There are several testing criteria that a car tire must meet before it is deemed to be safe for use. The tire must meet standards for wear and durability and it must be capable of maintaining its integrity at certain speeds (determined by the speed rating of the tire).
But how does a company actually go about testing a tire for these sorts of characteristics? There are a few different ways this can be done, but there are no real shortcuts. The only way that you can simulate the effects of a 120 mph slide on a car tire is to actually slide the tire along a surface at 120mph. The machine that is shown in use below does exactly this…
Pireli’s Ultimate Tire Testing Facility
Now that it has been established that a tire won’t fall apart and can meet the minimum safety standards, how do tire manufacturers test their tires for comfort, noise, and performance? Take a look at the aerial photo of the Pirelli test track below, located near Milan, Italy. This hi-tech track is able to simulate virtually any road condition that can be found in the real world. It is used for testing everything from their everyday road tires to those that are designed for offroad rally car racing.
Check out the video to learn more about the facility and Pirelli’s testing procedures.
Inside the Bridgestone Proving Grounds
This is where Bridgestone pushes their new tires to the limits before they declare them worthy of the Bridgestone name. This testing facility has more than 6,000 acres of space located in the Chihuahuan Desert in Texas. Designated sections here include a wet/dry handling course w/ skid pad, a hydroplane pool, road noise and multi-surface testing area, braking traction pad, and an open asphalt vehicle dynamic area.
Below you can see the wet/dry handling course. Sprinkler heads can cover this track area with water in order to test grip in various levels of water. There is both a skid pad here as well as larger road course sections that appear to have both pavement and asphalt testing surfaces.
Want to know how a tire will perform if it suddenly encounters a 1 cm deep puddle of water at highway speeds? This is the best place to find out. Engineers compare testing data here to help design the safest tires that will maintain their grip in wet conditions. In the section of road at the top of this pic, you can see a water-filled area which is where the hydroplaning characteristics of each tire are tested.
More tire Testing Facilities
Want to see more? Here are a few maps of other huge tire testing facilities that are used by the manufacturers.
The Goodyear facility…
Continental Tire testing facility…
Michelin testing facility…
Notice Any Seasons Missing?
Texas seems to be the hot spot for tire test tracks. But what about companies like Nokian that are best known for their winter snow tires? Nokian has their own testing facility that is located in Ivalo, Finland, nicknamed “White Hell”. Check out the remote controlled quadrotor helicopter footage below.