Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Motor Scooter Tire Maintenance

Maintaining the tires on your motor scooter is one of the biggest safety things you can do for yourself. Your tires are your link with the road. If you neglect them, it will eventually cause some pain, and at the very least, early expense...

So what is vital? tire pressure, tire pressure, tire pressure! The reason we say that is under-inflated tires are the primary cause of tire failure! If you want long life from the tire, the correct pressures will reduce rolling friction and road heating on the tire, and that will promote performance and longer tire life. Sure that alone is a big benefit, but the biggy is a reduction in side wall flexing. Side wall flexing? Yeah, that is the distortion of the tire wall because it is under-inflated. When you drive on an under-inflated tire, the side walls flex a lot, or little, depending on how much under-inflated it is. This constant flexing eventually breaks down the tire chord fabric holding the tire together. The more road heat caused by this situation, the quicker the wall chording breaks down.

Can you see it? No! the damage is internal to the tire. Sometimes a tire that has been run under-inflated for a long time, and then inflated to the correct pressure fails shortly thereafter. It's called a blow out...

This situation is true of any vehicle tire, but for a motor scooter rider blow-outs are not an option.

Note that even a cheaper grade of 4-ply rated 2-ply scooter tire each has a load capacity of 350 to 400 lbs. So the tires can handle quite a heavy load. Tire load capacity is not a particular safety issue, because even cheaper tires have plenty.

How do I know what the tire pressure should be? Look at the tire itself for the answer. Inflation pressure is molded right into the tire! Another choice is to check the manufacturer's tire pressure label on the scooter. Sometimes the manufacturer will suggest a slightly lower pressure for the front tire. This occurs for reasons of the center of gravity of a particular scooter, and the bearing weight on the front wheel.

Some people think reducing the tire pressure helps the tire have more traction. Those are the people who have never watched a motorcycle race. Those guys lean over 45 degrees sometimes at far greater speeds than a scooter runs. Ever see one slip? Nope traction, and plenty of it.
Notice next time you watch a race look when the bike is coming in to stop. Those tires look completely inflated, and of course they are. Nice and fully round!

There are a couple more things a scooter rider can do with tires to enhance safe riding. For one thing a good inspection of the tread regularly. Often a bit of sharp gravel, metal or glass fragments will be discovered lodged in the tread grooves. Put the scooter on the stand and rotate the tires to look closely. When you find a piece of something pick it out. Otherwise it will eventually inbed deeper into the tire and be a problem.

The last thing to check is the cap on the tire air stem. That little plastic cover protects the tire air valve. If it's missing it allows dirt to accumulate at the pressure valve. Not cool! Ten cents will fix it. Put on a new one.

My pet peeve is when a new scooter owner puts tire shine on his scooter tire. That stuff looks nice, but it's so slick it it can cause a person to slide out of control! Wash your tires with soap and water and leave it at that!

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