Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE
Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE
L1 certification, and has an associates degree
in business management.
(Printed in the Journal
of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
It all began with a remark on a service invoice: "Left front tire is worn. Recommend four new tires per factory recommendations"
The vehicle sparking my curiosity was a 2002 Volvo V70 All-Wheel-Drive. We had just purchased the Volvo for resale and I was going through the dealer repair orders in the glove box. A recent $900.00 service invoice had caught my eye. The invoice showed that the vehicle had just over 15,000 miles and had come in for the 15,000 mile service. That same invoice referenced a worn l/f tire and the recommendation for the replacement of all four tires, which the owner had agreed to.
At first blush I thought this might be just an error or a marketing ploy to boost tire sales. Further investigation into the Volvo's glove box invoices proved interesting. I found a letter titled: "Information Campaign 102." The letter was part of a foldout owners manual supplement that had been mailed to the prior owner. The letter stressed the fact that Volvo AWD vehicles have special requirements and that only tires of identical brand, size, construction, tread pattern, load, speed, and temperature rating should be used. I found that statement rather odd, at least regarding the speed rating. Let me digress here for a moment. At our dealership, we always stress to the customer that they should always replace tires with those of the same size and speed rating. This however is often difficult to accomplish on Volvo models. Most cars today have a tire decal or "placard" on the door, door frame, glove box, or inner console lid. Volvo's are a little different in that they typically put their placard on the inside of the fuel filler door. That in itself is not a problem. What bugs me about Volvo is that they rarely put the speed rating on that placard. The Volvo placard normally states the air pressure and size but the speed rating letter is often not included within the size listing. The owners manual will often refer you to the placard for this information. A call to our local Volvo people here revealed that they have found that same issue. As a remedy, they always install tires of the same speed rating as those that are already on the car. Sure that will work ok, but what if the tires have already been changed? Did the last person install tires of the correct speed rating? Maybe not, considering the expense of the higher speed rated tires today. How do you know which is the correct speed rating to use? The aftermarket tire guides are not always correct on the size information for Volvo's, let alone the speed rating. Hopefully, in the future Volvo will post the speed rating with the size on the tire placard.
Anyway, back to the letter. The letter included a fold out addendum to be placed in the owners manual. In the addendum, the following information was stressed: "When tire replacement is necessary, Volvo strongly recommends replacing all four tires at the same time with identical tires as explained above. Failure to do so can result in a circumference difference that may damage the transmission and all-wheel-drive system."
Well, it would appear that the dealership's service department was correct. The manufacturer did recommend all four tires even if only one was needed. Just goes to show you how more and more expensive it is getting for the automotive consumer today.
In a sense, I'm glad I stumbled on this information. This is just another example how difficult it can be to be an independent servicer today. Even with all the computers and service bulletins, we can easily fall out of the loop on the proper service information. Just something to keep in mind the next time a Volvo All-Wheel-Drive comes into your facility needing one tire replaced.
Happy Holidays and my wishes for a prosperous New Year to all.