Tyres – Round Black Things!

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No one likes buying new tyres – but we should!

Sorry to state the obvious, but the round black things at the corners of your car are the only contact your precious machine has with the road surface. The abilty to accelerate, corner and most importantly stop, come from a relatively tiny contact patch of rubber – that is no bigger than a sheet of A4 paper!

Tyres, despite doing their best to look like, well… dull round black things are incredibly technical. Natural rubber, silca, steel and magical chemicals are just a few of the ingredients that are thrown into the mix before the tyre is baked and ultimately put on sale.

I’ve visited tyre factories, done a lot of tyre testing and learned a thing or two from the experience. The key thing you get to do at tyre events is compare and contrast tyres on controlled, consistant surfaces. A favourite test I did was to see how much grip a winter weather tyre had over a summer tyre… but the test had a twist.

Wet winter weather will expose a tyre’s weaknesses very quickly and as a rule a winter certified tyre will displace water better than a summer tyre and also in cold weather (sub 7 degrees Centigrade) winter tyres provide better grip as they generate more friction with the road surface.

In this particular test I had two identical Audi Q5s – one was fitted with a part worn summer tyre (i.e. the normal Irish tyre we buy) from a premium brand and the other car had new winter tyres from China that had a very western sounding name. The road surface, on which I was to do a simple brake test from 80kph, simulated a typical greasy surface. The premium brand summer tyre stopped halfway down the track while the Chinese tyre stopped only after I went off the end of the track! You’d have presumed that the winter tyre would win hands down and if it was a premium or even sub premium brand it would have but in this case it didn’t! The lesson learned was a simple one – cheap tyres are dangerous when pushed to the limit!

Image by ProjectManhattan

Image by ProjectManhattan

Sadly too many drivers crash, skid or lose traction as a result of the car loosing grip with the road surface – something that is less likely with better tyres. Unfortunately new tyres are mostly bought when they have to be – as a ‘stress purchase’ usually to get a car through the NCT. Buyers unlike we motoring hacks don’t get to experience comparison testing so dear reader please do as much research as you can prior to buying your tyres. Simply ask your tyre dealer how good is the tyre they’re selling you and get the best you can afford.

Of course tyres on their own won’t stop people losing control of their vehicles in the case of say diesel spills or ice etc. but they will go a long way to helping you keep control in an emergency. The simple truth is with tyres you get what you pay for. I’m sorry for stating the obvious, but its up to you.

Only buy cheap tyres if your life is cheap!

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About Author

Michael Sheridan

Michael is Motorhub's Editor. Well known from TV and radio, Michael has been writing, presenting and judging cars since the mid 90's. He is a renowned Producer/Director and documentary film maker. Dozens of credits include: The Whole Way Round (Gay Byrne), The Shamrock Run (Alan Shortt), The Viking Run (Clodagh McKenna) and The Irish 66ers (David Mitchell) and The Climb for Kids (Colin Farrell). Print credits include: the RTE Guide (motoring editor 1999-2003), many national daily papers and Sundays including The Irish Times (freelance) plus other magazines. National radio credits include multiple at RTE Gerry Ryan show, the Mooney Show, The Dave Fanning Show, Drivetime etc. TV credits as a motoring expert include RTE's flagship current affairs show Primetime and TV3's Ireland AM. Michael also presented RTE's car show Drive! in the late 90s and directed some items in MPH2 on TG4. Michael contributes weekly on motoring issues to The Last Word show with Matt Cooper on Today FM. Michael has represented Ireland's motoring journalists in Motorsport at the International Mazda MX-5 endurance race series in Italy and the Arctic Ice Race. He has been a Car of the Year Judge for 20 years, more recently a judge for Van of the Year. Michael is a former Chairperson of the Association of Professional Motoring Press (APMP).

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