Bangkok - That’s what most vehicle owners think and to be honest, it’s only since I’ve become involved with serious off-roading in the past few years that I’ve come to appreciate the rubber that keeps a car attached to the road.
And having spent almost a week with the guys from Bridgestone in Bangkok for the launch of the Ecopia EP200, I have become almost a tyre nerd and find myself looking down at the type and condition of the tyres of fellow commuters almost daily.
For my application it’s quiet simple: the biggest possible tyre with the most aggressive tread-pattern and strong sidewalls.
Yet for millions of South Africans driving normal everyday cars, tyres don’t always feature high on their priority list.
According to Jan Maritz, promotions and advertising manager at Bridgestone, almost 90 percent of tyres purchased are considered to be a grudge purchase. I fully understand why, but when your life depends on four strips of rubber the size of your outstretched hand, perhaps a bit more care should be taken before you swipe that card.
Before you make that all-important decision there are a few things you should take in to consideration.
The minimum tread your tyres should have before becoming illegal is 1.6mm, and that’s around the whole tyre. It’s not much, I know, but from personal experience I would say don’t let it get to that. If you’re not sure, go to any reputable tyre fitment centre and they’ll advise you.
If your car has the original tyres fitted at the factory and you’re happy with them, stick to them. The manufacturers didn’t get to that tyre by accident, a lot of research and development went into it.
If you’re not happy, stick to the same type of tyre and tread, don’t downgrade because of price. If the speed and load index aren’t to specification, good luck trying to convince your insurance company to pay out after an accident.
Too often tyres are neglected when it comes to pressure.
We put in fuel, occasionally check oil and water levels and only bother about pressures when something is obviously wrong.
In a nutshell, if they’re too soft you’ll get wallowing and what they call rapid shoulder wear, meaning the outside of the tyre will wear before the centre of the tread. Even more dangerous, though, is that an under-inflated tyre heats up very quickly and the chances of a blow-out are significantly increased.
Overinflated tyres are likely to slip under most conditions and you’ll be suffering from rapid centre wear. Either way you’ll be doing that grudge purchase because it has a detrimental affect on tyre life and, more important, safety.
CHECK THE MANUFACTURER’S RECOMMENDATIONS
To check the recommended tyre pressures for your vehicle, there’s a sticker either on the driver’s side door pillar (or thereabouts) or on the inside of the fuel cover.
Maritz advised that wheel alignment should be done at least every 10 000km to prevent uneven wear, particularly with our potholed roads, where tyres take a beating.
But back to the reason for me being in Bangkok. As with almost everything related to anything these days, eco is the new buzzword and motor manufacturers and their related industries have to start to giving serious consideration to the environment.
Almost all tyre manufacturers have an eco-type tyre.
We tested the Bridgestone against two of its competitors, first for rolling resistance; three cars fitted with three different brands of rubber, were driven to 80km/h, put in neutral and then left to stop on their own.
Wet braking was next. Drive to 100km/h, jump on the brakes and see where each car stops.
The third test was racing three laps around a track inside the main testing track of the Bridgestone proving ground in Bangkok.
Despite the sarcastic and cynical comments from the motoring hacks about tyre pressures, brake calliper setting and any number of tricks Bridgstone may have used, all three vehicles were as close to being equal as possible and in all three the Ecopia EP200 came out tops.