Most car owners are often found wondering what tyres they should be looking to buy for their cars. Due to a limited understanding of tyre tread, health, use and life, it is often difficult for car owners to assess the condition of their tyres. It is not always clear whether you should look to buy new tyres or if the old ones can last a while longer.
Not long ago, tyre life was not assessed by distance traveled but by the frequency of punctures. If the frequency of punctures increased, it was assumed that the time for tyre replacement is near. In this context, the perceived conception leans towards selecting a more wider and expensive tyre instead of continuing with recommended (stock) tyre. Hence, we try to answer: why exactly do tyre manufacturers fit slim tyres if they are bound to be replaced by the consumers? (I have found this statement rings especially true for a majority of Pakistani consumers)
The textbook answer in this situation will be along the following lines; stock tyres are manufactured as per car makers’ requirements to ensure the car delivers or keeps up with its claimed figures. For example in Pakistan, tyre manufacturers have to take numerous factors into account. Across the country, most cities experience a very hot and humid climate. Apart from the intense heat, the road conditions in the country are unsatisfactory for the most part. Add monsoon season and submerged roads in this picture, both of which increase the chances of ‘Aquaplaning.’ Therefore, tyre manufacturers try and ensure that tyres that are produced for such conditions are durable while meeting the stringent requirements provided by auto manufacturers. There is a growing trend of consumers replacing their stock tyres as soon they get the delivery of the vehicle but:
- by fitting in wide tyres, they compromise on fuel economy and performance
- Some dealers make a profit by using these stock tyres in illicit activities such as selling counterfeit, used, expired or smuggled tyres, each of which is very dangerous condition considering the implications attached to them.
Here’s a fun fact: Hydroplaning is basically a function of tyre footprint, coined by Popular Mechanic. A tyre with a wider footprint will tend to hydroplane more. Why? Because wider tyres have less weight per inch of tyre contact because of wider footprint, in other words, wide tyre isn’t pressing down hard enough per square inch to push the water out of the way.
I am by no means an expert on tyres but here’s what my research has yielded on this subject:
- Hydroplaning occurs when a tyre encounters more water than it can scatter. Water pressure in the front of the wheel pushes water under the tyre, and the tyre is then separated from the road surface by a thin film of water and loses traction. The result is a loss of steering, braking, and power control.
Okay, but don’t wider tyre give me more traction?
The purpose of a wider tyre is to enhance traction in very specific conditions such as off-roading, or racing. Because the contact surface is larger, wider tyre can grip dry surfaces better than narrow ones.
In a nutshell, a wider tyre can be designed to be much more resistant to hydroplaning than a much narrower tyre, but this won’t enunciate or guarantee that wide tyre is more resistant to hydroplaning. Similarly, a slim tyre can be designed to never allow a hydroplane effect but its overall performance and wear will render the tyre almost useless in practical applications. You can design a narrow tyre that is very practical and has good performance but as with many things, this tyre will be susceptible to hydroplaning (as any smooth tread tire). Add in the debate of a tyre’s effect on a vehicle’s mileage, allegations of poor tyre manufacturing quality and this whole thing gets a lot more confusing.
As with most things, you pick your poison.
Apart from questioning the practice of replacing stock tyres, it is prudent to mention that the local tyre manufacturers are producing state-of-the-art tyres, which, contrary to popular belief, are tailor made to perform on Pakistani roads. Not all of them are great, mind you but BG LUXO PLUS (Stock Tyre for Honda Civic) is one such example. On paper, this particular tyre performs in all weather conditions. It has comparatively wide grooves, which allow more passage of water, preventing hydroplaning and is H-rated steel belted and tubeless tyre. H-rated signifies that the design of BG Luxo tyre is engineered to sustain speeds up to 210 kilometers per hour (for extended periods of time). It makes you wonder that stock tyres are not so poorly designed rather they are designed to deliver optimum fuel efficiency and decent performance.
Poor infrastructure across the country acts as a catalyst in the wear and tear of tyres, so chances are your car’s poor performance in the rainy season is partially a fault of this wear & tear. Nonetheless, following is a list of tips/practices that you can use to elongate your tyre’s life in Pakistan.
- Frequent visits to air filling stations are always positive. Although most tyre manufacturers and experts advise that two visits a month are adequate, visiting these stations more than twice a month is likely to be beneficial.
- It is imperative to bear in mind that when you want to check for air pressure in your tyres, you do it when the tyre is not hot. In a situation where the tyre is heated, the air inside is going to be warmer and therefore, the readings for air pressure will be exaggerated.
- Car owners should carefully inspect the tyre’s tread at least once or twice a month. The quality of roads in Pakistan is not the best, but it is improving with time, till uniform roads are present all around, we must treat our tyres with more care. The shallower the tread, the less life is remaining. To effectively assess our tyre tread, the owners must be aware of how deep the tread was initially.
- It is recommended that the position of tyres is interchanged after a couple of thousand kilometers. Thereby, an evenness in shape can be observed in all tyres. Ensuring that no one tyre gives up earlier than other.
- Proper maintenance of tyres also includes having the ability to identify when your tyre’s health has deteriorated significantly. If there are cracks on the sidewall of your tyre, it is indicating that the tyre is not in good health. Cracks result from a variety of reasons from heat to extensive use, but it is important for owners to identify such signs early to prevent further problems.
- If the tyre is vibrating more than usual, it is a sign of bad health, and the tyre needs attention. Just as you can hear a pebble stuck in the tyre through simply listen to irregularities in the tyre’s gyration.