Five Tips for Selecting and Maintaining Tires to Extend Performance, Safety and Durability in the Field
At a worksite or on the road between jobs, your tires deal with a variety of surfaces every day. An unexpected flat can cost you productivity, and even when everything's going right, traction, toughness, and capability are important strengths you rely on. With so many varieties and brands, which tires do you choose?
While all tires are round and black, there are significant differences that require careful matching to the job. Ask yourself what you'll be calling on your tires to do. The wrong tire type or a low-quality brand can cost you big in the long run, even if they were cheaper to purchase up front. On the road, in the mud, or crunching through gravel, tire technology and performance keeps improving. To select the best-matched, longest-lasting tires for your needs, below are some tips and items for you to consider in advance of investing in your next set.
Performance Over Time
New tires are always an improvement over old, worn out ones. But how well will they ride, stop, or turn after tens of thousands of miles? The strains of hard work can take their toll. From summer heat to winter's chill, on and off pavement, often laden with heavy loads or pulling a trailer, your equipment enables your work.
You pick a set of brand-new tires because of the way they perform. It's reasonable to expect that they should continue to deliver the same kind of grip, traction, and feedback over the course of tens of thousands of miles. It may be surprising to find out, however, that there can be a significant reduction in performance over time. Because it sneaks up on you, this can be dangerous. As the tire performance slips, it does so gradually, so you adapt as a driver.
To avoid nasty surprises when you're least expecting it, tire manufacturers spend years and millions of dollars developing designs that perform consistently. Michelin, for example, has been manufacturing tires for over 120 years and every year they work to improve the quality and longevity of its products. One of Michelin's newest tires, the Premier LTX, is designed to be sure-footed for its entire service life.
The Michelin Premier LTX with EverGrip gives light truck and SUV drivers a new choice in safety for their vehicles. Data shows that even when worn, the Premier LTX can actually stop shorter on wet roads than many brand-new tires.
When it comes to tires, a top concern of drivers is how long they'll last. More consumers, about 52 percent, worry about covering the most miles for their money than any other consideration. The numbers put a fine point on it; it's important that your tire choice be stronger for longer. Life is not easy for light truck tires. They must be able to tackle tough conditions while also delivering the exemplary wear characteristics drivers expect.
Making life even tougher for truck tires is the ever-escalating power war among automakers. When a heavy-duty diesel pickup can put down in excess of 700 lb-ft of torque, it's the tire's job to transmit that to the road. Hook that same truck up to a heavy load, and the forces the tire has to contend with become even more difficult. It's an everyday challenge when you've got such strong powertrains out there, ideally suited to towing.
Besides the tough torque challenges facing today's tires, fuel economy, treadlife, and traction are also key concerns. Not only that, once you've zeroed in on a tire with the right overlap of characteristics, what are the chances it's available in the right size for your vehicle? There are hundreds of trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and work vehicles out there, and that means there's a staggering variety of sizes and widths to accommodate market demand.
As an example, for tradesman putting hundreds of miles of highway driving on each week, the Michelin Defender LTX M/S tire may be a good choice. The new tire is a decedent of the popular Michelin LTX M/S 2 and sports a familiar tread pattern but also features the company's new Evertread compound. This new compound is designed to stand up to ever increasing job demands and helps deliver a balance of performance including better traction, fuel economy, and long treadlife.
The first time a chunk of gravel or construction scrap slices your sidewall on the jobsite you learn the importance of having a tough tire. At best, changing a flat out in the field is a hassle but it can also cost you time and impair your safety. Chip and tear resistance for off-road tires comes down to a few factors. The design of the tread itself can have a major impact, off-road tires often extend the tread pattern over the shoulder of the tire onto the sidewall. It's how BFGoodrich designs off-road-ready tires like the All-Terrain T/A K02. The manufacturer has learned what matters in a great off-road tire by racing relentlessly for 40 years, resulting in innovations like a thicker sidewall rubber and a robust tread design it calls CoreGard. It's a good example of what goes into a tire that'll help keep you from getting stuck but also resists tire failures and punctures on the job site.
The company has heard from fleet owners whose livelihood depends on reliability of their equipment. They've created the All-Terrain T/A KO2 to withstand the punishment a jobsite dishes out, protecting against punctures and wear. Usually, tires that shine off-road are not well-suited for street use; handling can be shaky, braking is often compromised, and rapid wear on pavement can turn an expensive investment into a disappointing losing proposition. That's why tires from brands like Michelin and BFGoodrich are designed and engineered to deliver superior longevity on pavement. Tread design makes a big difference in both handling and longevity. The interlocking design of the tread blocks are more stable and wear more evenly. A footprint shape that evenly distributes the weight of the load and the stress of the road is another key factor that promotes uniform wear.
Staying on-time and on-budget often means venturing out when the weather is foul. Rain, snow, mud, or any combination of the three can make progress a challenge. There are elements of every tire's tread design which play a crucial role in keeping you moving. Grooves that direct water away from the contact surface between the tire and the road are called sipes.
The amount, location, and depth of these tiny water siphons are key to maintaining traction and resisting hydroplaning. The design of the Michelin Premier LTX, for example, has rain grooves that expand as the tire wears and additional grooves that emerge over time as well. You don't have to count them, but paying attention to the amount and design of a tire's siping and rain channels can help you understand how capably it will evacuate water away from the friction surface.
In some extreme jobsites where you've left the pavement far behind, the key is traction in conditions that are often best described as "soupy." Many aggressive-looking all-terrain tires don't live up to their appearance; the tread clogs up and kills traction, which means forward progress stops. The K02, for example, has side-biting tread lugs that stick out from the sidewalls. Special mud-phobic raised bars in the tread spit out that mud that can bring you to a halt, and tenacious bite is provided by a sipe design that locks in three dimensions.
Another tip, as it relates to all season tire selection, is to look for a tire that meets or exceeds the Rubber Manufacturer Association (RMA) Severe Snow Traction requirements. For the best winter traction you should look for the 3-peak mountain snowflake logo molded into the sidewall.
Temperature plays a role in tire performance, too. Tires that work when it's warm can become a liability when the snow flies. The rubber becomes less pliable, and compacted snow can have the same effect as mud on a tire's traction, with the added danger of reduced traction due to icy conditions. Sipe design, so essential to wet-weather performance, plays a key role in snow traction, too, as does the rubber compound. A tire that stays pliable in low temperatures will be better at keeping you moving.
If you live in a climate that experiences the serious bite of winter, you will be best served if you invest in a set of winter tires. You can put them on when the average daily high drops below 40 degrees, whether you get ice or snow or not, you will notice major improvements in traction as you hit the dead of winter. You'll also be saving miles on your standard all-season tires as they sit in your shop for a few months.
Although ranked second in consumer's minds to longevity, safety should probably be the most important thing when considering your tires. The safety you get from a set of tires is a function of how well they balance performance across all areas. The life of a tire is demanding. Temperatures can be hot or cold, even during the same day, and in all cases they're called upon to handle extreme weight and to transfer tremendous engine power to the road surface. Finding the limits of a tire design's performance is not a fun experience but it is likely to happen from time to time.
Seeking tires that employ the latest tread design and rubber compound technology is important. Digging in without getting packed with mud or snow is an engineering challenge for tire makers. The best off-road tires utilize multiple techniques to help evacuate the tread, bite into the terrain, and avoid getting stuck in the wilderness.
Eventually, you must drive back to paved civilization, where advanced tread compounds and designs, like you'll find on tires like the Michelin Premier LTX and Defender LTX M/S, deliver sure-footed handling and braking, even after covering thousands of miles.
There are a lot of things to consider when buying tires. Whether you are in the market now or not, the next time you hop in the cab you should remember that the only thing between you and the road is your tires. If you take care of them with routine maintenance like rotations and ensuring proper inflation pressure, they are a lot more likely to take care of you.