Tires. I honestly have never thought about them all that much – until a few weeks ago, when I visited the Uvalde Proving Grounds in Texas with Continental Tires. I mean, sure. When I get new tires, the car drives smoother. When I get a balance, things stop wiggling. I hate to seem like the stereotypical female, because I really do love cars – but for me, it’s more about the feel of things than the specific technicalities.
In fact, when Continental invited me to join them, I asked if there would be any stick shift cars. I have always driven a stick, except that one time I went banana crazy and bought an automatic (you know, cell phones, a baby, responsibilities) but sold it two years in because I kept trying to shift the damn thing anyway.
The idea of getting out on these tracks, in various conditions, in various cars, and drive like my inner maniac? Oh heck yes.
It was wonderful. But I also learned a ton.
Here is the video that Continental shot of me and other friends down at their 5,000 acre facility, which gives you a taste of the amazing things we did. (More photos and video here.) Then I will tell you about the things we learned.
1. Depth of tread matters.
Sure, we all know that when tires start to look bald, we should replace our tires. But one thing we learned is that the grip drops off exponentially at a certain point; it is not just a gradual decrease in performance. We drove this! One of the test tracks had cars with tire tread at 4/32″ and 2/32″ (you know, our crazy American method of measurements). It took me nearly 50 feet longer to stop on the lower tread. Fifty feet is a lot! Fifty feet can mean the difference between crunching and stopping short. I absolutely used to be someone who let it go too long. Nope. Not anymore.
2. Type of tread matters.
I always kind of thought tires were pretty much the same. Not so, says Continental. They explained they work really hard to make a tire (specifically their TruContact tires) that mixes environmental responsibility (less actual tire material) with depth of tread that will stop in wet conditions. Continental wants the best of both of those worlds, but most importantly: to excel in wet-braking. We tested TruContacts versus several competitors and I stopped an average of 30 feet shorter. I am so with them on this. When the roads are wet, I want to be able to stop!
3. Put new tires on the rear.
This was surprising to me! But it’s true. If you are only replacing two tires, put the new ones on the back – not the front. It doesn’t matter if your car is front-wheel drive, all-wheel-drive, whatever. The new ones go on the back. I learned this first-hand by driving a two-mile circular track and hitting water at 55 mph. We did this with new tires on the front and new tires on the back, and I PROMISE. When you hit water, you want the new tires on the back. Otherwise, the old tires skid out from under you.
In between our tire classes and test drives, we also found time for adventure. There was everything from a helicopter ride to some Baja racing. I have video from that too, which I will share once I suppress all my screaming from the audio.
Until then, I thank Continental Tire for one of my most exciting and educational brand trips I have ever had.
Please let me know if you have any tire questions. If I can’t answer them with my new found expertise, I am sure Continental can help me answer you.