Tire expert values relationships

Staff writer

Misalignment can cause uneven wear. Tread depths are measured in 32nds. In addition, if steel belts are showing, it is time to get new tires!

Rod Koons’ life seems to revolve around tires. In a typical 5-minute whirl of shop activity on Monday, he measured tread depth, explained brand differences, itemized a billing, and recommended safety changes. However, Koons of Rod’s Tire and Service in Hillsboro said building relationships was the most important part of his job.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years now,” Koons said. “It’s a pleasure to come to work every day because of the people. In every business there will be some days that are not as good as others but I am thankful I can be here for those who are counting on me.”

With more than 8,000 tires crossing his sales desk each year and 300 to 400 used tires going out the back door every two weeks, one might think the tire business is booming. Koons said it is just a matter of equalization in the whole scheme of things.

“Tire prices are starting to come down just a bit,” he said. “There is a softening of the market in spots. It is all part of supply and demand.”

Koons said tire production worldwide was seeing a tremendous increase, mostly because people in countries like China and India were buying more cars.

“Those people are realizing that cars mean freedom and a lot of production is taking part in those places to meet the demand,” he said.

Increased global demand leads to increased global supplies, all of which trickles down in the softening of prices for the typical Kansas tire consumer.

“People forget that we have had very little inflation in this industry for a long time,” he said. “When the prices of tires went up, it was blamed on rising energy costs, like oil, but really it was just the industry equalizing itself. People paid the price because they had to, but oil wasn’t to blame at all.”

Koons said manufacturers made tires more from chemical derivatives and natural rubber, than from oil products.

“There is a lot of competition between chemical industries to make synthetic rubber,” he said. “But tires still require a high percentage of natural rubber in their makeup.”

Natural rubber comes from rain forest trees in Brazil and Asia that are tapped for liquid latex. Heat is used to cure the latex and reduce it into large rubber balls. This product becomes the base of every tire that rolls down the road.

Koons said his mobile tire service traveled many roads, covering a large regional area, even helping out-of-state customers.

“If we can do it, we will,” he said. “It takes a lot of resources and knowledge to do farm tire service. A lot of our business actually comes from outside of Marion County because there just aren’t a lot of farm tire services out there anymore.”

Safety is important to Koons in both farm and passenger vehicles. He often recommends new tires, not because he wants to make money, but because he wants drivers to be safe.

“Any time there is a change in how a vehicle rides, the road noise it makes, or if the traction decreases, it is time to think about getting new tires,” he said. “Industry standards say a tire is worn out when tread depth is reduced to two-32nds of an inch. That is visibly pretty smooth.”

Flats, blowouts, and shredded tires can cause accidents, and Koons said he would rather people check their tires regularly, than risk accident or injury on the road.

“People are important to me. Everyone has their breaking point,” he said. “But under ‘normal’ circumstances, new tires are going to last about four to five years, then it is time to get new ones on.”

Recently, Koons shipped a large load of tires to a customer in Mississippi.

“It’s all about the relationships we build,” he said. “We value the trust our customers place in us.”

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