'Budget' tyres cost in terms of safe braking
The extra stopping distance required on a wet road by a car with just the legal minimum tyre tread depth is truly frightening, writes Campbell Spray
Published 10/04/2011 | 05:00
THE only contact cars have with the road is the equivalent of four postcards or a total of an A4 sheet of paper. This tiny area is where every bit of motoring technology in all its power begins and ends and on it your life depends. This was just one of the frightening facts I learned at a briefing last week by Semperit to launch the Comfort Life 2 tyre
However, perhaps the most eye-opening fact was the difference between the stopping distance in the wet of a car with the legal minimum of 1.6mm depth in its tyres' tread and that of a car with 3mm depth. (The normal new depth is about 8.2mm)
At 70mph, a Ford Focus with the minimum tyres would stop in an emergency situation a massive 44 metres later than one with the 3mm. Most importantly, when it passed the relatively good car it would still be doing 50mph with all the damage and loss of life that would entail.
The move to cheaper tyres or "budget" ones which are often from China, Russia or the East is also very dangerous. The stopping distance is on average eight metres more for the budget tyre against a premium one at 50mph and again the stark reality is that when the premium car had stopped, the budget car was still travelling at 30mph.
And to add to the frighteners, the tyre industry thinks that the second-hand shops are a "significant risk" to road users. Tyres are being sold with far too much wear and, more horrifically, with sidewall repairs which are a definite no-no.
Tyre labelling is coming next year and, much like that for household equipment, there will be very clear information and ratings in three categories; rolling resistance, noise and grip in the wet.
The demand for winter tyres is set to grow after the experience of the last two years and supply could be an issue at the end of this year. As correspondence to this column showed, winter tyres, because of the different compounds from which they are made, have a massive advantages in grip when temperatures fall below seven degrees centigrade. There are still major problems, of course, in terms of cost and the storage of a second set of wheels with the alternate season's tyres. It is hoped that the tyre industry will rise to meet the challenge as have BMW dealers who will do the storage. An industry expert said that if he had to make a choice he would prefer to use winter tyres all year round and pay the penalty in high fuel consumption in the summer months.
There is very poor enforcement over here on tyre tread which is a great shame as it is a definite lifesaver.
Another aspect of the presentation by Semperit Ireland's general manager Paddy Murphy was highlighting the trend towards sealer kits rather than cars carrying a full spare. As many attendees pointed out, these kits are sometimes difficult to use and aren't at all suitable for a country riddled with potholes. However, new car buyers are tending to go for the extra space rather than a spare tyre.
Paddy Murphy said that in 2010, the Irish tyre industry showed signs of the 'green shoots' of recovery with sales up 12 per cent versus 2009 for the mainstream brands.
He attributed the growth to a reduction in the sales of the imported "budget" tyres. However, the tough economic conditions are continuing to affect sales negatively. "By our reckoning, the replacement tyre market can normally be estimated by assuming one tyre purchase per year per car in a particular market. At that rate, we should be seeing significantly more new tyres being bought and we do have to wonder if some people are choosing to run on tyres that in other, perhaps better, circumstances, they would have changed by now.
"There are important safety implications as a result of that choice," he added.