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Tire Tech

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When do I need to change my tires?

tire wear indicators

Technically, when the remaining tread depth has reached 2/32" (1.6mm) a tire must be replaced.  All tires have wear bars (small rubber bars moulded into the grooves across the tread pattern).   That being said, a tire doesn't instantly become dangerous at that wear level.  The grooves and channels in a tire are designed to evacuate water and as a tire wears, it becomes less and less efficient at evacuating water.  Recent tests have demonstrated that wet braking is significantly reduced at 4/32" (3.2mm). Some areas have mandated that tires must be replaced at 4/32" (3.2mm).  Please consider, for safety reasons, replacing your tires when they are worn to 4/32" (3.2mm) 

 

Can I change the size of my tires?

Well the simple answer is yes... and no.  Some people like having a wider tire for better performance handling and a more aggressive look.  Others choose a narrower tire (especially people who drive in deep snow) for better traction.  There are consequences to every choice as there are rules you must follow.  For example, a wider tire might handle in a sportier fashion however the ride might be harsher and the fuel consumption might increase.

tire profile changes

 

Before modifying your tire size you must first find out if the laws in your area allow it.  Then, make sure the overall tire height is the same (or within 2% of your OEM tire size).  Secondly, will the wider (or narrower) tire fit on your wheel?  Additionally, you must be certain that the load index of the tire is equal or greater than the OEM load index.  Will the wider tire fit in the wheel well of your vehicle without rubbing on the suspension or bodywork? The decision to modify your tire size should be made with a qualified tire specialist.


TPMS

TPMS warning light

A TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) is designed to monitor the air pressure of the tires on a vehicle and indicate to a driver when the pressure in one or more tires drops bellow a certain threshold.  There are two types of TPMS; direct and indirect.

 

 

Indirect TPMS utilises the anti-lock braking system (ABS) to monitor wheel rotation speeds. Here is an oversimplified description of how an indirect TPMS system works: When a tire loses air pressure, its circumference is smaller so it must rotate faster than the other wheels to maintain the same speed.  The ABS system sees the wheel turning faster and illuminates a warning light in a vehicle's instrument cluster.

A direct TPMS system is comprised of air pressure sensors in each wheel and a receiver/computer unit.  The sensors transmit the pressure information to the receiver in real time and if the air pressure in a tire falls bellow a specific threshold, the computer will initiate a warning to the driver.

TPMS sensor

Direct systems are more precise and can supply current tire pressure information to the driver; however, they do pose an added consideration for vehicle owners who wish to use a set of dedicated tire and wheel set for winter.  If you have not purchased (vehicle compatible) tire pressure sensors and have them installed on the winter wheels, the system will turn to fault mode and a warning lamp will remain illuminated in the vehicles instrument cluster (or menu). 

According to the 'TREAD ACT', all vehicles sold in the United States manufactured on or after September 1st, 2008 must be equipped with a TPMS system.  Transport Canada is still evaluating the effectiveness of TPMS systems, so to date, they are not mandatory on vehicles sold in Canada.  That being said, many auto manufacturers have decided to simply include them in their Canadian versions, while others are omitting them.

 

Run Flat

runflat tire

Run Flat tires, or RFT for short, are a relatively new group of tires designed to enhance safety. In essence, they are all designed with the same goal: To support the weight of a vehicle, without air, for a short period of time.  If a slow leak emerges, the tire driver can continue to drive for a short period of time (at a reduced speed) to an area where they can get the tire fixed.  There are many acronyms for these types of tires.  ROF (Run on flat), SSR (Self Supporting Runflat), DSST (Dunlop Self Supporting Technology), ZP (Zero Pressure).

Since driving on a self-supporting run flat tire without air is not easily perceptible (until the tire eventually fails) the driver must me warned of the loss of pressure in a tire with a warning lamp from a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. In addition, the added weight and rigidity of a run flat tire requires a wheel capable of supporting the added stress.  If your vehicle was not originally equipped with Run Flat tires, it is not recommended (in fact it is very dangerous) to install run flat tires.

 

Summer vs. All season

Summer tires refer to the tire compound's temperature range.  Although they were once associated with mainstream use, today they specifically represent ultra high performance tires.  The vast majority of vehicles today are delivered with all season tires. Only exotic sports cars come equipped with summer tires.

The optimal temperature range of a summer tire is above 10°C.  That means that the tire has lost the majority of its traction, well above freezing.  If you have a sports car and are planning on using it during the spring and fall, you may want to consider Ultra high performance – All Season tires.  All season does NOT mean snow traction.  In fact, many of these tires have an equivalent in a summer tire version with an identical tread pattern.  It's simply that the tread compound used will not harden beyond use until -10°C.  Only if you were to drive the all season and summer versions side by size, only on a track, at maximum cornering speeds would the summer tire perform better, and that, only after a few laps.

 

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is an inert gas that can be used in place of regular air inside your tires.  Although sometimes made out to be a magical gas, it is simply a way to keep tires properly inflated for a longer period of time.  Proper inflation is what increases tire life, reduces fuel consumption and optimizes the handling characteristics of the vehicle.  Nitrogen simply prolongs those benefits, especially for those who are less than diligent with checking their air pressure.

Nitrogen fill tire

Nitrogen reduces the amount of air that can permeate through the tire over time, providing the ideal pressure over much longer periods of time.  Since it is always possible to have a puncture, breating a slow leak, the use of nitrogen in your tires does not mean you don't have to check you tire air pressure.

When Nitrogen is generated, the process removes all moisture providing a very dry gas.  This reduces the accumulation of corrosion in the tire wheel assembly.  Ideal for people with dedicated winter wheels and tires, since they will probably not be dismounted for 3 or 4 years.

In addition, the dry air reduces the fluctuation of air pressure with the change in temperature.  The pressure in a tire filled with Nitrogen will still vary with changes in air temperature, but much less because of the lack of water vapour and the pressure changes are much more linear throughout the operating temperature range.

With your tires inflated to the proper pressure for a longer period of time, they will last longer, offer better handling and improve fuel consumption.  All things that easily offset the added few dollars per tire shops generally charge for Nitrogen.

If you need to add air and Nitrogen is not available, you may simply add regular air.  The only drawback is a loss in the efficiency of the Nitrogen. 

 

Fuel efficiency and lower rolling resistance

With consumers thinking green and the price of fuel at record levels, tire manufacturers are developing a new range of fuel-efficient tires.  This is nothing new to tire makers.  Auto manufacturers have been asking tire companies for tires with low rolling resistance for many years.  Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) is a government law that requires car manufacturers to meet minimum fuel economy levels for their fleet of vehicles.  By manufacturing tires that are lighter in weight, have shallower tread depths and creating rubber compounds that reduce the rolling resistance, they can generate fuel savings that help car companies meet these requirements.

Reduced rolling resistance comes at a price.  Often, the shallower treads lead to faster tread wear and the more efficient rubber compounds lead to reduced wet braking.  A big trade off for a small gain in fuel economy.

The latest generation of fuel efficient tires are overcoming these tradeoffs by using things like more silica, nanotechnology in the rubber compounds and lighter weight construction materials to reduce the heat generated while rolling.  These new technologies, combined with linear tread designs offer a balance between fuel economy, wet traction and durability.  

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