Higher Tech: Advancements in Tire Innovations Abound...Just Look Around - Tire Review Magazine

Higher Tech: Advancements in Tire Innovations Abound…Just Look Around

Advancements in Tire Innovations Abound…Just Look Around

If you’re like me, you’re intrigued and amazed at the technological advances that are introduced almost daily. New applications derived from nanotechnology to light waves are leaping exponentially. It’s almost too much to keep track of.

But what about the lowly tire industry? Why can’t we have a nanosomethingorother that will allow us to thumb our nose at the companies and countries that control the resources needed to produce tires?

Or how about this: Why can’t we place as high a value on knowledge and experience for tire industry professionals that we have come to expect – nay, demand – from other industries, like health care? If you don’t know what I’m talking about at this point, the rest of this article won’t make any sense to you either.

First, the technology. You may not know it, but the U.S. is headed back to the moon for exploration. What does this have to do with tires? Back in the 1960s, Goodyear was tasked with developing a tire for use on the Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) for the Apollo missions. Their research led them to developing a wire mesh wheel that would absorb bumps as well as reliably traverse the lunar surface. It was the first interstellar run-flat.

Looking forward, Goodyear is once again developing a tire to work on the next LRV, named the Chariot. But this time, the stakes are much higher and the lead-time very condensed. The tire will need to carry 600 pounds at each wheel position (compared to just 60 pounds on the earlier model) and be able to last more than 7,000 miles – a full 100 times the distance covered by the original rovers.

To top it off, NASA needs 12 complete tires by 2009! Goodyear expects to learn a great deal from the development of this product and apply that acquired knowledge to commercially available tires here on Earth.

Each of the Chariot’s positions has a dual wheel assembly that can articulate independently of the others. In the same way technology acquired through racing enhances production tires, so too will this project. It will be interesting to see what Goodyear begins to produce for us in a few years.

As for tires being built today, Goodyear is introducing a number of production tire innovations that were developed from racing experiences.

According to Goodyear’s Jim Davis, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric, which was introduced in November 2007, has an asymmetric tread design (like many UHP tires), but also has an asymmetric construction in the form of a layer of Aramid in the inboard sidewall. This gives the tire what Goodyear calls Active CornerGrip Technology, where the sidewall construction helps maintain even tread pressure on the road surface to enhance cornering grip.

Goodyear’s Eagle F1 All Season, introduced in May 2007, has carbon fiber-reinforced sidewalls to help keep the shoulders of the tire on the road for crisp responsiveness and maneuverability, he said. “Additionally, the tire has something we call TredLock Technology, which provides biting edges for excellent wet traction, but they lock together to create bigger tread blocks in quick turns.”

The tire also has a Kevlar belt, a feature from some Goodyear light truck tires.

Goodyear first used carbon fiber sidewall reinforcement in its Eagle ResponsEdge tire, which the company claimed was the first use of carbon fiber in a consumer tire (it had previously been used in some race tires).

A new tire, the Eagle GT, is coming to dealers this summer, and it will also have TredLock Technology.

Next on the technology front is the potential for developing a tire that is made of injectable polyurethane – the same material used to make pacifiers. Imagine a tire that doesn’t have any rubber in it, reacts in the same manner as a rubber tire, but without the multitude of ingredients and labor-intensive building process.

You might ask where you could buy such a tire. Well, that’s the catch; there is no distributor or manufacturer, yet.

I spoke with Dr. Gary Benninger, CEO of Amerityre, and asked a number of questions regarding this concept.

“We have produced a 245/45R17 run-flat tire that passed FMVSS139 last November (FMVSS139 are latest tire testing regs). In doing so, we have demonstrated that this is a viable product to replace rubber tires of all types and we are seeking to license this technology for further testing and development,” he says.

While Amerityre does not currently have any passenger tire products on the market, Dr. Benninger noted that the company does produce foam and filled tires for wheelchairs and bicycles, “solid tires and retreads are just months away and the pneumatic tires are currently being tested.”

When asked if any U.S. tire manufacturers have stepped up to the plate to license the product or production system, Dr. Benninger said, “Currently, we have an Asian tire company that is investing in our retread technology for OTR tires, but we are still working on getting U.S. manufacturers to come on board. Many of them are testing and evaluating samples right now.”

Now for the knowledge and experience part of the equation. I was recently asked by a colleague about what the TREAD Act specifically mandates regarding the replacement of the door placard, which shows the OE tire size and inflation pressure.

NHTSA’s regulations state that if you replace the OE tires on an untitled vehicle with tires that have a different size, load index or construction (i.e. standard load vs. extra load, P-metric vs. euro-metric, etc.), you MUST replace the door placard. Fines are being levied all across the country.

I heard of several car dealerships in California that were fined for not having the proper information on the door placard. This procedure is only required for an untitled vehicle because that is the extent of NHTSA’s authority, and by untitled they mean a vehicle that has not been sold or leased to a buyer.

If you want to avoid this headache, then learn how to make the calculations and do this for EVERY vehicle that gets upgraded tires and wheels – for every customer regardless of how many owners the vehicle has had.

The good news is that one company has taken on this issue and developed a handy Web-based solution. I want to give kudos to Falken Tire, which recently launched a new Web site with a rather expansive application guide. Not just the same ‘ole OE size and a few plus sizes, but this guide includes OE air pressure and has a built-in calculation for adjusting the air pressure based on the plus size tire that you want to install on a specific vehicle.

Jim Johnson, Falken technical director, tells me that it took well over a year to develop the program and then implement it through the Web site.

I want to point out that the information available is based on tires that Falken produces. For any given application, there are a multitude of brands that can be used, but within each brand, critical differences may exist. This means you have to make those calculations based on the specific tire that you want to install. Do not assume that the air pressure listed for a Falken tire is the same needed for another brand. If you are not able to do this, I would strongly suggest that you learn.

It is encouraging to see our industry working so diligently on innovations like these. I do wonder sometimes why it seems to take so long to make small strides. Jim Smith, editor of Tire Review, reminded me, “We may feel frustrated – us and dealers – that the tire industry seems slow with major gee-wiz innovation, there is a lot of innovation out there now…some in production, some in testing. This industry moves slow because we’re dealing with lives and safety, not to mention utility and functionality.”

How true. And the more that we take responsibility for our actions, our product knowledge, and our sales and installation, the more consumers will accept us as the automotive professionals that they demand us to be.

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