cheap, quiet, comfortable, and last long. I have personally had some bad experiences with these tires, so I was very cautions driving the Outback in the snow. To my surprise, the big wagon proved capable; granted the snow was packed and it wasn’t deep. In an empty lot near my work I turned the hoon knob up a little and even then, with stability control off, the vehicle stayed totally composed and controllable. There is a good reason why New England and Denver are Subaru’s biggest markets – with a proper set of snow tires this would be an amazing winter vehicle.

2015 Subaru Outback rear hatch open

The test vehicle was equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight system, which is optional on all but the base Outback. The system works off two cameras mounted between the rear view mirror and the windshield. The system is able to detect speed differentials, brake lights, pedestrians, and bicycles. It has the ability to cut power, apply brakes, and bring the vehicle to a complete stop, if not avoiding an accident completely, than at least minimizing the impact. It tells those who bury their heads into their phones at traffic lights that the vehicle in front has moved. When reversing, it calmly alerts you that a vehicle is coming from the side. The whole system can be fully disabled for those with mad driving skillz, but for the majority of buyers this is a no-brainer option – it can protect the not only vehicle occupants but everyone else on the road, too, and will likely repay for itself in the first near-hit.

The base Outback, steel wheels and all, starts at about $26,045. The 2.5i Premium model seen here starts at $27,295. EyeSight with power tailgate package is $1695, mirror compass is $199, and rubber floor mats are a bargain at $72. For some reason Subaru charges a mandatory $300 for the vehicle to meet the Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle standard. Total price, with destination charges, is a very reasonable $30,111. Other options on the 2.5i Premium are sunroof and a nav system. Limited model comes with leather and the 3.5R Limited has more powah!

For thirty grand, the mid-level Outback gives you large SUV functionality, solid reliability, and all-weather traction while not looking like a cookie-cutter CRA-V4. Fun-to-drive factor, latest and greatest safety systems, and good gas mileage are the icing on this frosty cake. I was surprised by home much I liked this Outback and I would put it high on my shopping list of two-row SUV-ish vehicles, along with the Grand Cherokee and the 4Runner.

2015 Subaru Outback rear

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. He is known to enjoy organic coffee made in a French press, day hikes, and nights out on the town. He has yet to find one ideal vehicle for all those activities.

Subaru of America, Inc. provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. 

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Piston Slap: Divorced Sleeper Flew The Coupe? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-divorced-sleeper-flew-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-divorced-sleeper-flew-coupe/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 13:21:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=963722   TTAC Commentator raresleeper writes: Hello, Sajeev! I need your wisdom and sound advice, Kind Sir. After what could be called a much needed separation from my wife (undoubtedly the beginning of a very long divorce proceeding), I purchased myself a vehicle. A 2006 Accord Coupe v6 6-Speed. On cold mornings, I have noticed that […]

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TTAC Commentator raresleeper writes:

Hello, Sajeev!

I need your wisdom and sound advice, Kind Sir. After what could be called a much needed separation from my wife (undoubtedly the beginning of a very long divorce proceeding), I purchased myself a vehicle. A 2006 Accord Coupe v6 6-Speed.

On cold mornings, I have noticed that the steering is hard to turn if the car isn’t moving. Once the car revs just slightly, anything other than idle, the steering effort gets “normal” again. I also hear a whine under the hood on cold mornings, so I am fairly certain that is the power steering pump showing its weakness. Every once in a great while, there is a slight intrusion upon shifting into 3rd. It rarely affects my shifting, but there is a slight notch (best way I can describe it) that I sometimes need to put the extra effort to guide the shifter into while grabbing third.

I paid $9K. The car is the EX model, it has everything besides navigation and the “sport” appearance package (spoiler, etc.). 120k miles. I love this stinkin’ car. I went right to a car which I love and the fact that my estranged wife would hate everything about it makes me smile a little more. It’s a quick little machine.

Is there anything else I need to have checked maintenance-wise (other than timing belt) before getting too comfortable tossing it about during my morning commute?

As always, thank you kindly. Your assistance here is certainly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

That’s not a bad machine to celebrate your newfound singlehood!  Congrats on this next step in your life.

“I also hear a whine under the hood on cold mornings, so I am fairly certain that is the power steering pump showing its weakness.”

I am certain that’s normal, most vehicles are less than thrilled with molasses-cold fluids.  These parts are designed to spin warmer liquids, hence the need for a proper warm up routine.

Regarding the transmission and the current mileage, perhaps its time for a fluid swap with fresh Honda fluid or maybe–MAYBE–aftermarket fluids compatible with your transmission.  Or perhaps it’s totally normal with cold fluid, if that’s a valid correlation in your case.

We’ve discussed the basics of used car upkeep before, and I focus on neglected rubber bits: tires, belts and hoses. And new shocks might be a worthwhile upgrade at this age, if a like-new ride (or better than new, with performance parts) matters. Always RFTM for the basics and do a comprehensive visual inspection to make sure nothing else is wrong. (i.e. physical damage from the last owner’s mistake)

Don’t be afraid to get that visual inspection from a mechanic if you have any doubts, especially since they can put it on a lift.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Suspension Wear and Tear to Infiniti? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-9/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-9/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:32:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=946522   TTAC Commentator CoreyDL writes: Hey Sajeev, I have had several questions floating around in my head for quite a while about proper suspension maintenance. My story begins a couple of cars ago when I couldn’t find answers, and ends here with this multi-part, OCD-approved question. My 09 M35x has just gone over 56,000 miles […]

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TTAC Commentator CoreyDL writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I have had several questions floating around in my head for quite a while about proper suspension maintenance. My story begins a couple of cars ago when I couldn’t find answers, and ends here with this multi-part, OCD-approved question. My 09 M35x has just gone over 56,000 miles and I’m thinking I am past due for shocks (they’re originals, I believe). After riding in a G37xS the other day and noticing how much more compliant it felt over speed bumps and the like, my awareness of the issue increased.

When I go and look at various message board/etc. sources online, seems like whenever someone has tried to ask a serious question about their suspension, some dudebro usually replies with, “Aw man just put Bilstiens on there and lower it brah.”

So my questions are of the general variety. What sort of mileage intervals can someone reasonably anticipate a need for replacing suspension components? I’m talking passenger cars here, and what parts need replaced: shocks, struts, various bushings, sway bars, control arms, linkages… how far does this list go mayne?! I know putting new shocks on won’t be nearly as effective if the bushings and struts are worn out as well.

I want to take proper care of my suspension and keep it riding correct!

Second portion:

Since all these people here at the B&B love talking used (Cadillac), usually higher mileage (Town Car) rides (including myself) (LS400), what would you recommend as far as a “suspension refresh” if someone buys a decade-old car with 100k miles or more? I know you can help us all out.

Thanks for your help.

Sajeev answers:

Let’s quickly answer Question One about suspension wear and tear, partly with your comment:

“OCD-approved question. My 09 M35x has just gone over 56,000 miles and I’m thinking I am past due for shocks (they’re originals, I believe)”

There could be a good reason for needing new shocks at this age/mileage, but it’s just not that likely.  I’m pretty frickin’ OCD about car stuff myself (see photo below) but if an Infiniti M rides worse than a (newer?) G37 with a (maybe?) more compliant wheel/tire package, I wouldn’t blame the car.  Blame the manufacturer, and do a -1 or -2 wheel/tire package like we’ve discussed recently.

More to the point: odds are the shocks are fine, but you go right ahead and test them.  Now for Question Two, using a quote from Question One:

“What sort of mileage intervals can someone reasonably anticipate a need for replacing suspension components? I’m talking passenger cars here, and what parts need replaced: shocks, struts, various bushings, sway bars, control arms, linkages… how far does this list go mayne?!”

Well, okay mayne…I’ll show you how OCD you can be:

How ’bout ‘dem Chocolate and Caramel coated Apples?

At some point a “keeper” could get stripped/reconditioned.  Because at some point all the rubber goes bad.  Or too many potholes busts up the ball joints.  And maybe the wheel bearings might be shot. And if you’re gonna spend the time/effort/money to do all that, fully addressing suspension wear and tear via 100% replacement isn’t totally stupid.

I know what I just wrote about the above photo is an illogical extreme.  But your question merits discussing all aspects. So if you live in Boston, you probably need new control arms/shocks/ball joints before you’ll need new shocks in Wyoming.  And if you drive something fragile (which these days is more of cars than we’d like to admit) with tiny tires on pristine roads, don’t be surprised if they need more replacement “stuff” than a Panther on somewhat horrible roads. (i.e. not Boston)

This is the part where we list common wear items, and let the B&B take it from there:

  • Shocks, too loose or too tight (they can gum up inside).
  • Springs, they get softer, saggier and even (sometimes) break.
  • Spring pads: the rubber underneath the springs can go bad too!
  • Control arms: changing bushings (or ball joints) here isn’t that common anymore, now it’s easier/cheaper to get a new control arm instead.
  • Tires: even if there’s plenty of tread, rubber degrades over time and ride/handling suffers.
  • Swaybar links/bushings: these tend to work very hard, but they’ll get noisy before they totally die.
  • Swaybars: check if yours are hollow.  Don’t be surprised if they are toast, especially if you live in the Rust Belt.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: 4Runner to A New Life? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-4runner-to-a-new-life-one-last-trip/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-4runner-to-a-new-life-one-last-trip/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:49:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873921   TTAC Commentator Ralph Schpoilschport writes: Hi Sajeev, Got a quick one for you and only asking because you begged!  But.  I am preparing to make a 3000 mile one-way trip from beautiful Vermontto, well, not so beautiful southern CA.  My rig is a 1997 Toyota 4Runner (V6, 5 speed manual).  Known problems: leaking rear diff (rust cracks) […]

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Driveway Smudge

TTAC Commentator Ralph Schpoilschport writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Got a quick one for you and only asking because you begged!  But.  I am preparing to make a 3000 mile one-way trip from beautiful Vermontto, well, not so beautiful southern CA.  My rig is a 1997 Toyota 4Runner (V6, 5 speed manual).  Known problems: leaking rear diff (rust cracks) and a muffler on its last leg.  Spark plugs, starter, timing belt and water pump are recent repairs/maintenance.  As I type, an attempt is being made to seal the rear diff.  If that is successful I am having the mechanic give the chassis a once-over.

If the inspection is clear or things are easily fixed I am planning on making the trip with this car.  I figure the car is worth approx $2500 – 3000 as it sits.  Am I nuts?

Other options:

  • Rent a car one way.  Haven’t looked but figure this to be well over $1000.
  • Trade the rig in.  Nice leases for Rav 4’s going on right now.  Not sure how the bank would feel about my plan esp. considering I am leaving my job of 9 years for a new one in SoCA.
  • Buy a newer used vehicle.  This doesn’t seem like a good idea.  If I were to do this I’d rather do it in CA than here (rust).

Sajeev answers:

You aren’t exactly taking a trip:  moving to California, needing something to move your stuff is more of a life-changing moment.

  • Renting is out of the question: sell the 4Runner instead, then take a plane and ship all your stuff instead.
  • You are averse to getting a new car, which is acceptable in your position.
  • Getting another used vehicle is both buying someone else’s problems and asking to lose more money on two trade-ins in the near future instead of one.

Honestly, you need this thing to make one last road trip. Sounds like the motor is fine, and hopefully there’s a decent band-aid fix for the axle. If not, just swap the axle with a junkyard unit to give peace of mind and increase resale value.

My biggest concern is the tires: if they are worn and/or 5+ years old, they might not survive that much highway cruising.  And odds are the spare isn’t in better shape!  So get new tires for the same reasons you’d replace the axle. Ditto other rubber items you’ve overlooked (belts, hoses, vacuum lines, etc) but could explode on the trip.  Because your 4Runner (or any Toyota from that era, for that matter)  is a hot commodity in any market, especially California.  New rubber and a non-rusty axle speeds up the sale and adds value. You’re not gonna waste your money here.

Best of luck in your new career AND your new digs. Do the basics and the 4Runner will do just fine.

Who knows, you might just keep it!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Piston Slap: Affalterbach’s A-faltering Headlight! (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-affalterbachs-a-faltering-headlight-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-affalterbachs-a-faltering-headlight-part-ii/#comments Fri, 25 Oct 2013 12:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=633586 Martin writes: Hi Sajeev, I just wanted to follow up the post with the resolution.  I’m not sure if this is important to you all, but I see that it’s an issue with Bimmers sometimes as well.  I switched the bulbs from right to left.  My passenger side light had been flickering off.  When I […]

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Martin writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I just wanted to follow up the post with the resolution.  I’m not sure if this is important to you all, but I see that it’s an issue with Bimmers sometimes as well.  I switched the bulbs from right to left.  My passenger side light had been flickering off.  When I switched the bulbs, the issue went to the driver’s side, which seemed to narrow down the issue to a bulb problem.  

Both lights would sometimes flicker as a pre courser to the bulb shutting down.  I replaced the Xenon bulbs with new ones, and so far, the problem is gone. I’m not sure why both bulbs flickered simultaneously as a pre courser to the bulb going out, but it did.  This issue is also gone. I hope it helps someone because initially when I took the problem to mechanics I received estimates including the replacement of the entire light, which is around 1200-1300 bucks, or replacing the ballast which is a 400-600 dollar part, and one indy mechanic even told me they had to drop the bumper cover JUST to get to the light, which is really untrue.

Instead the resolution cost me 150 bucks.

Cheers!
Martin

Sajeev answers:

Good to hear Martin, sometimes the easiest answer is the right one! And sadly, if one lacks the time and knowledge to seek that easy automotive solution, they’re gonna get hosed.  Hosed for a normal wear item?  How sad.  So let’s consider more wear items that people tend to neglect:

  1. Fuses: they go bad over time, even when they look good at a casual glance.  Even when tested with a voltmeter/continuity tester! Here’s one from my (LH high beam circuit) Sierra that looked okay at first…but when I shined light behind it…a new fuse and freshly cleaned ground wiring fixed a multitude of problems.
  2. Headlights: they are wear items.  They can flicker (as you know well!) and dim over time. The dimming is so gradual that you’d never know, until you replace them.  I’ve seen 2 year old vehicles need new headlights!
  3. Vacuum lines in particular, rubber parts in general:  Anything that uses engine vacuum (less of a concern today) relies on tubing that gets cracked, brittle, gooey, leaky…so replace it.  Lines connected to PCV systems can get gooey/leaky in just a few years…not decades.
  4. Tires: if they are dry rotted, their performance (especially in the wet) is kinda horrible.  Depending on where you live/park, your tires could be history after 5 years, even with fantastic tread depth.
  5. Brake lines: after a decade, especially if you live in the rust belt, look at your brake lines to ensure they won’t go explodey from rusting.
  6. Wiring: lines get brittle-cracked-shorted, connectors get broken/loose and “Ghosts in the Machine” that are seemingly impossible to trace have a very simple solution: replacement.
  7. Weatherstripping (again rubber): however your car’s doors seal to the body, that stuff will shrink, split, etc. no longer making an air (or water!) tight seal.  And don’t forget leaky sunroofs/moonroofs!
  8. Hinges and Latches:  bushings (often brass?) inside door hinges can wear to the point that doors sag, especially on convertibles.  Similarly, door latches wear, become misaligned, and make horrible squeaking sounds sometimes.
  9. Springs and Shocks: sounds logical, but how many people pony up the cash for these new parts after years of metal fatigue on coils and leaky/coagulated cartridges? Not nearly enough.
  10. Copper connections: similar to #6, if there’s an exposed connection on a printed circuit (probably less of a concern today) that can become oxidized…well, it will. I’ve repaired many a flaky module with a pink eraser (not white, they lack the “tooth” to make a clean cut) from the top of a pencil.  It’s funny the things you learn from people on the Internet.
  11. Batteries, Alternators, Terminals+Cables : as cars get more complex, their thirst for fresh batteries shortens the lifespan of these wear items.  Alternators age, even more so when trying to support a weak battery.  And everything can go bad because your battery’s termainals+cables are crusty and corroded.  The moment you hear your car “chugs” and labors at start up compared to a car with a new battery OR the moment the dashboard electrics goes bonkers for no apparent reason…well, that’s the moment you are officially warned of a simple but important charging problem.

Best and Brightest: fill in the gaps I left.  And have a great weekend.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Weakened By Obama’s Union Coddling, Cooper Tires Is Sold To The Indians http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/weakened-by-obamas-union-coddling-cooper-tires-is-sold-to-the-indians/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/weakened-by-obamas-union-coddling-cooper-tires-is-sold-to-the-indians/#comments Wed, 12 Jun 2013 14:34:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491730 Cooper tires is becoming another victim of President Obama’s much too cozy relationship with the union machine. Cooper Tires was bought by an Indian company. After President Obama sent a thank you to the Steelworkers Union and slapped an absolutely brain-dead punitive tariff of tires coming from China, a few things happened: Imports of low-cost […]

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Cooper Girls - Picture courtesy modified.com

Cooper tires is becoming another victim of President Obama’s much too cozy relationship with the union machine. Cooper Tires was bought by an Indian company.

After President Obama sent a thank you to the Steelworkers Union and slapped an absolutely brain-dead punitive tariff of tires coming from China, a few things happened:

  • Imports of low-cost tires did not stop. They came from other countries, at tariffs even lower than the old ones on Chinese tires.
  • Not a single new job was created in America, but more than a few jobs at tire importers were destroyed.
  • Americans paid more for tires.
  • A trade war erupted. Retaliatory tariffs did hurt exports of big displacement cars made by Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.
  • American companies that had tire production in China were hurt, most of all Cooper tires.

Today, “Indian tire manufacturer Apollo Tyres Ltd said it would buy Cooper Tire & Rubber Co for about $2.5 billion,” Reuters writes.

Currently, Apollo does not operate in the United States. “The acquisition of Cooper, the world’s 11th biggest tire company by sales, will give Apollo access to the U.S. market for replacement tires for cars and light and medium trucks,” Reuters writes.

Cheap Chinese tires are being replaced by cheap Indian tires. And another American company is being outsourced.

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Piston Slap: Better Steering without the Better Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/piston-slap-better-steering-without-the-better-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/piston-slap-better-steering-without-the-better-car/#comments Wed, 05 Jun 2013 11:20:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490520 Oliver writes: Sajeev, In December of 2011, through an unfortunate chain of events, I became the not-so-proud owner of a 2007 Malibu. True to its origin as an ex-fleet car, it is saddled with the miserly 4-banger engine rather than the still-slow-but-adequate V6. The only positive attributes of this car are its cheap cost to […]

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Oliver writes:

Sajeev,

In December of 2011, through an unfortunate chain of events, I became the not-so-proud owner of a 2007 Malibu. True to its origin as an ex-fleet car, it is saddled with the miserly 4-banger engine rather than the still-slow-but-adequate V6. The only positive attributes of this car are its cheap cost to own and excellent fuel economy for its size. It presently has about 80,000 miles on it – I expect to get another 40K out of it before the transmission implodes (domestic automatic – you get what you pay for).

Currently, my wife is driving it (poor woman deserves a medal) – despite the obvious untenability of this situation; her only complaint is that the steering feels “loose.” We recently took a trip on a highway and I verified that the steering wheel feels like a cheap arcade wheel from the ‘90’s, to the point where it almost seems to turn itself (much like the platter on an Ouija board).

Our mechanic took a look at the steering system and found nothing amiss. Since I don’t believe a car this boring could possibly be home to a poltergeist, and since the system is “functioning as designed” (that’s corporate-speak for “stinks like crap because it IS crap”), I am at a loss for what to do.

I don’t want to invest a lot in this car – it’s an appliance – however, we live in NJ (land of a thousand potholes) and I am worried that the loosey-goosey steering combined with the abysmal condition of the roads here represents a safety concern. My wife has to maintain an iron grip on the wheel to keep from swerving into the other lane on her back-road-heavy commute.

It is worth noting that I have replaced all four struts, brake pads (incl. grinding the rotors), and tires on the car in the time I’ve owned it, and the mechanic found nothing amiss with suspension when he was looking at the steering. The thing drives pin straight until a mosquito farts near the steering wheel.

Is there a reasonably inexpensive (say, sub-$500) way to tighten up the steering? We’re not looking for euro-spec here; just a little more feedback.

Selling the car is not an option – we are not in a position to pay the transaction cost (and there’s ALWAYS a transaction cost to buying a new car), and it fits our needs nicely except for this one issue.

Sajeev answers:

Awesome letter: very TTAC-snarky, to the point that Farago would be proud. Now is tighter steering possible to an extent that people–those who can’t measure mosquito farts–would actually notice?

Subjective matters are just that, but KUDOS to you for already replacing the shocks: an often ignored element in old car ownership. Yet there are a handful of steering parameters you can check/adjust to improve steering response on any vehicle, especially used ones.  In no particular order, and for ANY vehicle:

1. Replace used steering box/rack and pinion assembly.  Why? Because these are wear items, even if they don’t show an external leak or excessive play measured by your trusty mechanic.  And they wear out so slowly that you will never know until its reached this point. We are literally splitting hairs when we discuss tighter steering, so 80,000 miles of wear easily fits into that gray area you must consider.

2. Do a performance wheel alignment, tweaking the factory specs. Read this and discuss with an alignment tech that tunes race cars. If needed and if available, get a set of aftermarket caster-camber plates.

3. Get higher quality tires, use summer tires when possible and play with tire pressures in +1 PSI intervals, front to back.  (Don’t go crazy here, more than 5-10PSI increases probably isn’t a bright idea.) You already have new tires, but remember, you sometimes get what you pay for.

4. For older vehicles with conventional power steering pumps attached to the front of the motor, check out that pulley at the end of the pump.  Underdrive dat pump!  With a fair bit of analysis of other GM products, I suspect you can find a “better” power steering pulley to firm up the steering a bit FOR CHEAP…but perhaps a slower spinning pump won’t change your particular problem. I’d bet on this being the best bang for the buck, however.

5. Get wider wheels/tires!  Not cheap, but these can be sold separately from the car when the time is right.  And if you can find a wider OEM wheel that interchanges, that just makes the conversion cheaper and a touch more stealthy.

Good luck, whatever you may do.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Building An Icon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/building-an-icon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/building-an-icon/#comments Thu, 18 Apr 2013 14:40:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485331 The Nike Swoosh. The McDonalds Golden Arches. The Chevy Bowtie. When you see them, you know them. Decades and billions of dollars are dedicated to make a ride on the freeway or, a walk in a park, a frequent subliminal reminder of how worthy a given brand is of your time. Firestone is just beginning […]

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The Nike Swoosh. The McDonalds Golden Arches. The Chevy Bowtie.

When you see them, you know them. Decades and billions of dollars are dedicated to make a ride on the freeway or, a walk in a park, a frequent subliminal reminder of how worthy a given brand is of your time.

Firestone is just beginning to invest in the icon you see here. What do you think?

The idea behind it is…

“You’re not driving a car, you’re driving a Firestone.”

The slogan has been enunciated, imprinted, and emblazoned on tens of thousands of advertisements over the past year. Print. Online. TV. Cable. Radio. The owners of Firestone are trying to make your used car, a Firestone car.

This is obviously a tall leap when it comes to brand identification; which is why Firestone has such a painfully challenging road for their new ‘F’ icon. For over 100 years cars have been identified by their marque. Mercedes-Benz. Cadillac. Honda. These brands not only exude a high level of awareness in the new car market, but an equally unique and compelling level of prestige in popular culture.

Mercedes symbolizes wealth. Even those who are financially struggling like to pretend they’re rich by owning one. From country clubs to rap videos. Everyone knows a Mercedes.

Cadillac is the king of American luxury. From the 1930’s when a ‘Cadillac’ referred to a gram of cocaine. To the 1960’s where a Cadillac ranch would undoubtedly have a matching Cadillac in the garage.  To even the mansions of today where a lot of folks are still willing to pay for the Cadillac of SUV’s.

Honda symbolizes Japanese engineering and enduring quality. The Honda of minivans in today’s advertising world is a mere continuation of the quality people you met 50 years ago on a Honda Scooter. Honda is quality incarnate thanks to a continuous advertising campaign that has always hammered away at that virtue.

Firestone has been popularized for their tires and their auto repair centers. Billions of tires sold. 10,000+ auto repair centers. A long winning history with NASCAR and a common sight on most rolling commercial roadfronts of the modern day, Firestone is an instantly recognizable name.

However that seems to be part of the problem. For nearly a century you needed to see the whole name to see the Firestone logo.

The full name of yesterday is now given an automotive emblem for today — along with a shift in identification from products and services for a used car, to the car itself.

Can a car wear two badges? Three? Four? If so, how can you put value into products and services that are usually catered to the non-enthusiast?

Is Firestone seeking to gradually usurp the brand identities of used cars? Or are they trying to compliment the brand identity that is already there?

I have no clear understanding of where this road leads to. At the same time, this is likely not the fault of the company or the advertising agency. It takes years of a compelling vision, endless instillations of nuance, and a change in popular culture to make a brand truly iconic.

Can Firestone ever become an iconic brand?   Or were they already there?

 

 

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Piston Slap: Limited Use but Unlimited Potential? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-limited-use-but-unlimited-potential/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-limited-use-but-unlimited-potential/#comments Tue, 09 Apr 2013 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484077 TTAC commentator jdmcomp writes: I own a Jaguar (Ford Era) that gets driven only about once a week, with jaunts of a few miles to several hundred. I keep syn oil in the engine. I have owned this car for several years and the only problem to date is the flat spotting of the tires. […]

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TTAC commentator jdmcomp writes:

I own a Jaguar (Ford Era) that gets driven only about once a week, with jaunts of a few miles to several hundred. I keep syn oil in the engine. I have owned this car for several years and the only problem to date is the flat spotting of the tires. What should I do to keep this vehicle in good running condition? Is weekly driving enough?

Sajeev answers:

As someone with more cars than sense I could use, let me tell you: weekly driving is the best place to start.  Driving prevents leaks from dried out gaskets, keeps fuel (especially E10 blends) fresh by never letting it go bad, recharges the battery, keeps tires round, prevents fluids from separating into its base ingredients (coolant turning into jelly or crystals),  brakes (caliper pistons) free of rust and ensures your HVAC system doesn’t get sticky mechanisms/stale smelling.

This driving regiment will highlight “old car” problems: some major enough for immediate attention, others not important enough to ever address for the life of the vehicle. It’s all part of the process, and it’s a fun process.  Why?

Because NOT driving a car is a death sentence. Drive the Jag sometimes and drive it hard.  You already trust it for long journeys, this is a no brainer. The Jag will like it, and you will love it.**

  • Bad day at work? Take the Jag to the corporate car park tomorrow.  Shock/impress/intimidate your co-workers.  They need it, too.
  • Want to make a statement at a party?  Motor in the Jag and come correct, like a Boss.
  • Nervous about a first date? Not in a Shaguar you ain’t!  Yeeeah baby, yeah!

**Weather pending. I’m looking at you, Rust Belt.

 

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

In the above, replace Jaguar with Cougar and you have my basic story. My story is the truth, especially once the cat was old enough for classic car insurance. I know my story applies to anyone with a vehicular “toy” in the garage for occasional use.  Man or woman. Rich or Poor.  Black or White.  Bus pass or mundane daily driver. Jaguar or Cougar. 

Please believe: You gotta Do It, To It.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: A Power Ram Split Decision? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/piston-slap-a-power-ram-split-decision/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/piston-slap-a-power-ram-split-decision/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 12:19:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479840 Douglas writes: Sajeev, Here’s some fodder for Piston Slap. Situation: I have a 1993 Dodge Power Ram 250, 103k miles, base model, so about the only thing it has in the way of amenities is AC. It’s got a 5.2l Magnum (318), mated to a NV4500 with a NP241 transfer case. It came from Arizona […]

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Douglas writes:

Sajeev,

Here’s some fodder for Piston Slap. Situation: I have a 1993 Dodge Power Ram 250, 103k miles, base model, so about the only thing it has in the way of amenities is AC.

It’s got a 5.2l Magnum (318), mated to a NV4500 with a NP241 transfer case. It came from Arizona where it saw light duty on a ranch of some sort. Overall, it is a excellent shape. All mechanicals work, body is in great shape, no rust, a small ding or two on the tailgate and by the bumper. I’ve replaced the shocks, new radiator, new AC condenser, installed new AC compressor, converted to R134, new tie rod ends in one year ownership. Still need to tear out the old headliner backing, and fix the 4WD light (bad switch on the transfer case top). Maybe a coat of paint, too.

It took me a long time to find this truck – manual, stripper, 4×4 in great shape. I use to make dump runs, tinker around, and help out friends.

Here’s the dilemma. It will need new tires soon, and since I want to replace the spare, I’m looking at around $700 for new tires. At some point, I’ll need new brakes, and I’ve been thinking about getting a donor engine to rebuild and replace the one I’ve got in there now. (Small rear main seal leak, plus twenty years of use on the existing motor.) I like to tinker and wrench, and this truck provides me that opportunity. But I wonder if I’m a fool for thinking about new rubber and a rebuilt engine in a twenty year old truck. On the other hand, I think I’m a fool for wanting to move onto to something newer when I’ve got such a great setup in my driveway now.

Thoughts?

Thanks
From a Fellow Texan,
Douglas

Sajeev answers:

Now you could be considered foolish on either side of the split decision presented here. But combine the relevant and necessary parts you’ve already replaced (nice job on the shocks, that gets neglected far too often) with the need for new rubber on any vehicle, and keeping the truck is far from foolish.  It’s the right move.

Do you need a spare motor to rebuild? Probably not.  But that shouldn’t stop you from tinkering and having fun in your spare time, while preparing for a future mechanical failure.  If you want to rebuild a spare motor in your “spare” time (sorry), go right ahead and do it.

Old trucks never die, they just get better. Even Dodge trucks, which are rarely loved like their GM and Ford counterparts. Keep it and get new tires, for sure.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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Mazda CX-5 Impacted By Tire Shortage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/mazda-mx-5-impacted-by-tire-shortage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/mazda-mx-5-impacted-by-tire-shortage/#comments Tue, 21 Aug 2012 07:47:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457442 Mazda’s new CX-5 SUV is enjoying brisk sales in Japan, and Mazda can’t keep up with the demand. Waiting times of five months or longer were common, says The Nikkei [sub], especially for the top trim lines with fuel-saving diesel engines and leather seats. Mazda would love to deliver them a little faster – but […]

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Mazda’s new CX-5 SUV is enjoying brisk sales in Japan, and Mazda can’t keep up with the demand. Waiting times of five months or longer were common, says The Nikkei [sub], especially for the top trim lines with fuel-saving diesel engines and leather seats. Mazda would love to deliver them a little faster – but it does not have enough tires.

Waiting times have been trimmed to three months, says the Tokyo wire, but Mazda is battling with problems procuring enough 19 inch tires. Mazda pretty much gave up on the idea and plans to offer the CX-5 with 17 inch rubber.

“New, 17-inch versions are expected to reach customers at least one month sooner,” the Nikkei says.

With 3,835 units sold In July, Mazda’s CX-5 ranked 29th on Japan’s best seller list, ten places ahead of Toyota’s hotly debated hachi-roku.

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New Or Used?: Living In A Cheapskate Paradise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/new-or-used-living-in-a-cheapskate-paradise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/new-or-used-living-in-a-cheapskate-paradise/#comments Wed, 25 Jul 2012 22:13:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454214 I currently drive a 2005 MINI Cooper S convertible. I’ve been swapping winter/summer tires for the past few years but I was thinking that this year I might get a beater car for the harsher weather months. The combination of FWD and wear and tear on the fabric roof are my main reasons for these considerations. I live in […]

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I currently drive a 2005 MINI Cooper S convertible. I’ve been swapping winter/summer tires for the past few years but I was thinking that this year I might get a beater car for the harsher weather months. The combination of FWD and wear and tear on the fabric roof are my main reasons for these considerations.

I live in NJ, so most of my driving is on the highway but as part of my job as a systems admin in a datacenter, I’m occasionally called into work at times when even the highways haven’t been plowed.

Do you think it’s possible to find a cheap (around $1000), preferably AWD car that would work well for winters in the northeast? Craigslist searches so far have turned up a handful of Subarus, Volvos, and Audis Quattro.

 

A Former Resident Of The Garden State Says…

 

Yes! You can buy an AWD car in New Jersey for $1000!

Of course the car would have to be stolen or misappropriated from a government agency. Maybe both.

Then there is always the slim chance to do one of those low down payment deals and ‘negotiate’ your way through the winter months.

Something tells me that neither one of these possibilities will come true for you. Then again, I have no idea who you work for so feel free to ponder them if you like.

My real advice is two-fold…

1) Buy some top of the line protectant. TTAC isn’t in the official endorsement business. But start with this.

2) Most anything you buy these days for $1000 will require a lot of immediate maintenance… and may very well be at death’s door.

If you want to lose your savings, keep being stingy.

If you want to keep your car for the long haul, invest in it. Snow tires, protectant, and a couple of good cleanings throughout the year will  yield far greater dividends than a broken down jalopy that spews oil and sucks your savings.

You can also rent if you like. Enterprise and a few other rental car companies will pick you up. Make sure you have plenty of coupons and a friendly relationship with the counter person. Good luck!

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Piston Slap: An “Occasional Jaunt” on…Winter Tires? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/piston-slap-an-occasional-jaunt-onwinter-tires/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/piston-slap-an-occasional-jaunt-onwinter-tires/#comments Mon, 19 Mar 2012 11:23:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435419   Anonymous writes: Sajeev, Recently I picked up a set of Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 winter tires for my 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution IX GSR (lightly modded at approximately 350 whp/320 wtq) and unfortunately I was unable to get a “V” speed rating in winter tires as they only came in “H”. http://www.bridgestonetire.com/productdetails/TireSubBrand/Blizzak_LM-60 How dead-set are those […]

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Anonymous writes:

Sajeev,

Recently I picked up a set of Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 winter tires for my 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution IX GSR (lightly modded at approximately 350 whp/320 wtq) and unfortunately I was unable to get a “V” speed rating in winter tires as they only came in “H”.

http://www.bridgestonetire.com/productdetails/TireSubBrand/Blizzak_LM-60

How dead-set are those tire ratings?  I wonder because there was an “incident” involving myself, another Evo and a BMW 135i which included speeds in excess of the 130mph speed rating (surface conditions were dry, closed road, no spectators).  Would an occasional jaunt above the speed rating of the tire cause long-term damage to the tire, or would it take a constant load to delaminate from the rim?

Thank you in advance for your time.

Sajeev answers:

Being an H-town boy who only enjoys visiting cold climates for business or vacation gives me pause on my answer.  And while there’s street racing aplenty over here, we don’t try to find ourselves in jail on the wings of flying winter tires.  So with that in mind…

Your question has too many conditionals and vague language (for good reason, I assume) to give a solid answer.  As such, here’s a crappy answer: a tire’s performance deteriorates over time, as rubber naturally hardens, stress cracks, etc.  A 1-2 year old tire might be fine running up to its speed rating, in theory. Temperature also comes into play: if you live in 100+ degree weather and want to drive triple digits for sustained periods, your tires will go much sooner than someone doing the same at 60 degrees.

Duration is a big concern, as you mentioned.  There’s a good chance you can run Blizzaks at or above their speed rating for less than a minute with no problem. If you ran it for 10 minutes or longer?  That “good chance” turns into a “not bloody likely” in my opinion. This notion is described in far better detail on the eng-tips.com forum.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but this behavior is pretty stupid.  And since many of us are guilty of this automotive sin, we shouldn’t be proud of doing it…even if damn near everyone with a lead foot and a 250+ hp vehicle has tried it at some point in their lives.  I’m not here to judge, just to speak my mind. Best of luck.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Piston Slap: Financial Traction, AWD Distraction? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/piston-slap-financial-traction-or-awd-distraction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/piston-slap-financial-traction-or-awd-distraction/#comments Mon, 13 Feb 2012 13:39:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=430555   John writes: Hey Sajeev, Since you requested goofy questions for Piston Slap, I’ve got one: A friend of mine told me that her dad had a Subaru (I don’t know what particular model). He had one of the tires blow out, and even though he knew he should either replace all four tires, or […]

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John writes:

Hey Sajeev,

Since you requested goofy questions for Piston Slap, I’ve got one:

A friend of mine told me that her dad had a Subaru (I don’t know what particular model). He had one of the tires blow out, and even though he knew he should either replace all four tires, or have the new one shaved down to match the other three, he decided to risk it and just use the one new tire as is. Consequently, the all wheel drive system got messed up due to the ever so slight mismatch in tire diameters. Is this for real? I’ve never heard anything like that before.

Sajeev answers:

I didn’t request “goofy” questions, per se…but let’s not split hairs. And this is far from a goofy question.

Because this problem is for real, a good explanation is here. And it’s not an “ever so slight” mismatch with the tires, if the ¼” circumference discussed on UltimateSubaru.org is valid. I regularly dissuade people from buying AWD cars, unless they live in colder climates where municipalities simply can’t regularly plow all their streets.  Which is a lot of the country, but not a lot of the population.

AWD systems are heavier, thirstier and cost more to buy. For the long term owner, they cost more to keep functional. And for anyone who loses one tire from a quartet that had a lot of life beforehand, things get real ugly. This is almost as silly as fretting over horsepower figures when wide-open throttle is rarely applied.

I will try to remember this letter the next time someone asks my opinion on an AWD vehicle, when I know that someone doesn’t need it.  And that’s not a slam on Subaru or Audi, at least not intentionally. The concept of shaving down a perfectly good tire will certainly get some “financial traction” in people’s minds!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Are You Ready For: The Self-Inflating Tire? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/are-you-ready-for-the-self-inflating-tire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/are-you-ready-for-the-self-inflating-tire/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2011 15:48:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406908 You know those things that you never thought you needed, but once you had them you realized you never wanted to live without them again? According to Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear’s senior vice president and chief technical officer, it’s time to get ready for another such technology: “A tire that can maintain its own inflation is […]

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You know those things that you never thought you needed, but once you had them you realized you never wanted to live without them again? According to Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear’s senior vice president and chief technical officer, it’s time to get ready for another such technology:

“A tire that can maintain its own inflation is something drivers have wanted for many years. Goodyear has taken on this challenge and the progress we have made is very encouraging. This will become the kind of technological breakthrough that people will wonder how they ever lived without.”

Goodyear doesn’t know when its “Air Maintenance Technology” will make it to the streets, but thanks to funding from the US and Luxembourg governments, they’re making progress.

And when it hits, the AMT technology

will enable tires to remain inflated at the optimum pressure without the need for any external pumps or electronics. All components of the AMT system, including the miniaturized pump, will be fully contained within the tire.

Goodyear figures that underinflated tires can cost 2.5-3.3% of efficiency, translating to about 12 cents per gallon at the pump. And with self-inflating technology, you’ll be able to realize those savings without having to regularly break out the pressure gauge and air pump. No word on costs yet, but if the price is right this could just become extremely popular. After all, who really stays on top of their tire pressure as well as they could?

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Piston Slap: A Cautionary Tread Wear Tale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/piston-slap-a-cautionary-tread-wear-tale/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/piston-slap-a-cautionary-tread-wear-tale/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2011 15:07:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=390885 John writes: Just a few days ago one of four nearly new tires developed a bubble on the sidewall. Thankfully, I purchased the roadside-whatever-the-heck when I bought them and got the replacement for the cost of shipping and had it mounted with decent haste – potential NJ turnpike crisis averted. Now, I figure the other […]

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John writes:

Just a few days ago one of four nearly new tires developed a bubble on the sidewall. Thankfully, I purchased the roadside-whatever-the-heck when I bought them and got the replacement for the cost of shipping and had it mounted with decent haste – potential NJ turnpike crisis averted.

Now, I figure the other tires are at around 85-90% when this episode started. Is there a way to get the new tire to catch up with the others in terms of wear? Or should I leave well enough alone?

Sajeev answers:

The short answer is to leave well enough alone, it’ll be fine.  Well, that depends on if your vehicle has permanent, full time AWD?

John answers:

Nope. FWD.

Sajeev concludes:

Well then!  It’s not a problem, mount the new tire on the front axle and let it wear to match.  At your tread depth, that tire could be mounted at any location, even on a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The folks at Tire Rack go into further detail than I’d prefer to in this column, including shaving a street (not race) tire to keep someone from replacing all four tires when only one is truly bad. So all roads point to you being fine.

Which begs a few questions: how many people rotate tires as per owner’s manual requirements? As AWD becomes more prevalent in affordable CUVs and sedans, are we gonna see more problems with mismatched tires? If so, what mechanical failures should we be on the lookout for?

Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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New or Used: Who Is The RWD Coupe Market’s Top Gun? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/new-or-used-who-is-the-rwd-coupe-markets-top-gun/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/new-or-used-who-is-the-rwd-coupe-markets-top-gun/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2011 17:08:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=389323 TTAC Commentator Topgun writes: I’ve been a long time reader of TTAC and am a big fan of the New or Used and Piston Slap columns. I am in the market for a new or lightly used (CPO) car and have a preference for rear wheel drive. I have a budget in the 20-25k range […]

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TTAC Commentator Topgun writes:

I’ve been a long time reader of TTAC and am a big fan of the New or Used and Piston Slap columns. I am in the market for a new or lightly used (CPO) car and have a preference for rear wheel drive. I have a budget in the 20-25k range for this purpose. This car will be my only car; hence it should be able to handle daily driver duties (25-30 mpg would do) without being a complete snooze to drive (that’s where the rear wheel drive part comes in). A 4 door isn’t strictly necessary since I am single with no kids.

The 2011 Mustang V6 and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe seem to fit the bill nicely. I’ve test driven both and found them a hoot to drive. The fuel efficiencies, ride, and interiors are also up to the mark. However, I can only get the 2.0T version of the Genesis Coupe for the same money as the V6 Mustang. So, the Mustang seems to offer more value for the money, live rear axle notwithstanding.

The real confusion starts when I think about my future location. You see, I’ll be moving to Michigan this summer to start my new position and expect to stay at said company/location for at least another 3 years. Is RWD in Michigan winters really a bad idea? If not, what sort of precautions should I take? Should I invest in a set of winter tires or would regular all-season rubbers do? In case you feel RWD (especially a live axle) in snow is a one way ticket to the nearest ditch/fender, my backup FWD and AWD choices are the 2010 GTI and 2010 Subaru Impreza respectively. I like the GTI in this match up but the Mustang still beats both of them in the bang for the buck category.

If there are other car choices for my specific situation that I may have missed, please do let me know. I did test drive the Mazda 3 and although it is a good car, I didn’t really feel any affinity to it. I feel older BMW/Audi/Merc cars are money pits. But if you think one of them is still reliable, do point it out to me. I also decidedly do not share the love of Panthers that you and many of the B&B have. No V8’s either for fuel economy reasons. I was going for new/CPO for warranty purposes since my wrench skills are average only (Oil changes, basic diagnostics and maintenance etc). Inputs from Steve Lang on easy to maintain older rear drive and fun to drive FWD cars are however welcome.

I need to make a decision soon (in a couple of week’s time), so kindly expedite the matter. Thanks in advance for any and all assistance in this regard.

Steve answers:

You seem to have your eye on two very nice models. The Ford Mustang in V6 form is an absolute blast to drive and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe is a bit more of a touring coupe. But may be the better choice if you’re considering Michigans pockmarked roads.
I won’t talk you out of either car or recommend another. They are both good fits. As a former resident in the upstate NY area, what I can recommend is that you get top quality snow tires. If you have a good set coupled with traction control, ABS, stability control, tire pressure monitor etc., either car should be perfectly fine.

Oh, one more thing. Do NOT go out when there is two to three inches of the fluffy stuff around. Wait until the area has been plowed and salted and even then, be cautious. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen FWD and AWD cars stuck in the ditch or wrecked because their drivers thought they could contradict the laws of physics. Unless your plans are to stay in the U.P. I would proceed with either one of these two vehicles and purchase those snow tires for the winter season.

Sajeev answers:

Yup, Steve nailed it.  Good snow tires are a must.  Doing it cheaply is a good idea, grabbing OEM wheels from a similar car is better looking (and cheaper?) than a wheel/tire package from a Tirerack-type of vendor. In the Mustang’s case, any V6 Mustang since 1994 sports a nice set of rims for your snow tires. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Sonata wheel bolts up to a Genesis with no problem, even if the offset might look a bit off. Also check craigslist for your platform’s usual suspects, that’s usually cheaper and easier than a U-Pull-It yard.

I’ve been trying to come up with “comps” to your choices and criteria, but I got nothing.  I haven’t driven the Mustang yet, but the V6 Performance Package has all the right upgrades missing from the base Mustang. It looks stellar on paper, even with a live axle. Push comes to shove, I would rock that car and never fear a Michigan winter.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to mehta@ttac.com, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder. In a rush?  Don’t be shy about asking to cut in line.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: A Steal Of A Deal Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-a-steal-of-a-deal-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-a-steal-of-a-deal-edition/#comments Tue, 27 Jul 2010 15:08:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=361652 The Porsche Center of San Antonio offers its customers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fill their tires with nitrogen for only $49.95. No word on whether this is special imported German nitrogen or not, but it definitely isn’t the most expensive nitrogen scam out there… [via Corvetteblogger.com]

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The Porsche Center of San Antonio offers its customers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fill their tires with nitrogen for only $49.95. No word on whether this is special imported German nitrogen or not, but it definitely isn’t the most expensive nitrogen scam out there… [via Corvetteblogger.com]

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Trade War Watch 15: Thai Tires Trump Chinese http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/trade-war-watch-15-thai-tires-trump-chinese/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/trade-war-watch-15-thai-tires-trump-chinese/#comments Thu, 22 Jul 2010 11:33:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=361352 After President Obama paid his outstanding union dues and slapped a 35 percent punitive tariff on Chinese car and light truck tires exported to the USA, we predicted two outcomes: 1.)    It will start a trade war, and China will drag the U.S.A. in front of the WTO. Sure did. The WTO accepted China’s complaint, […]

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After President Obama paid his outstanding union dues and slapped a 35 percent punitive tariff on Chinese car and light truck tires exported to the USA, we predicted two outcomes:

1.)    It will start a trade war, and China will drag the U.S.A. in front of the WTO. Sure did. The WTO accepted China’s complaint, and the trade war turned into a major conflagration.
2.)    We said that not a single new job will be created in the U.S.A., and “what the boneheaded decision does is simply shift tire production from China to other low cost producing countries.” Sure does.

The Nikkei [sub] reports that Thailand is becoming the country of choice for low cost tire production. Not a single job moved back to the U.S.A. Jobs simply move from China south to the Land of Smiles.

According to the Nikkei, Bridgestone, Sumitomo and Yokohama Rubber “are rapidly expanding their Thai factories for passenger car tires, defining the Southeast Asian nation as their key export base.” All three are ratcheting up their Thai production as if there’s no tomorrow.

Bridgestone’s Thai facility will become the group’s second-largest passenger car tire factory in the world. In the job department, Bridgestone has shut down plants in Australia and New Zealand. Sumitomo Rubber is expanding their plant in Thailand’s Rayong Province, with the aim of making the Thai factory one of the largest in the world. Yokohama Rubber plans to raise its annual production capacity in Thailand by 50 percent.  Goodyear, Michelin and other have tire plants in Thailand. Others will follow.

The financial crisis had caused global tire demand to plunge. Now, driven by red hot car sales in China and Southeast Asia, companies can’t make tires fast enough. As far as WTO rules go, there is no special safeguard clause between the U.S.A. and Thailand.

Actually, tires imported from Thailand to the U.S.A. used to be duty free. The U.S. government said “ooops” and dropped the duty free status on July 1. (While they were at it, the duty free status of wood flooring from Brazil, and gold rope necklaces from India was also eliminated, what’s fair is fair.)  The new Thai tire tariff? The 4 percent harmonized tariff allowed by the WTO. The same tariff the U.S.A. had charged on Chinese tires before the additional 35 percent were slapped on.

So where did this get us? Instead of cheap tires from China, we now get cheap tires from that epitome of political and financial stability, called Thailand.

If you associate Thailand with other uses of rubbers, it’s time to rearrange your associations. Not what you think, silly.  Burning tires is a Thai tradition when battling the police – we recycle!

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Trade War Watch 10: WTO Accepts Chinese Tire Complaint, Trade War Escalates http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/trade-war-watch-10-wto-accepts-chinese-tire-complaint-trade-war-escalates/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/trade-war-watch-10-wto-accepts-chinese-tire-complaint-trade-war-escalates/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2010 13:35:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=342394 In September 2009, incoming President Barak Obama slapped a 35 percent punitive tariff on Chinese car and light truck tires exported to the USA. That, in addition to an existing 4 percent duty. No American tire manufacturer had requested the boneheaded move. It was a thank-you to the steelworkers union. Cooper tires openly opposed the […]

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And it burns, burns, burns. Picture courtesy altimeco.com

In September 2009, incoming President Barak Obama slapped a 35 percent punitive tariff on Chinese car and light truck tires exported to the USA. That, in addition to an existing 4 percent duty. No American tire manufacturer had requested the boneheaded move. It was a thank-you to the steelworkers union. Cooper tires openly opposed the action. Ironically, US tire companies were hardest hit by the measure, because they had moved most if not all of their budget segment tire production to low labor cost overseas sites. No job was created in the US. Many were lost. Low cost tire manufacturing simply moved to other overseas countries, which were the only beneficiaries of the useless war.

TTAC warned of a trade war, predicted that China will drag the USA in front of the WTO, and that China would take tit-for-tat measures. All of it became true.

In the trade war dept., China slapped import tariffs or restrictions on imports of U.S. nylon, industrial acid, chicken and other products. It also has initiated an investigation into whether U.S. automakers are selling below cost, or “dumping”, cars in China. The U.S.  retaliated, looking into allegations of dumping in other products, amongst those arcane items such as carbon magnesia brick. Last month, the U.S. slapped punitive tariffs on imports of Chinese steel pipes, a $2.8-billion market. Google is making on-again, off-again threats of leaving China. The trade war is escalating.

As predicted, China dragged the USA in front of the WTO. As reported by Reuters, the WTO accepted China’s complaint and agreed to convene a panel. WTO will formalize the panel at a meeting on Jan. 19. The three-judge body will look into whether the U.S. violated WTO rules. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the panel will publish a decision after nine months of investigation. If it finds that the U.S. unfairly imposed the tariffs, it could authorize China to put tariffs on key U.S. imports, up to the amount lost by Chinese exporters because of the duties. The U.S. can appeal, meaning the case could last several years.”

Says Reuters: “The time it will take to fight the case, and then revoke the tariff if Washington loses, means the tire tariffs will have been in place for most of their original three-year duration.”

The WTO complaint is widely seen as a blocking action by the Chinese to discourage the U.S. from further invoking the special safeguard clause that was rammed down the Chinese’s throats when they joined the WTO in 2001. Other safeguard complaints are piling up, and the Obama administration appears trigger-happy. A moronic trade war with Japan over nearly non-existent U.S. car exports to Japan was avoided by Japan giving in to nonsensical demands of Detroit’s automakers, which hat already mobilized Hillary Clinton and Betty Sutton.

The discriminatory safeguard clause against Chinese imports will expire in 2013, probably before the current tire complaint will have run its course. A lot of damage can be done in these three years. Trade wars exert a big price, paid by the consumer at the check-out counter. Prices of tires are already going up, and higher rubber prices will exacerbate the matter.

Students of history may note that trade wars during recession times can lead to full blown depression.

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Piston Slap: Design Weak: Big Ass Wheels http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/piston-slap-design-weak-big-ass-wheels/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/piston-slap-design-weak-big-ass-wheels/#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2009 22:26:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=334549 Mike writes: Sajeev, what ever happened to 14-inch wheels?  I mean, seriously, does the Caliber really need to be shod with 17-inchers? Why does my dad’s new half-ton pickup have 17-inch wheels? His old one had what used to be the industry standard 235-75R15. He about had a coronary when he found out new tires […]

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"13's are OK if you are going for stock or restored look but as you say 13" tires are getting harder to find and in my opinion just look too small. There are 14" wheels out there with 4 lug patterns that look good on a II but even 14" tires are getting limited in size. I now think 15's are the way to go and with the aluminum adapters converting 4 to 5 lug, just about any wheel can be made to fit the II. Tire choices in 15's are unlimited so the correct look can be had by doing your homework on backspacing and wheel width. A nice set of Cragar 5 spoke 15's would look awsome on the II or you could stager and put 14's on front and 15's on rear." (courtesy allfordmustangs.com)

Mike writes:

Sajeev, what ever happened to 14-inch wheels?  I mean, seriously, does the Caliber really need to be shod with 17-inchers? Why does my dad’s new half-ton pickup have 17-inch wheels? His old one had what used to be the industry standard 235-75R15. He about had a coronary when he found out new tires would be over $100 each. Perhaps if I put on my tinfoil hat, I’d say the tire companies are behind this. So really, does the average family sedan or minivan really need anything bigger that a 15-inch wheel/tire?

Sajeev replies:

Of course the Caliber doesn’t need 17-inch wheels: they can’t possibly fix Chrysler’s rolling abomination.  But let’s think about why every modern car has big wheels.

Speaking from an Engineering Standpoint: wheels over 15-inches provide space for bigger brake rotors (and calipers) and a shorter profile tire in the same tire diameter.  The benefits are better braking in extreme conditions, like mountain roads or any form of towing. Shorter profile tires provide more road feel and tread grip, completely changing a car’s “turn in” during the act of corner carving. In theory: most cars lose these benefits above 18” wheels, as more unsprung weight and rubber band tires make things worse.

Furthermore, modern cars/trucks are heavy, straddled with more gizmos, bigger (and taller) cabins and more rigid bodies. When you add more weight, you need more stopping power.

Speaking from a Design Standpoint: styling is a major factor in the mass-acceptance of larger wheels. By the 1980s, both the downsized American icons and Japanese entrants required a certain passenger volume without resorting to the bulk and shocking overhangs (front and rear) of previous decades. Which required a taller DLO (Day Light Opening) for more trunk space—among other things—and created a taller car in the process.  And, in general, taller cars naturally look better with “taller” wheels filling out their wells.

And big wheels were here to stay when Ford sold Explorer SUVs like buttered popcorn, making everyone ride tall in the saddle. Hence the need for taller profile wheels and bigger brakes merging with America’s insatiable need for sleek sheetmetal since the 1950s.

Maybe 15” wheels can make a comeback, but vehicles need to ditch their platform shoes and go on a serious diet.  I’m not holding my breath.

[Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com]

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Editorial: Trade War Watch 1: Yes, We Can Start a Trade War http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/09/editorial-yes-we-can-start-a-trade-war/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/09/editorial-yes-we-can-start-a-trade-war/#comments Sat, 12 Sep 2009 12:33:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=329244

President Obama paid his outstanding union dues and slapped a 35 percent punitive tariff on Chinese car and light truck tires exported to the USA. The new duty will take effect on September 26 and comes in addition to an existing 4 percent duty, Reuters reports. Everybody, except for the United Steelworkers, agrees that this is one of the most boneheaded decisions of the new administration.

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President Obama paid his outstanding union dues and slapped a 35 percent punitive tariff on Chinese car and light truck tires exported to the USA. The new duty will take effect on September 26 and comes in addition to an existing 4 percent duty, Reuters reports. Everybody, except for the United Steelworkers, agrees that this is one of the most boneheaded decisions of the new administration.

No American tire manufacturer supported the case. Cooper Tire even publicly opposed it. No wonder: US tire companies are the biggest offenders (in the eyes of the United Steelworkers), having moved most if not all of their budget segment tire production to low labor cost overseas sites. Chinese tires are not in the USA because China wants to rape and pillage the market. Chinese tires are here, because US tire companies set up joint ventures in China to make what the market demands: Tires for less.

China is not the only exporter of budget tires to the USA. According to the Wall Street Journal, 43 percent of the tires sold in the USA are imported. Only 11 percent are imported from China. The far larger share is imported from low labor cost countries such as Malaysia, India, or Central Europe. What the boneheaded decision does is simply shift tire production from China to other low cost producing countries. These countries can take advantage of 11 percent of the tires effectively removed from the US market. The low cost producers can raise their prices until the market settles. The American consumer will bear the cost. Not a single new job is created in US tire companies. Jobs will be lost at tire distributors and dealers. This decision achieves nothing for America except higher prices and troubles with China.

The American Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition wrote in a letter to the US Trade Representative John Kirk: “The absence of tires from China in the market will raise costs to downstream consuming industries, including automobile manufacturers, will limit consumer choices and affect most seriously those with the fewest resources. Thus, these tariffs will be the most regressive of taxes.”

“Those with the fewest resources” (i.e., the poor) are easiest sold on buying the import-restriction Kool-Aid. They drink it in big gulps: Imports bad for jobs. When they find out that fewer low cost imports mean higher prices, that they still have no jobs, and that their welfare check buys much less, then it’s too late.

The complaint by the US Steelworkers does not allege unfair trade practices. No longer needed. In US law, there is a special anti-China provision, called section 421. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council explains the complicated law in the most succinct way: “Under Section 421, the USITC determines whether a specific product from the mainland is being imported into the U.S. in such increased quantities, or under such conditions, as to cause or threaten to cause market disruption. ‘Market disruption’ is defined as rapidly increasing imports, either absolutely or relatively, so as to cause or threaten to cause material injury to a U.S. domestic industry. If the USITC makes an affirmative determination it proposes a remedy, which the president may or may not implement.”

The USITC is the United States International Trade Commission, “an independent, quasi-judicial federal agency that provides trade policy advice to both the legislative and executive branches of government.” The USITC is often called the International Trade Commission to give it a fake supranational flair. It’s pure US government.

“Market disruption” is a vague concept. If anyone feels disrupted by Chinese imports, they can petition the USITC. If the USITC accepts it and takes it to the president, and if he signs it, no more Chinese imports. Under Bush, for all his failings, every section 421 petition that reached his desk was rejected: He had to decide on strategically important goods such as wire hangers, steel pipe, brake drums and rotors and “pedestal actuators,” a component used in scooters for the disabled. All voted down.

Obama approved the first 421 petition that was put before him. China and US companies are rightly afraid that this will trigger a flurry of section 421 cases. “Multinational companies such as Caterpillar Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have urged Obama to refrain from curbing imports, saying it could lead to a “downward protectionist spiral,” writes Bloomberg.

The United Steelworkers based their complaint on the allegation that Chinese tires had cost a paltry 5,000 union jobs over a number of years. Which of course is bunk. The jobs were lost because US consumers increasingly refuse to buy the high priced tires, and because US tire companies have reacted to consumer demand and moved their production elsewhere. Only one fourth of the tire imports comes from China.

Understandably, the Chinese are deeply upset. China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, writes, “This ruling came at a time when the U.S. economy is at an uncertain turning point from the worst recession since World War II.” Officially, China exercises restraint. “Observers said that the president needs his people to help make domestic reform smoother,” is as low as Xinhua wants to publicly stoop.

The verbiage from China’s Ministry of Commerce is stronger: “China expressed strong dissatisfaction and is resolutely opposed to this,” said China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOC) spokesman Yao Jian. “This does not comply with WTO agreements on subsidies. The U.S. used an incorrect method to define and calculate the subsidies, which has resulted in an artificially high subsidy rate, hurting Chinese firms’ interests.”

What China is likely to do is threefold:

One, China will drag the USA in front of the WTO. China will have the tacit or open support from other low-cost countries, including the EU (many low cost countries, such as Poland or Romania are EU members.) The world will also love to slap around a country that demanded free trade as long as free trade was good for America. Note that China mentioned “subsidies.” The bail-outs will come on the table also. WTO proceedings can drag on forever.

Two, China will take some tit-for-tat measures. On the table is a hefty tariff on US auto imports to China. During the first half of the year, China imported more than $1 billion worth of automobiles from the US. China could buy fewer Boeings and more Airbusses. If things get really bad, China could put a dent in the Chinese growth of the automotive ward of the state, GM. Europe will love it all.

Three, Chinese President Hu Jintao will give Obama a tongue-lashing when they meet in Pittsburgh at the G-20 Summit September 24-25. Obama will be gently or not so gently reminded that America’s largest creditor deserves a little better treatment, or the money could be moved elsewhere. Timothy Geithner will also be reminded that his announcement in June that “Chinese assets are very safe” is bunk. The greenback is on its way down. A EURO bought $1.46 today and it’s heading toward $1.50. Come to think of it, a falling dollar is the best protection against cheap imports from all corners of the world: The lower the dollar, the more expensive the imports. A truly free market needs no section 421.

Forbes writes: “The current round of disputes will undoubtedly end up in a trade war, and China, a country extraordinarily dependent on exports, will surely be the biggest loser.”

Don’t bet on it.

America is already involved in two shooting wars which it couldn’t afford would China not buy its bonds. America cannot afford two shooting wars and a trade war with its largest creditor.

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