A sorry chain of assumptions

I had to buy new tires for my car today because … well, there are a lot of reasons for that. And let me tell you what, my tires and I have been ill-served because people tend to assume things they should verify for themselves. And, mostly it was me who assumed. 😦


First of all, my tires are all unevenly worn. I found out today that the car was badly out of alignment, which has contributed substantially to this condition. Also, the rear shocks apparently need to be replaced. The first link in our chain of assumptions is mine, thinking that every time I have taken my car to the dealership from which I bought it four years ago, they checked the tires. I assumed they’d tell me if the tires were wearing unevenly, and that they’d check the alignment, too, as a matter of course. I pay extra for the “full-service” oil change and they are supposed to check all this stuff. But never once in four years of quarterly service have the words “tires” or “alignment” been mentioned.

Oh, and apparently tires are supposed to be rotated every 5,000 miles. Who knew? I have never rotated my tires in more than 40,000 miles. Again, not one word about this from the dealership in four years.

When I took the car to them yesterday to ask about new tires, the service manager came out to look at my car and check the sticker on the door that says what size the manufacturer recommends, then gave me a quote on some 235 70R16 tires. I didn’t know what any of those numbers meant, but I assumed the service manager did. Since this is a major purchase no matter how you slice it, I dutifully took the quote he gave me and trudged off around town to five other tire places asking about what they had in that size for my car (which, I should note, I took with me just in case they wanted to look at it). Not one other salesman in any other store did more than give my vehicle a cursory glance through the window before telling me what tires they recommended, then telling me they didn’t have that size in stock. Every one of them gave me a quote that did not include the cost of alignment, probably because nobody bothered to actually look at either my car or its tires.

One of the last places I went to was Costco, which also did not have the size of tire I requested. I asked them about doing an alignment and maybe the shocks, too, and they  said “we only do tires.” So I assumed that all tire shops do is tires.

Feeling frustrated and edging toward panic because I have a long drive to make over the (snowy) hills and through the woods to my parents’ house for Christmas in a couple of days, I finally pulled in to the last local tire store on the list late this afternoon. The guy didn’t look at my car or my tires, but he gave me a reasonable quote on what appeared to be some good-quality tires and he not only had that size in stock but he could do the job on the spot. I assumed he knew what he was talking about so I handed over my keys. He assumed I knew what size of tire I needed based on “that stack of quotes you brought in.”

Only when the car was up on the rack did he finally come out to tell me that oops, my wheels are 15″, not 16″. The smaller wheels and tires are the manufacturer’s second option, not the preferred option. When I bought the car used, it had oversized wheels and undersized tires on it that I immediately replaced, and again, I assumed that the tire store that sold me those new tires and wheels selected the proper size. Back then, I had absolutely zero tire knowledge, which has since been rectified somewhat thanks to the internet. At least now I know what the numbers mean, and a 70R16 is a 16″ tire. Unfortunately, I never took the time to look at that sticker on the door, nor even to look at my current tires and see what was what. I relied entirely on the advice of the “experts” without verifying one single thing for myself. Ha. Never again.

The good news with the tires is that the smaller ones cost less. The bad news is that I wasted all that time at all those shops asking for a 16″ tire when they might well have had the 15″ ones I actually needed in stock. Also, remembering my conversation at Costco, I assumed that all tire stores do not do shocks. While they were finishing up the alignment, I was on the phone with the dealership making an appointment to have those done first thing tomorrow morning so my ride will be in top shape for our trip. I mentioned this in passing to the tire store guy and he said “of course we do shocks. We do it all, any kind of service you need.” And more cheaply than the dealership, too.


I should have taken better care of my tires from the start and educated myself about rotation schedules and alignment issues. I should have verified my tire size and determined for myself what I needed. I should have made each one of the tire guys come out and look at my tires to make sure he knew exactly what he was dealing with. I should have asked at every store what services they offered. I should have been smarter, more careful, more proactive, less trusting, less rushed. I shouldn’t have let this go right up until the last minute so that fear clouded my judgment.

I do intend to take better care of this set of tires, and of my car as well from now on. Now that I know better, I won’t let this sorry mess happen to me again.


4 thoughts on “A sorry chain of assumptions

  1. Too bad you don’t have the Les Schwab tire chain we have out west. They are super motivated and we’ve been relying on them for forty years. (Even when the military had us stationed elsewhere, we tried our best to purchase our tires through them–via moves and vacations.)

    • Oh, we have them here, too, and I went there first. They did give me a quote for the size of tires that were on my car, but Les Schwab also sold me those tires initially, which I think are smaller than they should be (approved by the manufacturer, but as a second choice). I almost have a complex about how my car looks with its 15-inch tires compared to all the other cars just like it around town that have 16-inch tires.

      By the way, I read one random post on your blog tonight, robstroud, and just kept reading and reading and reading all the way back to last summer, so decided I had to follow you. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Oh, and I meant to also say, don’t feel bad about not being a tire guru. Few of us are… and, thankfully, we don’t need to be. (Hard to imagine a dealership not rotating your tires during your servicing though. I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.)

    • They will hear about my tires every single service appointment from now on, believe me. 😉 They do a good job otherwise … I think … *sigh* … good help is so hard to find!

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