Saturday, May 19, 2007

From Ducks to Beavers

We are at the Elks lodge in Corvallis, Oregon (map).

Yesterday we drove back up to Les Schwab (actually, Bob Dickman Tire Center) in Junction City and had them put new steer tires on. We went with Goodyear G670 RV MRT tires, which are made for the RV industry. Normally, I would never buy an RV tire, since our driving pattern is so different from the typical RV, and truck tires are easier to deal with from the standpoint of getting them repaired or replaced on the road. (Truck tires, for example, almost never incur a disposal fee, because the carcass can be salvaged and either regrooved or retreaded.)

That being said, we had a dilemma. We've been wanting to go to the 315/80R22.5 size (vs. the 12R22.5 size we are running now), and they had only Michelin XZA2 Energy and the above-mentioned Goodyears in stock in that size. They would have been happy to order me the Goodyear G291 truck tires that I really wanted, but I would have to pre-pay (and they would take a few days).

All well and good, except that we had a concern that the slightly wider size might conflict with the steering knuckle/tie rod end, a concern raised by Chappaqua Transportation, who used to run a fleet of German-built Neoplans. I remember standing in their pit and looking at how close the tie rod ends came to the sidewalls and sharing this concern. So the Les Schwab guys had agreed to mount up a 315 to see if it was going to be a problem, with the agreement that if it didn't work, there would be no charge to take the tire back and sell me a 12R instead. BUT, that deal was only good on in-stock tires, not anything I might have them order.

What it came down to, then, was that I'd rather have the Goodyears than the Michelins. The Michelin is probably a better tire, but:
  1. They were over $100 a piece more than the Goodyears: $637 vs. $528 per tire.
  2. We're clearly going through tires faster than we'd like, so any promised longevity improvements in the Michelins would be wasted on us.
  3. The purported "energy" savings of the Michelin "Energy" series will probably not materialize for us (long story), especially since we are not intending to put these on the drive axle.
  4. Speaking of the drive axle, when it comes time to change those tires, Michelin does not make a M+S rated traction tire in 315's. In fact, their only 315 traction tire, the XDN2, is directional, meaning that we would either never rotate them, or have to dismount/remount/rebalance all four drive wheels every 20,000 miles. Goodyear, on the other hand, has the Regional RHD traction tire in our size.
  5. Call me petty, but I'd rather not send my money to France if I can, instead, send it to Ohio for a similar product.
  6. Petty again, perhaps, but Michelin's truck tire web site is crappy. There is no way to simply input your size and get a full list of available product in that size. You need to specify an "application" first. If you put "RV" in for application, you only get a handful of results. "Bus" is even worse, yielding no results in that size. It took me over an hour of fiddling with the site just to find all the 315 steer and drive tires available in the US. And anybody that makes it that hard to get information does not deserve my business.

In any case, the 315's fit just fine, with no rubbing or conflict with the tie rods, and so now I am the proud owner of a pair of Goodyear RV tires. We'll see how they do. Now that I know, of course, I will buy the cheaper (and, IMO, better) G291's when it comes time to replace the tag tires, putting the 291's on the front and rotating the 670's to the tag. As a side note, I am very glad the 315's fit with no problem, since we very deliberately replaced all our 8.25" wheels with 9" ones two years ago, explicitly to upgrade to the wider tires.

As for the front-end shimmy, as predicted, the fresh tires all but eliminated it. That being said, we can still detect a muffled "thump" with about the same period as the tire rotation, so whatever underlying cause there may be, it is still with us. Even though we put the best two of the four older rib tires on the tag (which meant one of the two steers we removed went back to the tag axle), those tires are also cupped, and so, perhaps, we are hearing/feeling some shimmy from the tag axle transmitting through the frame.

The two R250's that we removed are being sent off to Bridgestone for analysis. Perhaps they can tell us what our problem is. The centers of the treads are in perfect condition, with nearly the full factory tread depth intact. Conversely one shoulder of each tire is almost completely worn off, as if we had a serious toe-out misadjustment, except that the wear is uneven around the circumference. In some places, there is no tread left, with casing rubber showing through, and in other places the tread is nearly fully intact, with scalloped transitions between the regions. We got barely 40,000 miles out of these tires, which, by all rights, should last 150-200,000.

By the time we finished at the tire dealer, it was late afternoon. We realized that we would not make the coast in daylight, so we decided to stop here. Corvallis is an RV-unfriendly city, with local ordinance prohibiting staying in parking lots, which made the Elks lodge our only in-town option. This is a small lodge with a tiny parking lot, and it was packed for Keno night last night, but we were met in the lot by one of the locals, who welcomed us and directed us to an available corner. This morning's challenge will be getting turned around in tight quarters, since I don't really want to have to back out onto the street.

On our way in, we noticed an unassuming little restaurant a block away called "The Gables," which advertised prime rib. A little research revealed the place to be a local institution, so, naturally, we walked over for dinner. I had the prime rib, which was excellent, and Louise had the seafood linguine, also excellent. We shared a bottle of local Oregon Merlot, "The Academy" brand from the Deschutes valley, which turned out to be quite good.

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