Cheap rubber might be easy on the purse but is not really worth the saving as a major company tested a selection of budget tyres against three premium brands to find out.
By visiting the local tyre fitter one has the choice of dozens of brands. Some are costly and priced up to £100 each, including fitting while others seem a snip at half the price. There can’t be that much variance in performance after all, as they’re all just black bands of rubber, and the budget tyres wouldn’t be sold in the UK if they weren’t as good as premium brands.
One needs to rethink again. The premium tyres against three budget alternatives in a series of braking tests gave results that were shocking. In the wet, the budget tyres took an average of 14 metres – the length of an articulated lorry – longer than the premium tyres to pull up from 70mph.
In the dry the variances weren’t as massive, but the most awful budget tyre still took up to five metres longer to stop than the top premium brand. That could easily be the difference between a horrible accident and escaping with just sweaty palms.
The assessment also gauged how well the six tyres hung on when cornering in the dry, by measuring lateral forces, and how much road noise each set generated.
The major tyre companies spend millions of pounds each year on research and development, so even if a premium tyre might look almost identical to a budget tyres, there are often big differences.
Rubber compounds are one of the distinctive features of any tyre. Like baking a good cake, it isn’t only what goes into the mixture, it’s the ratio of each ingredient and how they’re all mixed together. Making a tyre that excels in one area – such as cornering in the dry – isn’t difficult, but road car tyres also need to perform well in the wet and have decent longevity.
Tread pattern comes into play when the road is wet. Like the bow of a ship, a good design should cut through the water, allowing the rubber to make contact with the road. The grooves need to channel the water away from the contact patch, because failure to do so results in aquaplaning.
A good internal structure keeps the contact patch consistent and allows the tread pattern to work effectively in wet conditions.
One should never even think about skimping on tyres. It’s tempting enough to save money in the short duration by going for the budget tyres, but in the long run it would be an unwise decision. Tyres are the only part of the car that make contact with the road, so it’s far better off sticking to the premium brands and search for the lowest prices on those categories. As the investigation clearly reveals that the budget tyres can be easy on the pocket but they could easily cost one their life.