Monday, November 21, 2016

Under Pressure

We have a slight air leak problem in one of our tires, and it's a bit of a pain because it requires diligent observation and maintenance. Modern cars are so full of bells and whistles, some of which I think are excessive but they seem to be doing their job. One such example is air pressure in the tires. Each tire has a pressure sensor that indicates when the air is below a certain PSI. When I first encountered this light in a rental car I had never seen it before and didn't take the time to read the manual to figure it out. Consequently, we drove around for days with low air pressure. What's a drag about these sensors is that mechanics need to reset them every time they change a tire, and some places like Wilson Tire charge you $5-10 per tire, which is a total rip-off. This is one of the many reasons I no longer go to Wilson Tire, which is regularly chosen, amazingly enough, as the best place to go for tires. For the record, Tip Top Tire doesn't charge for this service, which I think amounts to pushing a button.

Anyway, one specific tire has a leak. The guys at Tip Top took a look at it and found that it was the actual air pressure sensor that was the problem, meaning I needed a new one. They said they charged about $80 for a replacement, but I've replaced these things before and have found them for much cheaper online. They are so cool there that they didn't push it, and the truth of the matter is, the sensor works fine, it just isn't sealing properly. In about 2-3 days the pressure drops 3-4 psi below the recommended level and the indicator light goes on. Normally this wouldn't be such a big deal but with regularity comes annoyance. This is especially true when you're rushing out the door with your daughter to get to school and the first thing you notice when start the car is the low pressure light.

I ordered a new pressure sensor but figured I'd wait until I have the snow tires installed, saving me some time and money, though I wouldn't be surprised if Tip Top installed it for free, they're cool in that way. In the meantime, we need to keep adding air to the tire, which is a pain but not the end of the world. It usually takes about 5 minutes out of our journey to stop at the gas station, put in about 5 psi, and then head out. The problem your truly runs into, and it's a matter of principle more than economics, is that I don't like to pay for air. We're talking maybe 75 cents at the most, so it's really not about the money. I just find it lame that they charge for it, so I try to find the places that offer free air. Fortunately our local gas station is cool enough to offer free air, but it still means getting over there.

I happen to have an air compressor with tire nozzle that would do the trick, but it would require hauling it from the barn and then plugging it into the wall socket. The thing is heavy so in a way it's not really a practical option. Now this is where the story gets interesting. Way back when we went on vacation to Spain we parked our car for 2 weeks and took the bus to Boston. When we got home the tire in question was flat as a pancake. I called AAA and the guy came with an air compressor the size of a book. He hooked it into the cigarette lighter and the thing inflated the tire. It took about 5 minutes, but it was done and I was amazed. It even had a pre-set function that would automatically shut off at the designated psi. I was sold

When we got home I looked around for one of these small compressors but couldn't find the exact one. The AAA guy even said that they stopped making that specific one. I ended up going to Advanced Auto Parts and getting something that was similar, and amazingly enough, it wasn't that expensive. I ended up paying $25 for mine, and it works beautifully. I spent an extra $5 for the auto shutoff feature, and believe me, it's worth it. Since our tire does not lose all it's air, it takes about 2 minutes to get it up to the pressure I want. Then we're off and running, it's great.

I think everyone should have one of these things in their car, but nobody cares what I think. I did hear from a friend who just bought a new Toyota minivan that they come with their own air compressors, so someone is thinking like I am. Now if only more people would, the world would be a better place, at least for me.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Michael Kappel for the pic.

No comments: