Losses and Lessons: Undetected flat leaves ’51 Chevy singing a sour note

VEHICLE: 1951 Chevrolet Styleline

WHAT WENT WRONG: Most classic car owners are conscientious about checking and maintaining their tires – and with good reason. Accidents caused by flat or underinflated tires are among the most preventable. Unfortunately, they still happen. The owner of a 1951 Chevrolet Styleline backed out of his garage without realizing the car’s rear passenger-side tire was flat. With the alignment slightly altered, the right side of the car clipped the doorway.

DAMAGE/LOSS: The impact knocked off the side molding and damaged the rear door, rear quarter panel and body panel. Total cost of repairs was $1,246.03, which Hagerty paid.

LESSON: Before the rubber hits the road, walk around your classic and give your tires a quick once-over. It’s easy to spot one that’s dangerously low on air. Depending on how often you drive your car, examine your tires regularly for excessive wear and tear, and use a pressure gauge to determine if they’re properly inflated. It’s also important to know how old your tires are. While tread wear and mileage usually determine when to buy new tires for a regular-use vehicle, age is an additional consideration for your classic car’s tires. Rubber deteriorates over time even if it’s carefully maintained. The experts we consulted suggest tires should be replaced every six or seven years, unless the car is simply on display. If you aren’t sure how old your tires are, there’s no need to guess. All tires sold since 2000 have a four-digit code that reveals the manufacture date; the first two digits are the week, that last two digits the year. For example, a tire coded 2409 was manufactured during the 24th week of 2009. No code? It’s old. Time to go shopping. Tires are easily overlooked, but they are literally the only thing connecting your machine to the road.

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