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Most tire technicians work either with experimental models of tires that are not yet ready for manufacturing or with production samples as they come out of the factory. Technicians who are involved mostly with testing tires from the factory are called quality-control technicians.
There are mainly two types of testing performed by tire technicians: dedicated and free-flowing, or general, testing. Dedicated testing is a high-tech, electronically run procedure that measures rolling resistance. This is the resistance at which a tire meets force and momentum (the force acting against the tire). Dedicated testing requires the technician to be present at all times during the procedure, monitoring the machines, programming variables, and collecting data. Free-flowing testing is a durability type testing. It may last for days or even weeks and covers many different operations that test the tire's durability. A tire technician might test 45 tires at once using different procedures.
To perform testing, tire technicians inflate the tires and mount them on testing machines. These machines re-create the stresses of actual road conditions, such as traveling at high speeds, carrying a heavy load, or going over bumpy roads. The technicians can adjust the machines to change the speed, the weight of the load, or the bumpiness of the road surface. Then they use pressure gauges and other devices to detect whether any parts of the tire are damaged and to evaluate tire uniformity, quality, and durability. This is done either while the tire is on the machine or after it is taken off. Technicians continue testing the tire until it fails or until it has lasted for some specified period of time.
Another test involves cutting cross-sections from brand new or road-tested tires. Technicians use power saws to cut up tires and then inspect the pieces to assess the condition of the cords, the plies (which are rubbery sheets of material inside the tire), and the tread.
Throughout the testing, tire technicians keep careful records of all test results. Later, they prepare reports that may include charts, tables, and graphs to help describe and explain the test results. If a flaw is found, the technician records the data collected and reports it to the supervisor or the engineer in charge. The safety of all vehicles riding on all types of tires is dependent upon the role the tire technician plays in the tire manufacturing process.
In August 2000, the large tire manufacturer Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires, costing the company millions of dollars. As a result of this and more recent smaller tire recalls, people have become more aware of tire problems and have begun to pay closer attention to tire maintenance. This has increased demand for qualified tire technicians.