Brian Joss – When it comes to choosing the right tyre for their vehicles, consumers need to understand what to look for, says Dries Lottering, Manufacturing Renewal Executive, Bridgestone South Africa.
“Tyres look pretty much alike, especially to the untutored eye, but it’s what goes into them that makes all the difference,” he says. “Premium brands offer important benefits to consumers: price definitely isn’t the sole — or even the best criterion because, when all’s said and done, your tyres are key to the safety and performance of your vehicle.”
Mr Lottering said there are several critical areas that consumers should consider when deciding on which tyre to purchase. These include safety, wear, grip in wet and dry conditions, braking distance, cornering, steering, noise and comfort. Properly designed tyres will also help to reduce road noise, and thus enhance the driving experience for drivers and passengers as well as other road users.
Perhaps the key point to make is that premium brands like Bridgestone invest millions of dollars in R&D each year. This means that they are constantly developing new and better ways to design tyres for increased performance, safety and durability.
It’s not just a question of design: tyre companies are constantly developing new compounds out of which to make the tyres. These new materials also constantly set new standards for what tyres can deliver. Cheaper tyres may ape the premium brands’ tread patterns, but it’s what the tyres are made of that really counts.
Then there’s what happens after the R&D. Premium brands test their tyres meticulously, so that they can deliver predictable, objective performance. Bridgestone, for example, has 10 proving grounds in eight countries, and also uses computer simulations to establish exactly how its tyres will perform in various conditions.
Just how a budget tyre will perform is one of the great unknowns.
Production quality is another area that sets the premium brands apart. These manufacturers invest in the right equipment and skills to ensure that the tyres are of the highest quality.
“You really don’t want to find out that your tyre’s quality isn’t what it might be when you’re cruising the highway at 120 km/h, or braking to avoid a collision in rainy weather,” he says. “Premium brands, like the automotive industry leaders generally, look beyond simply complying with safety and other regulations—they are in search of perfection.”
This is why leading car manufacturers work with the premium tyre brands. They are investing hugely in the performance and safety of their vehicles, so they want a tyre manufacturer who can produce something that complements the improvements they are making all the time. He points out just how much automotive design and production has developed over the past century and more.
An important point to understand is that no matter what tyre is purchased, it needs to be properly maintained, Mr Lottering says. That means ensuring it is properly inflated in terms of its load and use, and that the wheel is aligned and balanced regularly. Tyres should also be rotated for maximum life.
“There is a lot of information on the Internet that will be helpful, but consumers can also rely on the advice of trained sales staff at the reputable tyre retailers. They should take the time to compare how various tyres perform against the criteria I have mentioned,” he concludes. “As always, the first resource you turn to should be your vehicle manual, which will specify the size and specifications most suitable for the vehicle, and often the brands recommended. But as a rule of thumb, you do get what you pay for, and when you buy a premium tyre, you get true value for money.”
CAPTION; It’s what’s inside: key to safety