Can't fix sidewall damage

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Damage to a tire's sidewall isn't recommended for repair. Buy a new tire instead. (Mario Petitti/ Chicago Tribune photo / June 9, 2003)

Q: I had a small screw in a tire, between the outer tread and sidewall. Both Wal-Mart and Sam's Club would not apply a patch. "The screw is in the sidewall," they said. Is everyone doing this to sell tires? I bought a plug kit and fixed it myself. What's your experience?

— C.T., Park City, Ill.

A: They are not refusing to repair your tire in order to sell more tires, but to avoid a lawsuit. Tire sidewalls carry the load, and while doing this, they also flex. Sidewall damage could lead to sudden tire failure, and that could lead to loss of control, and we don't need to tell you what that could lead to.

Q: I have a 1964 Dodge Polara two-door. I would like to change the drum brake system to a disc-drum system. Do they do such conversions? Is it big money?

— C.C., Chicago

A: There is certainly a cost factor. We would leave well enough alone unless we planned to race the car.

Q: My tires have good visual appearance (no rot, flaws, etc.) and the tread is ample for another year or more, but they are over seven years old. Some carmakers recommend discarding after six years, regardless of wear. What do you recommend?

— H.F., Darien, Ill.

A: We recommend you do what you think is right. If they were our tires, we would probably leave them on until the tread depth reaches 1/16 of an inch. Here is another example of attempting to steer clear of litigation by suggesting the safer chronological tire life. Despite several studies, no scientific data yet defines the end of tire life. Remember, these are suggestions, not requirements.

Q: I was wondering if I can take a filter for a home AC system and cut it down and use it for a cabin air filter?

— G.D., Harleysville, Pa.

A: Sure, you could. But we are not sure you would get the same benefits as from a filter designed for the car. The media may be too loose and do little to filter the air, or it may be too tight and put a strain on the blower motor.

Q: I've just about had it with mechanics who service my farm tractor and other small engines. They cite the age of the fuel (gas or diesel) for my starting and running problems. They say the fuel goes bad after 30 days. What's the real story?

— G.S., Marengo, Ill.

A: Fuels do deteriorate over time, but it is closer to 60 to 90 days. Fuels are mixtures of many compounds, and the most volatile evaporate soonest, leaving behind the lesser stuff. Eventually, some of the fuel turns to sludge and varnish, which can clog the narrow passages inside the carburetors. Before you store your machines, pour some fuel stabilizer into the tanks and run them for a few minutes. For small gas engines that were not treated and refuse to start, there is a new product called Start Your Engines from Gold Eagle that might preclude a trip to the shop.

Send questions to Motormouth, Rides, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., 5th Floor, Chicago, IL 60611, or with name and town to motormouth.trib@verizon.net.

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