Nice, eh?

I can't believe I'm working this hard. I wanted low rolling resistance tires for Silent E, and I found an outstanding deal on some 15" rims at the junkyard. But I had to pull them myself.

2007-09-02 Update: pictures of the rims, with tires mounted!

You see, low profile tires are supposed to have lower rolling resistance. This is, it has been explained to me, because a tire must flex as it reaches the bottom of each rotation, and unflex as it leaves, approaching the top. This is intuitive if you consider how tires look at rest. It's simple to imagine a single point on the tire as it rotates around, following the shape of a stationary tire. The amount of flex is called "deflection". Since low profile tires have less space to flex in, they have lower deflection. Therefore less energy is wasted flexing the sidewalls on each rotation, and the tires rolls more easily.

My '88 Honda Civic Wagon came with 175/70R13 tires. Using the extremely cool Java online Tire size calculator, I found that 175/55R15 tires would be an almost exact match, and 15" tires are reasonably common (and therefore inexpensive). During the lunch break, I headed on down to J&B Used Auto Parts to see about getting some 15" rims.

Victor was very helpful. He understood what I wanted, realized that I was at a junkyard because I didn't have a lot of money to spend, and worked hard finding me some nice rims. Eventually his computer coughed up a '95 Saturn with 15" aluminum rims and the appropriate bolt pattern.

I went into the yard to check them out. They had an exciting teardrop pattern, apparently known as "Swirling Slotted 3-spoke". Although I'll put up pictures of the actual rims when I take them, this page has pictures of all the stock Saturn rims. Mine is near the middle, the H 7007 for '95-'01 Saturns.

My limit was $100. The tires were 195/60R15, only an inch wider than my stock tires; they'd probably fit 175s. One of the rims was scuffed and had a tiny dent in the bead lip. I mentioned this to Victor and asked how much. He replied, "$25 apiece if you pull them yourself."

Not a job I was looking forward to, but I was lightweight rims help rolling resistance, too. For that price, I was willing. (I later found, through the link above, that the dealer charges $235 per rim, and that aftermarket charge $135.)

Pulling the tires was the worst job of the month. This is Florida, at lunchtime. It was hot, and there was no shade to be found. I had to scavenge for a jack and tire iron. The tire iron was black, and became too hot to hold if I left it out of my shadow for more than a minute. The car was on sand, and needed a stone or car part to rest on after I removed each tire (otherwise, I couldn't get the jack out). Even carrying and rolling the tires back was a major chore: they wouldn't roll straight, bending over and rolling them made breathing hard, and they heated up in the sun. (Aluminum conducts heat very well, so even one spot in the sunlight made the whole rim hot.)

They turned out to be 15x6 ET50 rims. This is not bad, since the stock wagon rims are 13x6 ET45. Everything ought to fit.

Three breaks, lots of water, and an hour or so later, I could stand up again. I paid my $100 + tax and lugged the things out to my hatchback (another exhausting ordeal). Getting them to fit was a problem, too.

I needed to change my clothes pretty bad, so I went home. My sister Beki was visiting, and she helped me try the new tires on the wagon. Two of them were still holding air, so I put them on the front , jacked the car down, and turned both ways.

There was no rubbing. But not much clearance, either; at full turn, my index finger fit tightly between the tire and the firewall. I figured that in a turn with a bump, it would probably rub. But no biggie; I intended to get smaller tires anyway, and they'd have more clearance.

We loaded the tires BACK into the hatchback. I changed my clothes, rested, and took off again, fully expecting to return to work after arranging for new tires. The first place -- a Tire Kingdom -- treated me like an idiot speaking gibberish. They found some expensive tires one size too large, then some reasonable tires in 185/60R15. When I asked how much smaller than the Saturn tires they would be, he couldn't even tell me.

Off the stands

The Action Gator Goodyear down the street was much nicer. I dealt with Damon, who understood I was serious. He knew why I wanted low-profile tires as soon as I told him what I was doing. He spent some time leafing through his catalogs before settling on an $84 185/55R15 Toyo T1R. When I asked him the size question, he immediately responded, "about 2 inches". (Okay, the calculator shows only 1 inch. But he was close, and he understood that I needed an answer.) He even got somebody to help me unload them when he saw how tired I was.

Then my wife called and told me I needed to come home and watch the kids. She had assumed I was staying; she hadn't realized I wanted to go back to work, so she was off making dinners at My Girlfriend's Kitchen while Beki watched the kids. And Beki had to leave.

So I schlepped my exhausted butt home. Hours later, standing up still made me a little dizzy. This morning, my legs and shoulders were quite sore. But I've got new rims and tires on the way!

2007-09-02 Update: Damon got the job done in two days. I recently attached the new tires, and added a picture.