21st Century Tire Technology
By: Mike Magda,
© 2006 PickupTruck.com
Goodyear is marketing its new Fortera featuring TripleTred Technology
to SUVs, pickup owners who live in inclement-weather areas should take
a close look at this new tire. Designed to be an all-weather replacement
tire, it features three distinct tread zones and rubber compounds to work
on wet, icy and dry road surfaces.
tread design should look great on crew cab trucks, especially 2-wheel-drive
and luxury trim models. The Goodyear Wrangler, which was upgraded last
year, is a more aggressive choice for the off-road look and for work trucks.
Besides, many feel crew cab pickups are just SUVs with a bed. The Fortera
TripleTred’s load ratings and sizes should adapt to most half-ton
crew cabs without a problem.
security will be the prime motivation behind cross shopping the Fortera
TripleTred. Another Fortera tire released last year, one with Silent Armor
technology, is designed for a softer, quieter ride on SUVs and pickups.
It has a more traditional-looking tread but is not intended for any heavy-duty
or off-road use.
I drove a
variety of SUVs shod with TripleTred tires at Goodyear’s 82-acre
test center in Akron, Ohio. The most revealing maneuver was through an
autocross course on a wet blacktop. I also drove identical vehicles sporting
competitive tires. The course was tight enough that understeer was more
prevelant than kicking out the rear end. Hitting the turns was sure-footed
with both tire brands. To be honest, I became more familiar with the course
with each run and speeds improved with every try. Therefore it was difficult
to identify superior traits on back-to-back runs. The big difference that
was very noticeable for me was driving off the wet course in a turn and
on to dry pavement. There I found the Goodyear tire to be more effective
than the competition in gripping the road. The triple-design approach
worked well in transition situations, which could be more useful in Southern
California where large puddles remain on the freeway after a rain shower.
complexities needed to build a tire with three distinct compounds demonstrate
just how far tire technology has accelerated in recent years. For instance,
in the water zone there is a new silica-based compound while the ice zone
has polymers to enhance low-temperature flexibility and is spiced with
volcanic sand and sharp fiberglass particles to grab the ice. The dry
zone on the outside has similar properties used in race tires.
design has an interesting flair that looks comfortable on a large vehicle.
It doesn’t appear to be out of place as could other directional
tires designed for sports cars. Nomenclature such as “traction fingers”
and “sipe blades” means little to the average tire consumer,
but every little notch and slit is there for a reason. During a visit
to the 700,000 square-foot Goodyear tech center, I witnessed some of the
steps in developing a new tire.
designers come up with a marketable and appealing tread pattern they feel
meets the engineers’ goals and objectives, the tire is put through
a computer modeling program. This proprietary software was in cooperation
with Sandia National Laboratory, which is better known from designing
military weapons. But some of the knowledge gained in modeling weapons
can also be applied to commercial needs such as tires. Engineers can test
tire designs for traction, mileage, cornering and even noise before turning
out samples that are tested at the track or at other engineering stations.
The most punishing test appeared to be a rig that spun the tire fast,
put a load on a surface and then adjusted the camber through a wide range
of settings. This test just smoked the shoulders and sidwalls as engineers
look for weak points while a tire is pushed through a corner.
of tires came up during lunch with Goodyear officials. While tire technology
continues to improve with every new model, I wondered about the next major
revolution. Where was the non-pneumatic tire? I don’t mean run-flats
that get you safely to a garage down the road. Is the Michelin Tweel,
an odd-looking combination of tire and wheel, the answer? What about foam-filled
or sponge tires? I always got the standard answer from any engineer: “We’re
looking at all possibilities.”
future will see tires communicating more with computers. Vehicles are
more complex and computers run most of the systems. These computers want
to know what’s going on with the tire. Remember
the great quote from Reeves Callaway? “Every component in a car
is in place to make the tires work better.” Heat and tire-pressure
sensors will become more prevalent to help advanced suspension systems
react to road conditions and vehicle dynamics. Even those counting tires
want more electronics. Major tire retailers want RF identification tags
in tires for accurate inventory. The military is also eager for such a
system. Apparently they lose thousands of tires each year.
As with any
technological advancement, cost is a factor. For now it’s reassuring
that there are choices for the truck owner, whether the priority is traction,
ride quality or ruggedness.