Rules or Recommendations?


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Recently, I made a 150-mile trip with Junebug, my Mini Cooper. The route took me over the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and into the high desert that runs from southeast Washington State to northern Arizona. I’d just recently installed brand new run-flat tires, and this was my first long-haul drive on the new shoes. It did not go well.

Driving down the interstate just a bit faster than prevailing traffic (in this case, 75–80 mph), I felt every single rut and wrinkle in the road surface. Slowly, and inevitably, as I drove the mountain passes into the interior of Oregon, the handling worsened by a lot. When I rolled into my destination city, the steering was uncontrollable. I was convinced that I’d broken the steering rack; my car was all over the road no matter how I steered her. Thankfully, there was a store nearby for the retail outfit that sold me the tires, so I hobbled my way into their service bay.

"That was the most life-threatening ride I've ever had," I confessed to the service manager, "either I blew up my steering rack, or these are absolutely the WRONG tires for my car." The technicians were already pulling the tires and wheels off of Junebug even as I described the issue.

Thirty seconds later, a technician waved me over for the root-cause analysis. The driver’s rear tire had a seven-inch split in it—not a cut, not a slash, but what looked like a manufacturing failure. However, the flat run-flat didn't look flat; it looked as normal as the other three tires. The technician said, "Well, sir, there's the problem. We'll get a new one mounted on your car. How long had you been driving on it that way?" I replied, "Oh, I don't know… 150 miles give-or-take."

He concluded, "That explains why it was getting sloppy; the standard says '50 miles at 50 miles an hour.'" Chuckling, I added, "I guess I took that as more like a recommendation." An hour later, I was on my way with four good tires and a car that went where I pointed her.

While it wasn't pretty, that tire did its job and got me where I needed to go even while going well beyond what it was specified to deliver. The point is that there are rules, and then there are recommendations. One person's rule might be another person's recommendation and vice versa. That is where standards come into play. What are they? What do they mean? How do they get specified? And what are the impacts on our industry? Sometimes, the way you treat them is situational.

To read the full article, which appeared in the September 2019 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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