The Everlasting Gobstopper of tires

There is a fundamental law of car ownership: Your tires will always kind of suck. You buy new tires and they work really well for a little while, but then they start to wear down, and they gradually get worse and worse until you can spit in the road and your car will hydroplane over it. At the same time, the rubber gets so hard that you can’t hear anything over the roar of road noise. Then you buy a new set of tires, and the whole process starts all over again.

It’s a metaphor of despair and futility.

Cars are delivering torque and horsepower today that would burn the rubber right off older tires.

But now there’s hope. I spent some time this week talking to two guys who have been working to give you tires so good that you rarely have to think about them. Brian Remsberg is Director of Consumer Public Relations and Stacy Lindsey is the OE Product Category Manager at Michelin North America.

Lindsey and Remsberg told me that Michelin has found a way to break the perpetual cycle of misery. They have invented what is essentially the everlasting gobstopper of tires – the tire evolves as it wears to prolong safety over time. Sure, these tires will eventually wear out, but what you care about is that they continue to perform well in wet weather until you grind them clean off and it’s time for a new set.

True confession time – I am a tire geek. I spend an inordinate amount of time researching tires, road-testing them, and hounding tire engineers, so I wanted to know how they managed to defeat the decline and fall of every tire ever made.

If you don’t look too closely, it’s tempting to think that tire technology doesn’t change very much over time. But both automakers and drivers care deeply about getting just the right look and performance out of their wheels.

“Automakers bring new products to market all the time. And it’s no secret that rim sizes are going up and aspect ratios are going down. A lot of that is designed to make the car look better, but you can also put bigger brakes on the car to help with stopping, and you can improve performance,” Lindsey says.

There are a number of reasons why wheels and tires are evolving. The first and biggest reason is that cars are delivering torque and horsepower today that would burn the rubber right off older tires, and we’re not talking about pure performance cars, either.

Remsberg is clear: “You look at the torque specs from 10 years ago and they’ve almost doubled. In some trucks they’ve tripled. You have those performance leaps in vehicles and we need to be there with the automakers.”

So what about this amazing new tire design? Here’s the new idea behind the EverGrip technology that Michelin has developed: the tread actually evolves and gets better as the tire wears down. It’s not in the rubber – it’s how they make it.

“As a standard tire wears, it has less and less open space, which reduces its ability to evacuate water, so it has more tendency to hydroplane,” Lindsey says.

They’ve invented the everlasting gobstopper of tires – they don’t lose traction, get better as they go, and don’t get worse until you grind them clean off.

That happens because most traditional tire tread grooves are V-shaped. The spaces that expel water are nice and wide when the tires are new, and they get narrower as the tire gets worn down. But with Michelin’s EverGrip design on the new Premier LTX tire, the main tread grooves get wider as the tire wears. And there are smaller grooves on the tire that open up over time.

Lindsey points out, “Over 140 new grooves appear as the tire wears.”

Lindsey showed me how it works. Using CAD and the latest in tire building techniques, Michelin makes its new tires with tiny slices that expand into teardrop shapes, so you actually get more and wider grooves as the tire wears, to compensate for having shallower grooves.

“Our claim on this tire is, when it’s half-worn this tire still stops shorter than our leading competitor’s brand new tire,” Remsberg insists.

So that’s it – your next set of tires should get better as you drive. Don’t you wish everything worked like that?

Product Review

Powerbeats3 wireless headphones are all about that bass, and not much else

With the new Powerbeats Pro grabbing headlines, it’s worth taking a look back at Beats’ previous flagship wireless earbuds. Do these popular, bass-happy workout buds still deserve your consideration?
Home Theater

Any night can be a night at the movies with the best home theater projectors

Are you sick and tired of those cumbersome big screen TVs? Don’t want to spend big for a huge TV? These home theater projectors will bring you that big screen experience without breaking the bank.
Cars

2019 Ford F-150 RTR gets a light dose of off-road, style upgrades

Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s RTR Vehicles is turning its attention to the 2019 Ford F-150 pickup truck. RTR gave Ford's bestseller new suspension components and tires, as well as more extroverted exterior styling.
Product Review

BMW’s smallest M car is its biggest performance statement

The BMW M2 Competition is frighteningly quick in a straight line, and its short wheelbase lends itself to some hilarious power slides, but it’s the curvy roads and tight tracks where this coupe comes alive.
Cars

Electric truck maker Rivian scores $500 million investment from Ford

Alongside Amazon, Rivian can now count Ford as one of its backers. The Blue Oval will invest $500 million in Rivian, and will use the company's "skateboard" chassis as the basis for a future electric vehicle.
Cars

The best diagnostic adapters monitor your car so you don't have to

Sometimes called dongles, the best car adapters will tell you what's wrong under the hood while help you keep tabs on your family and routine maintenance.
Emerging Tech

Japanese taxis will use facial recognition to target you with ads as you ride

A Japanese startup is trying to reinvent in-taxi advertising by using facial recognition technology to identify the key characteristics of riders and then presenting them with appropriate ads.
Cars

Nvidia agrees with Tesla’s take on self-driving cars, but corrects specifics

Nvidia vice president Rob Csongor agreed with broad statements by Elon Musk at Tesla's April 22 Autonomy Investor Day. Csongor then took exception to what he termed were inaccuracies about Nvidia's self-driving car chip.
Cars

Stop backing into your neighbor's car with the best backup cameras

The right backup camera will allow you to better avoid vehicles and other obstacles without taking your eyes off the road, rendering "sorry, I hit your car!" notes a thing of the past. Here are our current favorites.
Mobile

Waze vs. Google Maps: Which map app should you be using?

Waze and Google Maps are two of the most popular apps for those looking for turn-by-turn navigation, yet there are some notable differences to point out. Here, we examine both to decide which offers the best feature set.
Business

Tesla posts $702M Q1 loss as deliveries fall sharply; Musk promises turnaround

Tesla lost $702 million during the first quarter of 2019 as deliveries fell sharply, and demand for the Model X and the Model S flattened. The company predicts it will again lose money in the second quarter.
Cars

Ambitious but not rubbish: The best Top Gear episodes

Since its relaunch in 2002, Top Gear has become required viewing for any serious gearhead. The great moments from this show may seem too numerous to count, but we've managed to pick some of the highlights from the first 26 seasons.
Cars

Qiantu K50 electric sports car was designed in China, will be built in the U.S.

The Qiantu K50 is a Chinese electric sports car that will be marketed in the United States by California-based Mullen Technologies. The carbon-fiber bodied, 402-horsepower K50 is expected to go on sale in 2020.
Cars

Volkswagen prepares its electric ID R race car for its toughest challenge yet

The Volkswagen ID R electric race car will head to the Nürburgring to set a lap record. With Romain Dumas at the wheel, the ID R will try to become the fastest electric car around the grueling, 12.9-mile long track.