Low-profile tires fail on Michigan's tough winter roads

Vehicles with low-profile tires are ending up at repair shops at high rate


WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A burnt orange Dodge Dart was supposed to be the high-mileage and hot-looking little car for the Hershey family of Lake Orion.

Yet, it's sitting in the driveway, as low-mileage as can be, because it's not moving.

Jackie Hershey won't even start it.

"If I drive it I am at too high a risk of getting a tire popping and then end up on the side of the road," she said.

She has the receipts for the three 17-inch sport tires she has replaced since she bought the vehicle this past July. Two of the blowouts happened to her husband in one week in January.

"They happened on his way to work. He lost two days of work because of his tire popping at 5:30 a.m. trying to get on the freeway," said Jackie.

John Moore manages the Firestone Tire store on Elizabeth Lake Road in Waterford Township.

"For me, it's function, not fashion," he said.

Moore sees a dozen cars each day with this problem: People buy flashy-looking cars with high-end aluminum rims which are in no way suited for Michigan's winter roads.

"The problem is the lower sidewall of the tire, the shorter sidewall. It doesn't have as much flexibility so you don't have that air chamber when you hit that pothole, it doesn't take as much for that sidewall to smash down and damage the wheel," he said.

The best advice is to buy winter wheels. You can spend between $800 and $1,000 to get steel rims and larger profile tires in the bad weather.

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