kick the tires

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Alternative forms[edit]


Early 20th century. Tires on early automobiles were made of thin rubber and were sometimes of poor quality, hence a prospective buyer might kick them to see how thick they were or if they would deflate.


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kick the tires (third-person singular simple present kicks the tires, present participle kicking the tires, simple past and past participle kicked the tires)

  1. (idiomatic, colloquial) To inspect something to ensure it meets expected standards or has favored characteristics, typically before committing to purchasing or otherwise selecting it.
    • 1966, Ray Brack, "Video; The Industry Is Taking A Second Look", Billboard, 28 May 1966, page 66:
      But, like the Color-Sonics machine, US operators have had no opportunity to "kick the tires" on Cine-Jukebox.
    • 2003, Martin Howell, Predators and Profits: 100+ Ways for Investors to Protect Their Nest Eggs, Reuters (2003), →ISBN, page 189 (chapter title):
      Red Flag 1: When an Analyst Doesn't Kick the Tires or Even Read a Company's Filings
    • 2005, Matthew Fordahl, "Windows Vista: Insanely late, and promising", Gainesville Sun, 4 August 2005:
      Microsoft finally took some of the wraps off last week, releasing Vista's first major test version to about 500,000 programmers and tech professionals. The goal is to let them kick the tires, run their software on it and provide feedback.
    • 2007, "Brownback plans to withdraw from the race for the Republican presidential nomination", Spencer Daily Reporter, 19 October 2007:
      "Iowa has, the last number of presidential cycles, really been the bellwether state to pick nominees," he said. "And it's got this great balance of rural and somewhat urban, Midwest and Upper Midwest — it's just got a great balance of people so that the rest of the country looks at it. Plus it's a small enough population in size that people get the individual feel of candidates. It's like everybody depends on Iowa to kick the tires on the candidates."
    • 2008, "This time, your vote will really count", Edmonton Journal, 5 February 2008:
      In the coming weeks, Albertans will get a chance to kick the tires of the party leaders, their platforms and local candidates.
    • 2011, Gregg Rosenthal, "Packers stars, including Rodgers, may sit out Sunday", NBC Sports, 30 December 2011:
      The Packers will kick the tires on two injured starters in preparation for the playoffs.
    • 2012, William Petrocelli, "Who's Snooping Around Bookstores? Lots of People", Huffington Post, 3 January 2012:
      Not content with the advantage it gets when 39% of its customers kick the tires on the merchandise in someone else's showroom before buying from them, Amazon decided to go a little further.
  2. (obsolete) To inspect a vehicle's tires by kicking them to check for defects or poor quality.
    • 1929, Paul G. Hoffman & James H. Greene, Marketing Used Cars, Harper & Brothers Publishers (1929), page 14:
      If the dealer or his used car manager goes out to the car, he may kick the tires as though he expected them to collapse at the force of the blow.
    • 1935 April, Motor, volume 63, number 4, page 39:
      "Kick the tires and look serious" recognized as first rule for used car appraisal; 1915.
    • 1939 October, Kenneth F. Gilbert, "Automobile Salesmen Won't Tell", Consumers' Digest, volume 6, number 4, page 42:
      One of the things you wait most eagerly to hear a salesman say is the amount of the allowance. A good salesman will deliberately build up your suspense. He will start your engine, kick the tires, run his hand over the upholstery, stick his head under the hood, but, if your fenders are undented and the glass unbroken []

See also[edit]