Archive for March, 2019

Pneumatic

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

Remember in the old days when you wanted to use a word you don’t use very often, but it was just the right word? You could marry a good speller, as I had the good fortune to do, or, you were doomed to try to look it up in a book… a book called a dictionary. This is not a small book either. Ours, the one we still have but hasn’t seen the light of day for some years now, came with our Encyclopedia Britannica. It is a large format book in 3 volumes. And words like “pneumatic” were especially problematic. You knew how to say it, but how is it spelled? You look all through the “NEW”s, and nothing shows itself. You often wound up choosing a different word because of that P stuck at the beginning.

Now we can just start typing, and by golly, a decent stab at it usually gives you the correctly spelled word. Writing should be writing, and weight lifting should be weight lifting. You shouldn’t have to haul out a heavy book when you are trying to write, at least I don’t think so.

Lately GMAIL ™ has been helping me with more than spelling. I start typing a sentence, and it cheerfully suggests a completion of the sentence for me. If I hit the TAB key, if fills the rest in, and often even puts the right punctuation at the end. I often find myself liking much of what it suggests, and when I consider the effort to type out exactly what I had thought about, vs the suggestion that is almost the same, I will choose to let GMAIL ™ do the writing for me. GMAIL’s ™ suggestions are often more cheerful that what I had had in mind, which makes me wonder whether it is trying to make the world a more civil place. I hope it succeeds.

Back to the topic of pneumatic tires. I have a lot of them. Besides the ones on my cars and trucks, there are bikes, a riding lawnmower, rototiller, wheelbarrow, etc. Tires filled with air make my life easier. While it isn’t quite as obvious with cars, a low wheelbarrow tire can be a real downer. They stand tall and proud until you get a load in them, and then you have to push twice as hard. Wheelbarrow manufactures do everything they can to obscure the low tire until it is too late. The thing is loaded, and the tire is pneumatically low. It needs some air.

I’m fortunate to have a good air compressor in my garage/shop. When I pop on the right attachment, I can put up to 110 psi into just about any tire I own. It is effortless and very satisfying. There is just one problem though. Not all tires take the same air pressure. My plow truck takes 75 psi, while the car takes 32 psi. My bike takes around 70, and the riding lawnmower does take air, but I have absolutely no idea how much.

Now I’m sure the engineers that design tires are very smart people. I know this in part because when they construct the molds that tires are made in, for the writing on the tire to be legible, they have to make the numbers and letters backwards in the mold. Not just anybody can do that, and I’ll bet these engineers have degrees from institutions of higher learning.

However, the people that decide what gets printed on the tires must have been hired off the street at below minimum wage. They often have the manufacturer of the tire in big bold legible letters. With a wheelbarrow full of sand and a half flat tire, you can walk right up to that tire and know in a minute that it is a BF Goodrich or a Firestone. Information I would suggest is completely useless in the current situation. In a slightly smaller font, but almost as prominently displayed is the size of the tire, in a code that only tire salespeople understand. It reads something like P235/75R15. This string of useless gobbledygook can also often be read in the standing position.

But to determine how many psi of air to put into the tire, one has to read the tiniest most inaccessible print on the whole bloody tire. You have to get down on your side, put some spit on your finger, and rub it along where you think the magic number is located. The spit makes the raised lettering stand out and able to be read more easily. You know when you’re getting close when you see words to the effect of, “not intended for highway use.”

“Great,” I think to myself. “I was just about to wheel this barrow of sand over to the highway and start passing cars with it.” In the tiniest font, often upside down and on the other side of the tire you started looking first, because of course you wouldn’t print the max psi on both sides, there it is, the number you’ve been looking for. “Inflate to 20 psi. DANGER, do not over-inflate!”

“Yes, I know I shouldn’t over-inflate! That is why I’ve been lying in a mud puddle for the last half hour looking for that tiny number!”

Not that I would ever qualify for the lofty position of pneumatic tire engineer, but if I did, I would insist that the manufacturer of the tire, the tire size, and all the rest of the nonsensical gibberish on the side of the tire be relegated to a one point font, and in big white letters would be the words, “Inflate to 20 psi max.”