Continental Tire’s Uvalde proving grounds test tires, Texas style

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Tires are actually the third- or fourth-highest expense for many fleets, but they’re nonetheless handled as commodities. They’re far more than “spherical and black.” The engineering and testing that goes into top-tier tires is sort of wonderful, however most tire shoppers by no means think about all that. Tire choice typically comes down to cost, which is admittedly not the perfect choice standards.

Sadly, most tire shoppers by no means get the prospect to observe tire engineering in motion. Just lately, Continental Tire invited a gaggle of truck journalists to tour the corporate’s proving floor complicated in Uvalde, Texas.

Continental Tire opened its Uvalde Texas proving grounds to reporters in June, showcasing how tires of all descriptions are examined and evaluated. (Photograph: Jim Park)

Known as ContiExperience, the occasion provided reporters, sellers, and choose fleet prospects hands-on demonstrations of a number of tire testing and analysis experiences, in addition to a complete tour of the proving grounds.

Uvalde Proving Grounds (UPG), dwelling to Continental Tire Analysis & Growth North America, occupies almost 5,000 acres, situated about 12 km (8 miles) south of Uvalde, Texas, which sits about 135 km (85 miles) west of San Antonio. The ability can take a look at and consider any kind of tire, from passenger automotive and light-weight truck tires to medium- and heavy-duty vans, proper as much as gigantic earth-mover tires.

The new, dry local weather permits for year-round testing below comparable circumstances. As much as 20 or 30 testing applications could also be underway on the website on any given day. Continental rents entry to the positioning to numerous OEMs, analysis corporations and others. Every year, testers and researchers log about 3.3 million miles (5.3 million km) on the website, or about 70,000 hours of testing time, and burn by about 20,000 tires. 

Continental Tire proving grounds
Uvalde Proving Grounds is dwelling to Continental Tire Analysis & Growth North America. Occupying almost 5,000 acres, the power has greater than 30 take a look at surfaces and specialty areas for evaluating tires of every kind. (Supply: Google Maps)

Uvalde Proving Grounds

The ability was constructed by Normal Tire in 1959 starting with an 8.7-mile (14 km) oval circuit designed to guage passenger automotive tires. The observe allowed vehicles to be pushed with out interruption at speeds larger than would have been potential utilizing public highways. This strategy produced extremely reproduceable and comparable outcomes.

Extra tracks had been constructed within the Nineteen Eighties as tire producers responded to altering client expectations. Along with mileage, efficiency, and injury resistance, tire security traits had been gaining client curiosity. By the mid-‘80s, the power had quite a lot of tracks and take a look at surfaces duplicating every little thing from interstate highways to downtown streets.

Continental acquired Normal Tire in 1987, and with the acquisition got here the proving grounds.

On the time, American automotive drivers and vehicle producers had been concentrating on the worth of tire efficiency and breakdown-resistance on tough highway surfaces. Continental, with its European roots, shifted that focus to dealing with and security — decreasing stopping distances, and avoiding aquaplaning, to call a couple of areas. That adjustment in precedence noticed the event of extra safety-related testing amenities, together with aquaplaning swimming pools, dry dealing with programs, and moist grip surfaces.

To extend effectivity and security of tire endurance testing, in 2018, Continental engineers developed a driverless take a look at automobile that might run across the observe till it exhausted its gas provide. Automation, and the flexibility to regulate automobiles with distinctive precision, not solely improved the take a look at outcomes, it optimized observe use and lowered put on and tear. It additionally made the testing a lot safer. Human drivers now not need to pilot vans for a whole bunch of hours over the monotonous course.   

As we speak, the Uvalde Proving Grounds boasts about 26 paved and off-road programs, and 400 take a look at automobiles together with heavy gear, tractors, passenger vehicles, mild vans, business automobiles, bikes, and trailers. It’s additionally dwelling to greater than 6,000 sq.-ft. of store and personal workplace house in addition to secured bays which are out there to non-tire automotive-related testing teams.

wet handling track
The Moist Dealing with Monitor is an 800×800 foot, 15-acre asphalt pad that may be flooded to guage traction on moist surfaces. It’s helpful for learning hydroplaning. (Photograph: Jim Park)

Moist Traction Testing

Whereas Continental couldn’t probably tour a bunch of journalists round to each take a look at website on the facility, we did go to the Moist Dealing with Monitor. It’s an 800×800-foot, 15-acre asphalt pad (the most important in North America) designed to exacting specs.

Whereas it seems flat and stage, it has a 1% grade throughout all the floor that enables water from a perforated pipe on the high of the pad to stream in controllable depths (from .05 to .11 inches) over the floor. The run-off is collected and funneled again into underground storage tanks for later use. Water is drawn from an underground effectively, and extensively recycled to be used at different moist testing areas.

Due to its dimension, the pad is well-suited for moist traction testing whereas maneuvering at pace. Vehicles and vans can simply stand up to freeway pace earlier than trying a maneuver, equivalent to accelerating or braking in a flip or on an extended sweeping curve, serpentine maneuvers, and even jackknife maneuvers.

We had the chance to drive a bobtail Peterbilt Mannequin 567 sleeper tractor by an extended sweeping curve with a full ABS cease. The truck had Conti Ecoplus HS3+ 295/75R22.5 steer tires and ContiTread HDL 3 LTL-R retread drive tires. I pushed by diminishing radius curve at between 40 and 50 mph (60-80 kmh) and by no means broke traction — which was mildly shocking for a bobtail tractor with little weight to carry the tires to the observe. Within the full-application ABS cease, the truck tracked straight down the road. It was a fairly spectacular demonstration of the traction supplied by these tires.

There was additionally a straight moist observe the place Continental exams moist stopping distance. With a skinny layer of water flowing throughout the observe, the truck will get as much as 50 mph (80 kmh) and makes a full ABS cease, which is triggered remotely for measurement functions. In comparisons reported by Continental, the above-mentioned retreaded drive tires achieved a shorter stopping distance than a competitor’s finances virgin tire — the identical kind of tire typically chosen by fleets in lieu of retreaded tires.

The retreaded tires managed to cease in 57.175 meters (187.6 ft), whereas the competitor’s new tire went 57.625 (189.05 ft), or about two ft additional. That’s not lots, but it surely demonstrates that individual tread sample and compound is nearly as good as and even barely higher than that individual new tire.

“The most important impediment our gross sales crew has to beat is getting fleets to have faith in retreaded tires,” stated Continental’s product advertising and marketing supervisor, Bridney Jordan, explaining the importance of the take a look at. “Fleets will inform us they don’t consider in retreading, utilizing refurbished tires, and so on. That couldn’t be farther from the reality. We proved proper right here that the Conti retread stopped in a shorter distance than that model new tire.”

When doing precise moist traction testing, they run every take a look at seven occasions, and drop the shortest and longest run and common the 5 remaining runs.

curb testing
The curbing analysis website runs tires over curbs to check for resistance to tread tearing and sidewall injury. The strips of rubber laying alongside the curbs point out how extreme the take a look at will be. (Photograph: Jim Park)

Dry dealing with take a look at

Whereas the Dry Dealing with take a look at doesn’t apply to heavy vans, it did show how tread compounds, casing design and tread design contribute to traction and dealing with.

The observe, construct in 2015, is a 1.07-mile asphalt-surfaced highway course that includes a 1,200-foot straightaway, curves, turns, and bends of fifty ft to 500 ft. Tires are examined for dry dealing with efficiency to guage various designs and constructions. Automobile development and suspension evaluations are additionally performed on this course.

Reporters drove two laps of the course in every of two vehicles: a four-cylinder turbocharged Ford Mustang geared up with Normal Tire G-Max RS tires, and a V-6 Dodge Challenger fitted with Conti ExtremeContact Sport 02 tires.

Throughout precise testing and evaluations, the automobiles are effectively instrumented, however the reporter’s take a look at drivers had been, effectively, fairly subjective at finest. I got here away considering I may get about a further 10 mph from the Challenger with Conti’s ExtremeContact Sport tires, nonetheless feeling very assured within the highway dealing with at speeds approaching 70 mph.

Curbing take a look at

The ultimate heavy truck take a look at we noticed was the curbing take a look at, the place tires are pushed over and off curbs to check the tread and sidewall’s resistance to ripping, chipping and scrub injury. The demonstration we noticed featured a bobtail tractor, so the tires weren’t badly confused. Usually the vans are totally loaded. It was apparent from the strips of rubber laying alongside the curb that quite a lot of tires had given their lives within the quest for extra sturdy treads and sidewalls.

Specialty exams

There have been 9 totally different programs designed to check tires’ resistance to break from tough and rocky surfaces. Utilizing varied varieties of rock, stone and gravel laid over exhausting and gentle surfaces, vans would run for a predetermined variety of laps consider chopping and delivery of the tread by the gravel overlay.

One course was a round mattress stuffed with pea gravel. Vehicles would run by the gravel after which onto a tough paved floor to check the tires’ capacity to eject stones from between the treads. Or, to find out the extent to which stones that weren’t efficiently ejected drilled into the casing.

A number of the off-road programs had been completely brutal, with rocks measuring in sizes from golf balls to gentle balls, gentle sand, and a piece of observe with embedded phone poles. There have been grades as much as 33% and surfaces starting from easy concrete to gravel-covered filth. Engineers use these obstacles to guage traction in addition to susceptibility to tread injury.   

Digital tire monitoring

Continental additionally showcased its digital tire monitoring providing, ContiConnect. The system makes use of proprietary sensors inside tires to trace inflation strain, casing temperature, and mileage amongst different metrics. Collected knowledge is transmitted to the ContiConnect net portal.

Over-the-road fleets can go for the ContiConnect Reside resolution, the place the info is transmitted in actual time from the truck to the net portal by way of the fleet’s onboard telematics unit. This resolution offers GPS asset monitoring to enhance gas effectivity, lengthen tire life, and cut back labor prices related to handbook tire inspections. Continental says it can be used to detect lacking/stolen tires.

Native and regional fleets that return to base recurrently would possibly favor the in-yard choice, ContiConnect Yard. Autos drive previous a reader station within the yard, the place knowledge is collected and relayed to the ContiConnect platform. Immediate notifications enable any tire points to be addressed whereas the truck is within the yard. Tire inspections and fleet checks will be carried out with out touching the tire, the corporate says.

Continental is presently creating a smartphone-based tire scanning app that may use the digital camera to make a 3-D picture of the tire able to measuring tread depth. Trey Thompson, Continental’s subject engineering supervisor, stated the app relies on the identical know-how utilized in facial recognition.

“All it’s a must to do is stroll up and take a photograph of the tire and [the app] will join with the tire’s inner sensors” he stated.

Information from the sensors coupled with the 3-D picture is uploaded to the ContiConnect platform and turns into immediately readable by anybody subscribed to the service.

Thompson didn’t present particulars on when the app could be out there.

So, whereas value will at all times be a consideration when shopping for tires, it’s helpful to think about what goes into the tire earlier than you mount in on the truck. An inexpensive tire might appear to be a cut price on the time, but when it’s life expectancy or resistance to break is half that of a top-tier tire, is it actually that good a deal?

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