It’s 2018 and you want to find something out. Where do you go? These days – with the demise of local libraries – your first port of call will typically be the internet. The exception may be if you know a local expert, but it’s often easier and quicker to make an initial investigation online. This is true of pretty much every subject, including tyres.
And while it’s great that search engine results provide numerous options to buy tyres, this in itself can be incredibly daunting. The amount and variety of tyres available to buy is such that it’s little wonder that many people feel intimidated.
So what’s the next step? Just as with enterntainment, restaurants, holidays, and just about everything else people are interested in, peer reviews will help to influence your purchasing decision. And even more useful and trustworthy are expert reviews, particularly for products with a technical component, like tyres.
That’s why independent tyre testing and reviews are so important, and why so many UK drivers consult them before making their buying decision. But which are the ones to trust, and why? In the latest Asda Tyres driver safety article, we shine a light on the tyre testing process.
Have you heard of the EU tyre label?
The EU tyre label is a mandatory programme initiated by the European Union to help consumers understand tyre characteristics. The label provides a snapshot of some of a tyre’s qualities, but not all. There are three components to the label:
1. The tyre’s fuel efficiency
The construction of the tyre will effect its “rolling resistance”. The lower a tyre’s rolling resistance is, the better its fuel economy will be. If you’re clocking up the miles on a regular basis, this may be the most important tyre testing component for you. But there’s a catch that the label doesn’t explain. If the tyre has reduced rolling resistance, it will negatively effect its wet braking capability…
2. Wet weather grip performance
Arguably, if you live in a rainy climate – as is often the case for UK drivers –your tyres’ performance on wet surfaces is the most important consideration.
Wet weather conditions adversely effect your stopping distances, causing them to increase when compared to braking on dry surfaces. The tyre treads have to expel water from between the tyre ‘contact patch’ and the road surface, so as to provide sufficient grip.
The score on the EU tyre label is a good indicator of how well a tyre performs in these conditions, particularly useful for when comparing wet weather grip between different tyre options. But again, as with fuel efficiency, the label fails to tell you the whole story – in this case that good wet braking performance has an adverse effect on a tyre’s rolling noise levels…
3. Understanding a tyre’s external rolling noise levels
When you’re driving there are typically three different sources of noise that you will hear: from the engine, the wind, and the tyres (your car stereo doesn’t count!).
Tyre noise is measured in decibels. The EU tyre label visualises a three wave scale to indicate the quietest to noisiest tyres, with three waves indicating the latter. For some drivers, tyre noise level is important, but again, as with fuel efficiency and wet grip, there are trade-offs that the label doesn’t make clear. The downside of quiet tyres is that they’re typically not the best for braking…
The EU tyre label is useful, but not perfect
Given the drawbacks of the label that we’ve highlighted, you’d be excused for feeling no better informed than you were to start with. No one tyre can have all the best characteristics, since each one effects the performance of the others. There’s a very fine balancing act going on that tyre manufacturers continually perform in their quest to create ever better tyres. The aim is create the optimum, all-round performing tyre.
Unfortunately, the EU tyre label only provides consumers with a very limited snapshot of a tyre’s characteristics and performance levels. So what’s the alternative?
Independent tyre testing
Independent tyre testing includes a much broader range of characteristics that are measured, and as such it’s important that you take these into account – so as to ensure you can make the most informed choice – before you buy any tyres.
So, who undertakes independent tyre testing?
All of the leading UK automotive publications – like What Car?, evo, and Auto Express – are trusted to provide impartial, results-driven testing. The same is true of popular consumer watchdog, Which? All have a reputation for providing honest, accurate independent tyre testing. They utilise specialist equipment, professional drivers and dedicated test tracks to conduct these tests.
And you won’t be surprised to learn that in this internet-driven age there is also an ever increasing amount of dedictaed online bloggers and car enthusiasts who also undertake their own testing. However, with so much sponsorship, advertising and financial motivation undeclared online, impartiality cannot be guaranteed, so it’s probably best to try and verify the independence of these tyre test bloggers, if you can.
So what exactly do independent tyre tests reveal that the EU tyre label doesn’t?
The tyres being tested are pushed to breaking point, and beyond, at dedicated test tracks. They’re tested in situations and scenarios that the majority of drivers hope never to have to experience. But it’s these extremely harsh conditions that replicate the real world scenarios that can typically result in driving accidents, and where the performance of your tyres could make the difference between avoiding or experiencing a collision, skidding of a road, or rolling your vehicle.
Depending on the tyre tester, there are roughly between 15 to 20 attributes and characteristics that undergo scrutiny. When you compare this to the three that the EU tyre label highlights, you suddenly realise just how important and informative independent tyre testing really is.
This range of testing criteria includes dry and wet weather handling, cornering, curved road and straight line aquaplaning, wet and dry weather stopping distances, cabin noise, and tyre price.
The independent testers then allocate points for each attribute, the scores are tallied, and the results compared between a diverse range of tyre manufacturers’ products, prior to being published. The best tyre is determined as the one with the highest overall test score, and declared the winner.
It’s important to remember that no one tyre can ever expect to score top marks across all tested attributes. It’s simply impossible, since each characteristic has an effect on the others, both positively and negatively. The overall score reflects the tyre’s all-round capabilities, including some it excels inat and some it may struggle with.
Creating a tyre is a balancing act for manufacturers, and as such it’s important to score as well as possible across the diverse spectrum of tyre attributes and characteristics.
And it’s for this reason that in 2017 Auto Express rated Continental’s WinterContact TS 860 as its Winter Tyre Test winner, for the second year running. As previously outlined, the tyre’s success was due to it achieving the best score overall across a broad range of tyre testing categories, including wet braking (important for shorter stopping distances), braking on snow, and both wet and dry handling. Impressive.
Continental’s success is down to unrivalled research and development
In fact – over the last ten years – Continental have a superb track record of achieving tyre testing top ratings, successful in four out of every five independent European tyre tests. Why? Simply because Continental are totally committed to trying to reduce the amount of road traffic accidents through continued tyre safety innovation – part of their global Vision Zero initiative – and thanks to the millions they invest each year in tyre safety research and development.
And as a result, thanks to that investment and drive to continually improve, their tyres have been exhaustively tested and built to an optimum level of quality long before any independent tester gets their hands on a Continental.
An example of their commitment and investment to continuous tyre safety development is Continental’s world famous AIBA (Automated Indoor Braking Analyser) facility, near their headquarters in Hanover, Germany. The dedicated testing infrastructure allows them to replicate any driving scenario on various interchangeable surfaces, as well as accelerating test vehicles up to 75 mph.
And thanks to this – and other – tyre testing and development facilities, the results translate into the unrivalled tyre performance drivers around the world have come to depend on to keep them safer on the road – no matter what the weather throws their way.
Talk to Asda Tyres for expert advice
If you’re unsure about the EU tyre label, or want to know more about independent tyre testing and reviews, talk to the tyre professionals at Asda Tyres. We can provide you with impartial, expert advice about all things tyres, including tyre safety, which tyres are best for your vehicle, fitting solutions, and more. Click here to live chat to one of our experts, or find your nearest fitting station.