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To the average person, shopping for a set of tires is simply a matter of finding the best deal on the ones that look the best. To the limousine industry, it’s a different matter. With limousines weighing far more than a standard sedan or passenger car, operators must take care when purchasing new tires. The unfortunate fact is there are many operators who try to save money by buying the least expensive tire that will fit the size requirements without checking if the tire can handle the weight.
“Usually, most of those people are either new to the industry and haven’t learned better yet, or gypsy operators who just plain don’t care,” says Deena Papagni, president of A Touch of Class Limousine in Madera, Calif. “Either way, it’s a compromise on safety and that’s just plain unacceptable.” Papagni adds that her company always uses tires that meet or exceed load and other safety requirements.
Can Your Tires Carry the Load?
Perhaps the most important aspect of your limousine tire is the load index. This number signifies the maximum weight capacity of each tire. The higher the index number, the more weight the tire can carry. It’s always wise to purchase a tire that either meets or exceeds the load requirement of the vehicle. “The very nature of a limousine requires heavy-duty tires,” says Robert Ulrich, chief editor of Modern Tire Dealer Magazine in Akron, Ohio. (Modern Tire Dealer is owned by Bobit Business Media, the parent company of LCT Magazine). “The size of the tire is important, but so is its load-carrying capacity. So just because one tire is the same size as another doesn’t mean they have the same load-carrying capacity. There are tires developed for use on limousines.
“All vehicle manufacturers, whether they are producing subcompact cars, limousines, or large haulage trucks, have to make sure the tires can carry not only the weight of the vehicle but also the expected load,” he says. “In the case of a limousine, that would be the weight of the vehicle plus the maximum number of passengers.” Ulrich adds that the weight is evenly distributed among the four tires, and each tire has its load-carrying capacity molded onto its sidewall.
So to make sure the tires can carry the proper load:
1. Determine the weight of a completely loaded vehicle.
2. Divide by four.
3. Make sure each tire can carry at least 1/4 of the total weight.
Ulrich suggests that if you want to know what types of tires to buy for your limousine, independent tire dealers are the best source for information. It is their business to know what load-carrying capacity each tire needs and what tires are available to you. And once you decide what you want, they will have either the tires in stock or the resources to get the tires for you quickly.
What Tires Are You Using?
LCT ASKED SEVERAL operators their opinions of the best tires for their fleets. Although for buses, sedans, and standard SUVs the answers varied, the answer for limousines remained constant.
DEENA PAPAGNI President of A Touch of Class, Madera, Calif. “When it comes to all of my vehicles, I only use the Michelin tires. They are the best tire with the highest load rating and that means a lot when it comes to the safety of my passengers and chauffeurs. I haven’t heard of any other tire company that offers the high load rating of the Michelin, but even if they did, I would probably stick with the tried-and-true Michelin.”
MICHAEL LINDSEY President of Lindsey Limousine, Hartford, Conn. “For our sedans, we use the Komatsu tire. They ride nice and are very reliable while still having a great safety record. The stretches, however, only get the Michelin tire with the high load rating. I would hate to imagine what would happen if a tire failed on a fully loaded 8-pack 120-inch going 65 mph on a busy highway. It’s not worth the risk.”
ERIC WEINER President of All Occasion Limousine, Pawtucket, R.I. “We use Michelin on all of our stretches and vans. The high load rating and the incredible durability make them not only the safest tire, but also the smartest money wise. We have been using the Yokohama All-Season Radial tire on the sedans, and they seem to work nice even with the severe New England weather we get.”
LCT also decided to find out about what tires a major coachbuilder prefers for its vehicles.
MARK MILLS Bus manager, Tiffany Coachworks, Corona, Calif. “For the stretches and SUVs, the Michelin tire is the best choice and the only choice for Tiffany. The bottom line is it’s all about safety and Michelin is the best tire for that job. As far as the buses, we stick with the tire that the original manufacturer recommends. The vehicle was designed, engineered, and built with that tire in mind. It’s a good bet that the original bus manufacturer is not going to equip a bus with a tire that isn’t safe.”
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