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Some tires better than others on county's gravel roads

Staff writer

Finding tires that will stand up to unpaved Marion County roads is a challenge, as is avoid-ing replacing tires more often than necessary.

When a customer comes to buy tires, Rod Koons of Rod’s Tire and Service in Hillsboro asks where people will be driv-ing, mostly paved or mostly unpaved roads, and discusses what they can afford to spend.

“We’re going to have to meet their needs and within their parameters,” Koons said.

Many vehicles that customers own in the county are considered light trucks, Koons said.

That means he recommends a tire that carries more load than a tire used mainly on paved roads.

“That challenge is that there are a lot of cars on the market today that don’t have an option for a more durable tire,” Koons said.

If customers update to a new vehicle, they could lose the op-tion of getting more durable tires.

People living in rural areas, where they drive mostly unpaved roads, need tires that stand up to hitting large chunks of gravel.

Heavier load tires are more expensive, but Koons said customers who buy them usually return for the same quality of tire instead of a less expensive, less durable tire.

“I feel for our county,” Koons said. “We’ve got a lot of road. I feel bad for our county because they’ve got to maintain the roads for maybe one person.”

He suggests that rural residents pick their routes with care. Taking a different route instead of taking a shortcut can mean avoiding a route that is hazardous to tires.

That makes it less likely to have to change a tire on the side of the road. It also makes it less likely to have to replace tires too often.

“Sometimes taking the shortcut is not the best option,” he said.

If choosing a different road doesn’t make much difference, he offers other tips.

“We have to slow down,” Koons said. “Driving fast on rock and gravel seems to lead to more issues. That’s probably the biggest thing.”

Others who sell tires offer similar advice.

Barry Allen, owner of Web-ster Auto Service in Marion, said he recommended a 10-ply tire to customers who primarily drive on gravel roads.

“They’re a stiffer, more durable tire,” Allen said. “The trouble is some vehicles don’t take a 10-ply.”

Ten-ply tires have more material and are harder to puncture, Allen said.

The tread depth is thicker as well.

The cost can be 20% to 25% more than a standard tire, he said.

“Most people who live in the country, for everything they can, they get the heavier ply. Otherwise they fight flat tires all the time,” Allen said. “It’s just a price of living in the country. They can save money by buying the better tires.”

Allen also recommends monitoring tire air pressure.

Like Koons, Allen advises people to slow down on gravel roads.

“The faster you go on rock roads, the harder it is on the tires,” he said.

That’s especially true with larger gravel instead of smaller gravel.

“It’s a tough situation,” Allen said. “If you put that little gravel down, it’s gone in no time.”

Dave Leith, owner of Leith Inc. in Marion, said he recommended rural residents buy 10-ply tires with all-terrain tread.

“These are good for muddy roads, and you can use them on the highway pretty well,” he said.

Whether they can use that style of tire will depend on the vehicle they drive and what they do with it, Leith said.

He also suggested good tire maintenance.

“Keep the air pressures right for what you’re doing,” he said. “If you’re hauling something, you want more tire pressure.”

Keep an eye on tread depth and don’t let the tires get too thin, Leith said.

Leith said extra-load tires usually were more durable than regular tires.

He also recommends keeping suspension and steering systems in good condition to prevent extra wear on tires.

Last modified Feb. 28, 2024

 

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