Technology of tires explained

colourful tire tread

We’re sure you’ve heard it a million times: a good set of tires will improve driver safety regardless of the vehicle you’re in. But what exactly makes them so safe, and how can you know if you have the right set?

From the factory to the road, there is a lot of technology that goes into the production of tires and tire performance. Understanding these features will not only make you a more informed consumer, it could also improve your overall driving safety.

Here are just a few of the technological features that tires are equipped with and how they work.

Sipes

Sipes are essentially small cuts in the tread block that function by providing a biting edge in the contact surface. These sipes also reduce the stiffness of the blocks which is generally not favorable for dry handling. To offset the compromise of reducing stiffness, Michelin makes interlocking sipes in a zig-zag pattern which helps to retain the block stiffness while providing a biting edge for increased traction in wet and icy conditions.

Acting like windshield wipers, sipes also help the edges and grooves of a tire to cut through any film of water on road surfaces.

Tread designs

Tread designs include tread blocks that provide traction and grip, as well as lateral grooves to evacuate water. These are integral features to provide wet grip and avoid hydroplaning — and with this summer’s forecast calling for lots of precipitation, you’ll want to ensure your tires are up to the task.

michelin premiere all season tires

Silica compounds and other materials

Not only are the materials themselves technologically focused — with over 200 ingredients going into the manufacturing of any given tire, playing a vital role in safety, fuel efficiency, performance and eco-friendliness — so is the research and development for creating the ultimate textiles, steel cords, and rubber compounds that compose a tire.

With Canadian weather being so unpredictable you need your tires to adjust to the varying conditions as they occur. Infusing silica into tires reduces rolling resistance while increasing grip, which in turn keeps your tires performing consistently. Even when the weather isn’t.

The Michelin Premier A/S, for example, uses a special silica and sunflower oil compound to help provide extra wet and cold-weather grip.

Tire Contact Patch Shape

While hard for the consumer to see, it is easy to understand that as each tire contacts the road, it will form a “contact patch.” The shape of this contact patch is important for the overall tire performance, especially for wet wear. If the shape is too round, then wear could be a problem. If the shape is too square, then evacuating water from the front of the tire can be a problem in wet conditions.

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