Servicing Stop TyresBuying new tyres isn't just a matter of popping down to the local garage and throwing on the cheapest set of ‘boots' you can find. By having good quality tyres on your car you improve not only the safety of your vehicle, but its fuel efficiency as well.
Don't wait until you can see the cord…The legal requirement for car tyres in the UK is a tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band throughout the central three-quarters of the tread width, across the whole circumference of the tyres. But at this point, the ability of the tyres to grip the road, particularly in wet weather, is greatly reduced. So rather than waiting until your tyres are a definite ‘nick', it's recommended that you think about changing your tyres once they reach around 2mm of tread depth.
By making sure that your tyres are in good condition and at the correct pressure, you will also improve the handling and fuel efficiency of your vehicle. Spending a little extra on a good set of tyres could actually save you money in the long run, as long as you keep those tyres in good condition.
The demands made on your tyres are pretty extreme, especially in adverse weather conditions. Any cuts, bulges or damage to the sidewall of the tyres could lead to potentially catastrophic ‘blow outs' at speed, so it's not just the tread you need to look at. The best rule of thumb is to check your tyres every week, and if you notice any change in their condition, splits, cracks or (the sign that everyone dreads) a nail embedded in the rubber, get your vehicle to a garage and get those tyres checked by a professional. They can also make sure that the tyres are correctly balanced, preventing any vibration or ‘wobble' that can dramatically effect both your steering and your braking ability.
Tyre choicesTyre technology is, as any F1 fan knows, a major industry. The big companies spend millions of pounds every year developing new types of tyres with varying compounds of rubber. Some softer tyres will give you plenty of grip, even in the wet, but may not last as long as a harder compound. The real decision-maker in selecting your tyres is often price. In most tyre outlets you will be given a choice between budget and premium tyres. Budget tyres look very similar to premium tyres (particularly in their tread patterns) but are not optimised for quiet running, which may cause a more pronounced ‘rumble' or road noise. The quality of rubber is also often lower, so the tyre life and the ability to brake efficiently in dry and particularly wet conditions may be compromised. Although initially cheaper, they do wear out quicker, so you may find yourself replacing budget tyres more frequently.
Premium tyres, although more expensive at first, offer better performance in wet weather, reduce your braking distances and improve the handling of the car. As they are also made of better quality compounds, will last longer and are therefore more cost efficient, especially if you're a high mileage user. All of the major manufacturers offer both budget and premium quality tyres, but with so many to choose from, it can get confusing. So who are the major names in the world of tyres?
Bridgestone TyresBased in Japan, Bridgestone is the world's largest tyre and rubber company. The company is at the forefront of tyre and rubber technology, pouring millions every year into developing premium quality and budget tyres. Bridgestone was founded in the 1930's by Mr Shojiro Ishibashi, and now employs over 105,000 people in 150 countries and has production facilities and test and research centres around the world.
Today, Bridgestone plays a leading role in the development of Formula One race tyres, and is a major sponsor of the sport. Although their F1 tyres are completely different from road tyres for the average family car, the same technology that has made Bridgestone a force to be reckoned with in the sporting arena goes into a mid-range radial road tyre. The data gathered for their F1 clients then filters down through the Ultra HThe tyres produced by Continental are amongst the best in the world and are fitted as standard on most European manufactured cars including BMW, Mercedes and Volvo. One of the oldest and most established tyre manufacturers in the world, Continental is involved in research into tyres, chassis development and brakes. It recently achieved its goal of developing a car that could stop from 100kph in under 30metres and the research carried out will be used to develop tyres and braking systems capable of reducing braking distances in the future. It is this constant programme of research and development that shows that there is far more to the manufacture of tyres than just what kind of rubber to use.
Continental's research has produced some completely different approaches to tyre tread design, including winter tyres designed to retain snow between the tread blocks for added traction on snow and ice. For extreme weather conditions, Continental is at the cutting edge of tyre technology.
Dunlop TyresThe granddaddy of tyre manufacturers, Dunlop is the original. Dunlop is part of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Corporation with its headquarters in Birmingham, just yards from the original Fort Dunlop, the previous global headquarters of the Dunlop Tire Company. Dunlop, founded by the claimed innovator of the pneumatic tyre, John Boyd Dunlop, has the greatest corporate experience in the world of tyre manufacturing, and it is this heritage that has established the company as one of the forerunners in tyre development for over 130 years.
The company boasts one of the world's largest dedicated motorsport divisions, supplying thousands of tyres every week to global motorsport events. As with many of the large manufacturers, it is this experience in the demanding world of motorsport that filters down to its commercial operations and produces tyres that are suitable for almost any condition the average family car is likely to encounter.
Firestone TyresIf you're into motorsports, you will have heard of Firestone. One of the premium tyres in both two and four-wheeled racing, Firestone actually had a more agricultural birth. Harvey Firestone vowed to put America's farmers on rubber tyres, developing and manufacturing tyres for the tractor and agricultural machinery market. That simple start developed into a huge industry and today, Firestone is still the largest brand in the US agricultural tyre market. Now owned by Bridgestone, the brand benefits from two research and development teams, meaning that years of manufacturing development is incorporated into their road tyres.
Firestone offers drivers a premium quality product, using the same technology and construction methods to achieve exceptional tyres that are suitable for everything from 4x4s to sporty saloons.
Goodyear TyresGoodyear Tire and Rubber Corporation is the largest tyre manufacturer in the world with interests in Dunlop and many other brands around the globe. The name of Goodyear is ubiquitous with every aspect of the rubber market, particularly tyres.
Founded in Ohio, Goodyear has been at the heart of the development of the tyre market and is a volume leader in many sectors. It also operates a large research and development centre in Luxembourg, where tyres are designed to meet European market needs and tested to destruction under the most demanding test procedures. All of this makes Goodyear one of the forerunners in tyre development for the commercial market.
Never afraid to push the boundaries of tyres, they even play with innovative concepts that would be unheard of in any other arena. Goodyear offers tyres for every motoring situation and the products are fitted as standard with almost every car manufacturer around the world.
Michelin TyresMichelin is one of the biggest names in motorsport, particularly motorcycle GP racing. The company has a history of innovative design, and was the first to introduce the radial tyre as standard. More recently, the company developed the PAX run-flat system, enabling a car to carry on running even on a flat tyre.
The company was founded in 1889 by the Michelin Brothers and operates in over 170 countries and has manufacturing interests throughout the world. It was the first western tyre manufacturer to invest heavily in China and is in partnership with India's Apollo Tyres to develop the Radial tyre market on the domestic front, offering a cheaper alternative to its premium brand tyres. With the world focused on energy saving, Michelin is now researching into more efficient and energy saving tyres. Their Energy range claims to be more economical than traditional tyres, helping motorists save money and run more efficiently.
Pirelli TyresDescribed as the ‘Italian word for tyres', Pirelli is one of the most powerful companies in Italy - and its core business is tyres. It is one of the top tyre manufacturers in the world with 21 factories and around 20,000 employees across every continent. Pirelli's tyre sector has a marketing network covering over 120 countries around the world and sales in the billions every year. Pirelli tyres are probably most associated with high performance motoring, and much of its initial research and development focuses in this area. However, as with all tyre manufacturers, that research filters down to the general market, and Pirelli tyres are on the wish list of every hot hatch owner and car lover around the world.
Pirelli's Zero range of tyres is now being marketed in Europe and North America under the Planet Zero brand. These are premium, high performance tyres designed for every type of car from the family hatchback to the biggest names in supercars such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and even the legendary Bugatti.With such a selection of quality manufacturers producing such a huge range of tyres, there's guaranteed to be tyres that suit every requirement, no matter what kind of vehicle you drive.
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