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Friday, June 21, 2019

Tire sidewall "strength". What does that mean?

I note that on many RV forum posts on the topic of tire "Blowouts," there many times are posts on the "Strength" of the tire sidewall. Before I start, it's important that we have a shared definition of a few words.
"Blowout" is simply a statement that a tire failed catastrophically. It does not mean it simply exploded as if it were a bomb.

Belt or Tread Separation is the detachment of the belts and or tread in a radial tire. This can lead to a rapid loss of air which can make a loud noise, surprising the driver and leading to the idea that there was an explosion or "Blowout". But not all tires that have belt separations end up with a rapid loss of air. Here is an example of a tire with tread & top belt detached from the rest of the tire. It is shiny as I sprayed water on the tire while inflated on a wheel to inspect for punctures or leaks as I had suspected the tire had been run with low inflation. I "redacted" identifying marks as that information is not important for this discussion.

Sidewall Failure for this discussion means a failure of the tire sidewall not related to a sidewall cut or impact. many times when a tire loses air but is still being driven at highway speeds, the body cord or "body ply" material can fail due to excessive heat.  A more technically accurate term used by tire engineers would be "RLOF" which stands for Run Low Sidewall Flex Failure. Most Passenger, Light Truck and ST type tires made today use Polyester cords the sidewall ply.  With excessive flexing and bending from low inflation, the cord can overheat.

If the temperature gets high enough (300°F to 350°F) the cord can lose half its strength and high temperatures can result in the cord melting just as you have seen when you melt the end of a piece of Nylon or Polyester rope with a match.
 Here is what melted tire cord looks like.

I have shown this condition in a few posts, but probably the one with the best example is my post "Blowout- Real Life Example"

So why does this engineering stuff make a difference? You still had a "Blowout," and are not happy. Probably want to blame someone and the tire company is an easy target. BUT as I have said before if you do not know the real reason for a tire failure you might not prevent another failure from happening.

Imagine you had an RLOF but did not bother to try and learn why the tire was low on air. Puncture, cut, leaking valve, leaking valve core, cracked wheel are all "suspects" and just replacing the tires on your RV with a different brand will not prevent another "Blowout".

So this leaves the question of Sidewall Strength. DOT has a specific test to confirm a minimum "strength" for tires. The test procedure. involves forcing a 34 inch diameter steel rod with a hemispherical end perpendicularly into the tread as near to the centerline as possible,  at the rate of  2 inches per minute. This is repeated 5 locations around the tire and there are published minimum energy requirements (inch-pounds force) that tires must exhibit. These minimums are based on the tire size, type, and Load Range.

Now you may ask: How does the sidewall material strength come into play? Well, the sidewall material runs under the belt material so is part of the total strength requirement. Tire companies also have their own "Burst" test requirements which involve mounting a tire on a special test wheel and increasing the pressure till the tread or sidewall or the bead fails. They use special wheels as most tires are stronger than regular production wheels. The minimum pressure is not published but in most cases, it is in excess of three times the inflation number molded on a tire sidewall. and in some cases, I have seen tires exceed six times the inflation number on the sidewall.

Tire Design engineers have a wide choice of sidewall ply material to choose from. Different types of cord, different sizes and even different amounts or cords per inch circumference can be selected as the engineer works toward the final design specification. Simply claiming that "Our tires have larger and stronger cord" while true doesn't address the question of how much of that cord is used in the tire.

Bottom Line. I hope you now understand how simply claiming the tire sidewall wasn't strong enough will not help you solve your tire failure issue.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Are some tires from China better than others?

Another question on China tires:
"Tireman - in the Post you linked further up the thread you commented on not expecting long life performance out of the lowest priced tires. There seems to be something in all of the reports for "China Bombs" in that there are a lot of reported failures. Is the hype bigger than the problem? Should well maintained OEM tires last better than what is being reported? Is it your assessment that the seemingly high percentage of failures is due to the OEM tires being cheap, low-cost tires?

Sailun tires seem to have a good reputation, even though they are China tires. So it would seem that it's really just an issue of quality of the build. A good tire is a good tire, regardless of where it's made?"

In general, I would consider steel body tires, like many Sailun items, "Commercial" grade, be they LT or ST type and as such I would expect them to perform better that lighter duty tires (both ST & LT type). This would apply to other steel body tires too.

A problem with "reports" of failures is that almost no owners have the knowledge or training necessary to properly identify the real cause for failure. So while there may be a dozen reports of "Blowouts", there could be a dozen different root cause reasons. Some might even not be tire related cause like valve or wheel failure or pothole or 10d nail through the sidewall.

RE quality. All tires sold in the US are required to be certified by the manufacturer to be capable of passing Federal DOT Regulations. If tires do not pass a test (random selection by DOT) or if there are sufficient complaints to get the attention of NHTSA they might initiate an investigation. If it is found that tires do not pass the required testing then a recall might be ordered and recalls would include all tires made since the last tire that passed the test were made. This could be many thousands or even tens of thousands of tires. There are also per-tire fines. So this is something tire companies really do not want to have happened.

I have written a number of times on my blog about "China" tires and how I disagree with the concept which I liken to claiming that RVs made in Indiana are bad because most of the complaints or problem reports are about RVs built in Indiana.


Friday, June 7, 2019

Why not just inflate to the Certification label level?

I continue to read RV forum posts from people asking about what inflation to use. Tire Sidewall?, Sticker? Owner's manual? The inflation used by a neighbor? There is also continued confusion on what the sticker inflation is.
"Vehicle Certification Label" AKA "Tire Placard" only considers one thing. The max tire load capacity (molded on the tire sidewall) when the tire is inflated to the level associated with the original tire Load Range (Ply Rating) as shown in the industry load & Inflation tables.

Federal DOT Regulations specify the label indicate the tire inflation level needed to support AT LEAST  50% of the GAWR. NOTE there is no margin or reserve load capacity specified or required by the DOT Regulations.

Starting in Nov 2017, the RVIA (RV Industry Association) required that trailers have a 10% margin on tire load capacity. Motorhomes do not have this margin requirement from RVIA as far as I know.

This Reserve Load margin for trailers is more important than on Motorhomes due to the significantly higher Interply Shear imposed in trailer application.
Tire companies, do not know the exact loading that will be placed on their tires in RV application so you have to do a little work to learn the MINIMUM inflation needs for your personal vehicle. You could simply use the inflation on the Tire Placard but you still need to confirm, with scale measurement, that no axle is loaded more than the stated GAWR. It is also strongly recommended that you confirm your side-to-side load split is close to 50/50 as the tires do not "know" what the other tires are supporting, so you could be unknowingly overloading one tire by hundreds or even 1,000#.
I have other posts in this blog on how to learn the individual tire loads.