How important are good quality tyres?

By Miles Downard

Tyres are a fairly integral component in a motor vehicle. They are, after all, the only point of contact with the road surface which most of us try to stay stuck to for the majority of our journeys. 

It should come as no surprise that not all tyres are made equal. Premium brands exist like in any other industry and while all tyres sold in South Africa carry SABS approval, you get what you pay for. 

To showcase this very concept, Continental recently allowed me to put its new SportContact 7 tyre up against a nameless ‘budget’ tyre sold through most major tyre fitment centres across the country. 

This involved a closed circuit in the form of Zwartkops Raceway, some water on the surface and a good dose of enthusiasm behind the wheel of a Mercedes Benz (at the AMG Performance Centre). The results were astonishing. 

Coming around a corner at +-60kph and then accelerating through the wet patch made the vehicle all but lose control on the budget tyres. In the car fitted with Continentals however, it stuck to the road and continued on course with nothing more than a slight wiggle. 

The prowess, or lack thereof in the case of the budget tyres, was further showcased on the skid pan – a large tarmac area completely covered in water. The good people at the Mercedes AMG driving academy had laid out a series of orange cones in tight formation for us to navigate. The car equipped with the budget tyre struggled tremendously with a complete lack of front end grip which made navigating the tight corners a real challenge. In the car shod with the Continental SportContact 7s however, the task was significantly easier.

The reason for this ability to generate grip is down to the design of the tread and the underlying construction of the tyre. While driving on wet roads, the tyre’s footprint ends at the point of the highest water removal in the tread, to offer grip when braking, accelerating and cornering. When cornering on dry roads, the footprint shifts to the outer shoulder because of higher lateral load, which is designed to transmit the highest forces for stable handling. New ‘locking elements’ in the outer shoulder ensure further stability, only enabling limited movement of the tread for high ride stability.

So, the next time you’re out shopping for new tyres, bear in mind the fact that these bits of rubber are the only thing keeping your car in contact with the road surface. The above tests certainly prove that you get what you pay for – and Continental’s engineering of its tyres is up with the best out there. Sure, they might cost a little more but quality tyres could well save your life.

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