Down to the Wire

This was the third tyre to blow on the same trip. This tyre took out part of my rear guard when it blew.

This was the third tyre to blow on the same trip. This tyre took out part of my rear guard when it blew.

After blowing three tyres on a recent trip to the tip in my cruiser, I decided to speak to someone in the know about what makes a good tyre and most importantly, how to look after them once they are fitted.

When it comes to finding someone with experience who is also not afraid to tell it like it is, then the choice is easy. I went straight to Ross Sollitt from ‘Cairns Tyre Specialists’ to find out what it is that makes a good tyre and furthermore, how to best look after them. Ross has been in the tyre business all his life and knows all of the in and outs of tyres-there are not too many like him left in the tyre business in today’s age.

Let me tell you, tyre choice is not as simple as “Here, buy this brand because it is the best”. As Ross explained, everything in tyres and choice of tyres is a compromise. For example, if you are looking at a tyre that will last longer, then you run the chance of losing out in another area, such as handling.

It was also interesting to note that from the start, Ross made it clear that you must be particular about what you want from a tyre and where you intend on doing most of your driving, whether it is on sealed roads or mud/dirt. Be sure of how much time you are really going to spend off road if that is the case. For example, choosing a tyre for 20% off road driving would mean you would spend an average of 6,000 kilometres on the dirt each year. That is equivalent to just over three trips to the tip and back from Cairns each year. I know some locals that don’t even come close to that.
In other words, if you choose the incorrect type of tyre, then you are in effect, wasting your hard earned cash and also shortening the life of that tyre. I myself made the same mistake, when I purchased a set of tyres meant for 80% off road travel. I expected these particular tyres to have lasted more than 60,000 kilometres but I had to take them off the car with only 40,000 kilometres on them.

Make sure you get the right advice on tyres so that this doesn't happen to you. On another note, if you do happen to blow a tyre, don't leave it on the side of the road as this idiot has done.

Make sure you get the right advice on tyres so that this doesn't happen to you. On another note, if you do happen to blow a tyre, don't leave it on the side of the road as this idiot has done.

So, what is it that sets different brands and types of tyres apart?
There are a number of things such as the ply rating, steel belts, composition, and most importantly after sales care/maintenance.

Ply rating: For most applications, a ply rating of 6-10 ply is suitable. The higher the ply rating, the more heat build up in the tyre (particularly if you are running lower pressures)- that is not always what you want. Keep in mind too that the rating is not the only thing to watch for. Ross showed me a cross section of a number of brands to highlight this and it was plainly noticeable that some tyres had large gaps in the ply, and some even had mistakes in the ply which had been covered up during manufacture-these are all things that you, as a buyer, will not see when you look at a tyre.

Steel belts: The main thing to look for here is the size of the belts and the thickness of the wires in the belts. There are some brands that claim to have a large number of belts, but again, when you look at cross sections of tyres, the belts are very thin and spaced apart which defeats the purpose.

Composition: Put simply, a softer composition will handle better but will not last as long as a harder composition. As I said earlier, it is all a compromise and you really must know and be honest on where you intend on doing the majority of your driving.

After sales care/maintenance: Of all the things that make a good tyre, this would have to be the most important. The way you look after your tyres and your vehicle will either dramatically improve or reduce the life of your tyres. First and foremost, check your tyre pressures regularly (once a week is good). As a standard rule, you should be running pressures in the vicinity of 35psi (pounds per square inch). Keep in mind that you will have to adjust pressures according to load and driving conditions. For example, it you are carrying a load, then pressures may need to be raised.
A simple rule is this: check your tyre pressure when cold, then drive for a minimum of 10 kilometres and check the pressure again. It should now be no more that 10% higher than that of the cold pressure reading. If it is more than 10%, then raise your starting (cold) pressures. If it is lower then the opposite applies. You may also need to run different pressures in both the front and rear tyres depending on load.
Something worth noting here is that pressures should not be dropped while travelling on rough/corrugated surfaces. While this may seem to improve the ride of your vehicle, it is placing a lot more stress on the tyre (particularly the tyre wall). A good tyre is made to stand up against rough roads and good suspension will make the ride as smooth as it can be.
Under-inflation would have to be the largest contributor to tyre failure. Not far behind this would be incorrect loading or weight distribution in the vehicle.
Other things to keep in mind to ensure you get the most from your tyres are to keep them away from things such as oils, brake fluid, diesel, thinners and solvents.

Don’t just take my word for it. Do yourself a favour and call in to see Ross to find out for yourself exactly what it is all about. Lets just say that I have learnt my lesson and will not be misled by uninformed opinions again.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ross at Cairns Tyres knows his stuff and will give you an honest, up front option to the best tyres for suit your individual needs.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ross at Cairns Tyres knows his stuff and will give you an honest, up front option on the best tyres to suit your individual needs.