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Rick Payton believes he sees an unlimited market for the flat-jack inflatable tire cushion for which he is handling North America distribution. Jobbers and shop owners who saw the cushions during their U.S. launch at SEMA expressed a lot of interest in the “tire pillows” invented by Manfred Kaestlmeier in Germany, according to Payton.
The bags have been available in Europe for about a year and Porsche has taken them on as an accessory, according to Kaestlmeier, who was in the flat-jack booth at SEMA. Payton also pointed out that some high-end car dealers are actually using the cushions as promotional items. The air bags can be customized with the dealer’s name and bar code address for and added $20 per bag.
The small air bags are placed ahead of a cars tires and the vehicle is driven onto them. Then they are inflated to 10-12 psi with a small pump. They are designed to combat the tire flat spotting that occurs when vehicles are stored for a period of time. They increase the contact patch of the tire by a factor of five so that the weight of the vehicle is not pressing down on just four tiny spots, according to the company. The cushions also insulate tires from temperature fluctuations.
Flat-jack tire cushions come in three sizes and are priced low for the small size and higher for medium and large. Tire width, rather than vehicle size, determines which bag to use, according to Payton. Some customers prefer the big bags as a one-size-fits-all solution.
The company also makes a bag for RVs and motorhomes that can be used to level a camper parked at an angle. Payton said the bags should not be used as a vehicle jack, but he has had requests for smaller bags that could be used to push out dents in metal.
Payton is hoping to expand flat-jack’s dealer network this year. The company, based in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, can be reached by calling 512-484-4501 or by emailing [email protected].