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by Paul Williams
With over 100 years of experience manufacturing tires, you’d think Michelin would be all over the market for wheel and tire accessories. Better late than never, as the company launches a line of automotive accessories that will “help people and their mobility,” says Michelin marketing manager Daniella Gould.
Earlier this year, Michelin introduced two products to assist with wheel and tire changing. Now, three more hit the market: a foot pump, a digital pressure gauge and an air compressor.
It’s not like there’s a shortage of these products on the shelves of your automotive parts supply store. Over the years I’ve bought several of them, only to see cheap foot pumps fall apart or bend, and tiny compressors overheat and shut down. Well, what did I expect for five-bucks each?
Michelin is not about to sell junk, however. It’s single-barrel foot pump weighs nearly two-kilograms, is sturdily constructed and features a big gauge with pressure measured in pounds/square inch and kg/cm. Too bad most of the metric pumps around here use kilopascals (KPA), as does Environment Canada (to get kilopascals, simply multiply kg/ cm by 100). But it’s a nice pump, with a tire-tread like footpad, and an embossed, smiling, Bibendum (the Michelin Man) waving up at you as practise your high-stepping. After use it folds for storage.
According to Ms. Gould, this Michelin foot pump won Auto Express magazine’s Best Footpump category two-years in a row (Auto Express is a British automotive magazine, and the pump’s been on sale in the UK for a while).
The 12-volt digital tire compressor is another nicely designed and solidly constructed item in the Michelin accessory line. In appearance and build-quality alone, it’s far superior to the contraption in my garage (which looks something like a miniature steam engine, its accessories long since lost).
The Michelin compressor reminds you more of a big, portable, CD player – very modern. It weighs in at one-kg and its ancillaries are all tucked neatly underneath (where most of us prefer our ancillaries) so you won’t lose them.
Operation is simple. Plug the 12-volt connector into your car’s power point and choose your desired pressure format (PSI, BAR or KPA) by pressing the button marked “R” (for “re-set). Select the pressure you want by pressing the + or – buttons. Attach the connector to the tire and press the “on” button. The tire’s pressure is monitored in the digital display and the pump shuts off automatically when your pre-set pressure is achieved.
The little pump works well, and I like the automatic shut-off feature. My only concern has to do with how the buttons are identified. The on/off switch is marked I/O (I’m told this is a universal symbol understood by engineers and computer programmers that comes from 1/0, as in binary notation) but it’s not readily understandable by consumers, as both “on” and “off” begin with O. The “R” button, for re-set, not only changes the pressure format before you turn it on, but does actually re-set the machine when it’s in operation. Press it accidentally while it’s pumping, and you’ll re-set the pressure to zero, causing the pump to run continuously. That doesn’t seem a good idea. Maybe it should be designed so that if you press “re-set” while it’s pumping, it should stop.
However, if you keep your eye on the pump, following the instructions in the user guide, this won’t be an issue.
After use, the accessories (connectors for bicycles, balls), power cable and pump snap tidily in place, and there’s a nice storage bag for the compressor when not in use.
Like foot pumps and compressors, digital tire pressure gauges aren’t new. But like these other two items, Michelin has added value to their gauge.
It uses three batteries, which are included. The digital readout is selectable between the same display formats found on the compressor (PSI, BAR and KPA), and most helpfully, the digital readout is illuminated a high-tech blue – helpful in garages or at night.
When you’re not using your gauge, there’s a surprisingly high-quality case in which to store it. This you can keep in your glovebox, and because it’s so nice, you probably won’t lose it.
The gauge unfortunately arrives in hateful plastic packaging that requires a machete or Sawzall to open. The compressor and foot pump are packaged in cardboard boxes that are easily accessed.
These Michelin accessories can easily be kept in your car, and their high quality suggests they’ll offer years of service. Special introductory pricing was in effect until recently (foot pump $19.99, compressor $39.99, digital gauge is $29.99), but pricing has since been raised to $29.99 for the foot pump, $59.99 for the compressor, and $39.99 for the digital tire gauge. These items are available at Canadian Tire stores, and will eventually be picked up by other retailers.
Although there is no written warranty with them, Ms. Gould states that, “Michelin will replace a defective unit without question for the life of the product.” There’s a toll-free number on each piece for customer service if you have questions while using them.