Whether you are looking to set the fastest lap time, or are just out to hit the mountain pass, you want your car to perform as it should.
Although many things go into making a car fast on the strip and in the corners, one component that can never be overlooked will make or break even the best of drivers: your tires. For those that want superior handling, performance tires are essential.
Our modern society has produced advancements in technology that have pushed the boundaries of what is humanly possible. Although we are still putting rubber to the pavement as we did over a century ago, the performance tires found underneath today’s fastest autocross, time attack, and track cars are very different than your great grandpas Michelin’s.
Today’s performance tires offer unmatched vehicle control to put you safely on the podium, through the touge or just to a stop in that rush hour traffic. However, with so many brands and disciplines, it can often be hard to know which option is best for you. At Edmonton Tire Craft, we want to help you find the right tire for your type of driving. This is your ultimate guide to performance tires.
Different Treads for Different Disciplines
Throughout this list, we will be showcasing tires made for many different disciplines. This means that your type of driving, as well as your vehicle, will determine what tires will best suit your needs. Although many tires can be used for various applications, some excel at different disciplines.
The factors that make up these disciplines can be endless, but are compromised of a few easily observed factors that give you, the driver, a better understanding of which performance tire will suit your performance driving needs:
- Whether the vehicle is all wheel drive, rear wheel drive, or front wheel drive
- The main area of performance you aspire to improve; launching, cornering or stopping
- Whether you plan to partake in track days, circuit racing, or competitive road race
- If you will be autocrossing your car
- In the event of inclement weather, will you continue to partake in performance driving such as the ones listed above?
- What is the temperature of the environment you will be stressing your tires in?
With these factors considered, it’s important to note that different performance driving situations will affect tires differently. The longevity, resilience, and ability to be used continuously over an extended period of time may vary drastically from discipline to discipline. It is important to observe these factors when making your selection.
Performance Tires: Whats the Difference?
In the world of performance tires, there are differences that can go unnoticed to an untrained eye. Although most tires look quite similar, performance, high performance, and track tires differ quite vastly in construction.
Performance tires tend to be quite a bit more sticky. This is achieved by using a different compound of rubber, in combination with different thicknesses, and densities.
Performance tires are generally quite a bit wider than conventional passenger car tires, giving a much larger footprint on the ground. The more rubber that connects with the ground, the more the tires can do their job. This points out another difference between tires and that’s the tread pattern.
You will notice conventional tires to have quite a bit more lines in them defining tread patterns. These groves are to let water flow out from underneath the tire, preventing hydroplaning and increasing safety in non-performance driving situations.
Diving deeper into the performance tires, we notice a few things. First off is the radial belt that surrounds the tire. The radial belt lies just beneath the rubber compound that contacts the ground and gives structure and strength to the tire. It also keeps the tire together in case of a blowout.
Radial belts differ tire to tire and offer different amounts of flex and stability. They also contribute to road noise and ride feel.
With so much sticky goodness found in performance tires, why doesn’t everybody run nice, wide, soft compound rubber on their vehicles? These few reasons are what separates the common commuter from the passionate driver.
Performance tires are meant for performance cars and performance drivers. Although they may be sticky to the road, they can be chaos to a driver that doesn’t know what they are getting into.
Heres a situation: you come to a turn. You are carrying moderate speed and are headed towards the apex. As you steer into the corner, You suddenly realize that you are carrying too much speed. The sticky front tires steer you into the turn as if you were on rails. You hit the brakes to slow your self after you’ve already entered the turn, also known as trail-braking.
As the weight of your car is jolted forward, the rear end becomes light. This causes the rear to slide out. This situation is called oversteer. Oversteer, although a joy for some and manageable for a skilled driver, will through the common commuter into a spin, or worse.
A trained driver in such a situation could perform a number of actions that could correct the car’s behavior. Having the knowledge of the capabilities the tires he or she is using would envoke caution to not cause this oversteer event to happen in the first place.
Another trade-off of having track worths tires is the relatively slim window in which they can be used. Most sticky compound performance tires are meant for temperatures strictly above freezing temperatures, and many only are only fully useful in the hot summer months.
The reason? Rubber compounds found in performance tires, while soft and offering great grip, become brittle and in the cold. This often reduces the ability for them to be safely used in the winter, as they don’t offer the same properties they do in the heat. Additionally, the cold will cause the tires to break down faster and become ruined.
In fact, most performance tires are labeled as summer tires, often referred to as ultra high performance (UHP) summer. The use of these tires in warm conditions is crucial for the life of the tire as well as your own safety. This requires you to change them out in the summer, or have a winter set mounted to a wheel in case of inclement weather or cold temperatures. Many people actually switch tires simply for performance driving, whether it be track day or a weekend drive.
As we just mentioned, performance tires have a window of use that is slimmer than other traditional all season tires. Changes in temperature can lead to safety concerns as well as excessive and wear to the tire.
Even the best of conditions, however, good things only last so long. Because performance tires are meant to be driven hard, the rate at which they wear is quick. The rubber used in the tires isn’t mean to last, it is meant to keep you cornering fast. Many track specific tires are only good for about 4 outings at the track! While street-drivable tires will get you many more miles than that, the same principals apply.
All tires are stamped with a Uniform Tire Quality Grade or UTQG. The UTQG is a list of specifications the tire must be labeled with that give insight into its longevity, grip, maximum speed and ability to withstand heat build up.
Tires are rated by comparing them to similar tires of the same brand and labeling them accordingly on scales in different categories. This means the ratings may vary with different manufacturers. While the categories and labeling system can be vague at times, the most important point in the UTQG is the treadwear rating.
High-performance tires usually have a treadwear rating of about 200, while a moderate all season tire will rank at about 400. Simply put, the UHP will have approximately half the lifespan of the passenger tire. If compared to some top-market high mileage tires at 600, the UHP would last a third of the life of the high mileage tires.
When Performance Comes First
If a performance tire is in your future, there are many things that you may want to consider when making your purchase. Before making any moves in the way of performance driving, you want to make sure your vehicle is ready for what the road may throw at it.
One of the biggest factors that parallels tires in your vehicles ability to handle is your suspension and steering. We are here to make sure your car can take on the road ahead with proper alignment, shock and strut servicing, as well as ball joints, tie rods, and bushings.
With a car capable and ready for spirited driving, its time to fit the right rubber underneath. The performance tires you chose should be tailored to your driving, as well as your car.
Let’s start with the basics. If you live in a climate that receives rainfall year round, you will want to opt for a tire that has good water displacement. Although you may not have the leading edge on the hottest dry days, the safety and ability you have to perform in the wet climate will only benefit you the driver.
This means that the performance tire of your choosing should not only rank highly for wet weather conditions but be the right model. Some tires models differ slightly to accommodate wet conditions better than others. Meaning you may have a little more groves and less rubber to pavement, but a better safety factor.
However, if you live in a place that is blessed with high temps and sunshine, you are going to want nothing but the best. Wide tires that minimize water drainage will get you through corners like a slot car.
Grip is a complicated topic. Vehicles can move all over the X and Y axis. For this reason, it’s important to understand something called slip angle. Slip angle is something that comes into play when the tires are turned and rolling. As you vehicles weight wants to go straight, and your tires turn into the corner, the two factors meet in the middle to create whats known as the slip angle.
Some tires are better at turning because they manage slip angle better. Although there is no real scale that measures slip angle, there are things that you can look for in a tire that will help you achieve cornering perfection.
- Look for tires rated with good sidewall stiffness.
- make sure the tire you chose has a good grip rating and enough rubber to the ground
Wheel choice also plays a large part in giving you the best performance possible. A wider wheel will allow for a wider tire. You can do the math here. Wider wheels and wider tires mean more grip.
Turns aren’t the only driving variable, however. Many cars have enough power to break traction by their own power. Slip angle isn’t really a factor here, but the need for a larger stickier tire is still prevalent. As fun as burnouts may be, a good hard launch is a peak performance point of a car and can only be achieved through the right tires.
Brakes do a great job, and performance brakes do better. But your brakes are only as good as your tires. Just like a launch, a stop demands traction. This may be the most crucial aspect of safety. The ability to stop in as little distance as possible can give you a further reach on the straight, more speed into to corner and save you in an emergency.
You are the most important factor in how well your car handles and performs. Even the best tires and vehicle set up can be all for not if you the driver arent ready for it. Driving within your limits is something that will give you the most out of your driving experience.
With good techniques, habits, and training, performance tires can aid you in becoming a fantastic driver. Give yourself the best chance possible to be the best driver possible by ensuring your car is inspected and in shape by working with a quality mechanic and auto parts company.
Any questions? Feel free to talk to us about how we can hook you up with the performance tires you need to get the most out of your vehicle!