The car tire of the future will never puncture and can last half a million kilometers. But for now, tires are still the fastest wearing parts of a car. How do you ensure that you can use it for as long as possible?
The Finnish company Nokian Tyres says it has developed an all-season tire that should last no less than 128,750 kilometers. That is an unprecedentedly long time. A normal tire often needs to be replaced after an average of 65,000 kilometers. A good dose of aramid fibers is used in Nokian’s tyres to make it stronger. Competitor Goodyear has even created a concept tire with which you could drive up to 500,000 kilometers.
Up to 80,000 kilometers
For now it’s all in the future. The question is also whether tire manufacturers want to sell tires that last that long, because the tire industry is worth billions. This is because tires wear out and you therefore have to have new ones installed every so often. How long it takes for a tire to wear out depends on many factors. Organizations such as the ANWB and also the major tire manufacturers mention a potential lifespan of between 40,000 and 80,000 kilometers.
Tire wear has three causes. The first is obvious: driving with it wears out the profile. A new tire has about 8 to 10 millimeters of profile, and at 1.6 millimeters a tire is legally worn out. The industry recommends a depth of at least 2.0 millimeters. Another cause of wear is damage to the tire. A hole in the profile can still be repaired safely, but if there is serious damage to the rubber or the steel and textile framework, replacement of the tire is unavoidable.
Finally, there is a third and often underestimated cause of wear and tear: aging. The rubber mixture, the so-called compound, loses its flexibility and structural strength under the influence of constant driving movements and years of UV exposure. Nevertheless, it is difficult to indicate a lifespan in years. The ANWB recommends replacing tires after ten years at the latest. So not after six years, as you sometimes hear at birthday parties and in the garage.
Ten years seems like a long time. But working from home more often and high fuel prices may mean you drive less, and before you know it the tire is really getting old. This age is easy to determine, because the week and year of manufacture are stated on each tire, the so-called DOT code.
Every car manufacturer specifies the ideal value for tire pressure. You will find this in the instruction booklet and sometimes on a sticker in the fuel filler flap or on the driver’s door frame. Make sure you have the correct pressure, because car tires wear out faster if they are inflated too softly or too hard. If the pressure is too low, the outside of the tire often wears off. If the tire pressure is too high, extra wear will occur in the center of the tread.
By checking the tire pressure monthly and adjusting it to the load of the car, you prevent the tire from becoming too soft and extra wear due to excessive friction with the road surface or internal movement. Regular professional checking of the correct position of the wheels (the alignment) also prevents tires from wearing excessively due to ‘wringing’ on the road surface.
Uneven tire wear occurs especially in caravans. Caravans often have a kinked axle. When extra weight is placed on the outside wheel in a bend, countersteering automatically occurs. But when a caravan is overloaded, the axle takes on a V-shape. Because the caravan is pulled straight, the tires wear out faster. Moreover, they wear unevenly. Even if only a small part of the tire is below the minimum value of 1.6 millimeters, you are already in violation.
More or less wear
The friction between tire and road surface is at its highest when accelerating, decelerating and steering. If you drive a lot in the city or on winding routes, the tires will have a harder time than if you mainly drive long distances more or less straight on the highway. Irregular driving and keeping a short distance (which means you have to brake often and forcefully) are also disastrous for the lifespan. For example, driving with (adaptive) cruise control protects the tires because you drive more regularly.
A common complaint is that electric cars eat tires. Frank Jansen, workshop receptionist at AutoHaarhuis, a maintenance specialist in Teslas and other electric cars, agrees. “The technology of an electric car allows it to accelerate very quickly, which leads to excessive tire wear. But of course it is the driver who determines whether you always utilize that potential. In addition, you see that people do not always use driver assistance systems, which means you often have to brake and accelerate.” In electric cars, this is even more important due to the high vehicle weight (as a result of the heavy battery pack).
The composition of the rubber of a summer and winter tire is tailored to the specific weather conditions. You can see a winter tire become slippery, so to speak, when driving in summer outside temperatures. Many motorists therefore nowadays opt for a so-called all-season tire. In 2013, the share of all-season tires was less than 3.3 percent. These tires now account for 23.2 percent of all tire types, compared to 19 percent last year.
Tires with insufficient tread have a longer braking distance, especially in the rain and in winter weather (snow, black ice), and therefore have a greater risk of a collision during an emergency stop. In any case, tires with a good profile give you better road holding. You especially notice this in bends.
A tire that shows little tread can be the cause of the infamous aquaplaning. The tire is then unable to process the amount of water, causing it to lose contact with the road surface. Furthermore, there is a risk of a completely different phenomenon: the blowout. You regularly see silent witnesses to this on and along the roads: tracks in the asphalt or pieces of rubber. The quality and especially the rubber composition of car tires has improved considerably in recent years, but the danger of a blowout has certainly not gone away.
Tire blowouts mainly occur in outdated tires, which, for example, are caused by hairline cracks. These are often the result of heat and dehydration, but also of a (too) high weight that they have to carry. As a result, you still see relatively many blowouts on trucks. They are also relatively common in caravans and other trailers, because the tires underneath are old or have not moved for too long.