Just like clutches and brake pads, new tires can benefit from following a break-in procedure. During the curing process, a release lubricant is applied to the tire to prevent it from sticking to the mold. The lubricant often remains on the tread until it is worn away, compromising traction. "Taking it easy for the first 500 miles or so with gentle acceleration, braking, and cornering will help maximize a tire's performance and ride quality after break-in," says Corky. "This also enables the different layers of steel, rubber, and fabric to start working together properly."
Don't Mix & Match
It might not seem like a big deal to mix radials and bias-ply tires on a car, but Corky adamantly advises otherwise. "I see it done all the time on hot rods, but you should never do it since it could lead to a severe understeer or oversteer condition," he explains. "Not only do radials and bias-plies grip the road differently, rims designed for bias-ply tires can crack due to the extra stress placed upon them by radials. People think it's OK to because some guys at the dragstrip might get away with it, but it's never something you want to do in a street car that will have to go around corners."
Racers have been inflating tires with nitrogen instead of regular compressed air for quite some time, and now this practice has started trickling down to the mainstream. Keep in mind that ambient air is already 78 percent nitrogen, but pure nitrogen has its benefits nonetheless. "The biggest benefit of nitrogen is that it maintains air pressure better, improving wear and potentially increasing gas mileage. Rubber is porous, so over time air will escape through it," Corky explains. "Nitrogen molecules are bigger than oxygen molecules, so they're less likely to escape through the sidewall. Also, the nitrogen used to fill tires is free of humidity, which reduces tire corrosion from the inside out, and pressure fluctuations."
For daily driven cars, the amount of tread remaining on the tires can be a good gauge of wear. According to Corky, that principle doesn't necessarily apply to collector cars that don't see much time on the road. Regardless of tread depth, Corky suggests replacing any tire that's over 10 years old. "In the past, tires were built from natural rubber, but the newer synthetic compounds used today don't rot, which helps tremendously," he explains. "Nonetheless, if you see oxidation on the outside of a tire, it should be replaced. High or low spots in the tread indicate that the balance is off or a wheel is bent, which needs to be corrected. Furthermore, any time a car is stored for a year or more, it should be placed on jack stands to take the pressure off of the tires."
Muscle Car Tires
Many prefer a more traditional stock-like appearance. Fortunately, Coker has a full line of reproduction tires for that period-correct look. "For muscle car fans, we offer a complete line of BFGoodrich Radial T/A's ranging from 14- to 16-inch sizes. They have raised white lettering and a vintage tread design, but with radial construction and the latest in modern tire technology. We also carry vintage whitewall, redline, and goldline tires. If your wheels have seen better days, Coker offers a complete catalog of muscle car wheels as well. It's often cheaper to buy new Rallye wheels than trying to restore the originals. If you buy a set of wheels and tires from us, we'll mount, balance, and fill them up with nitrogen for free."