Archive for November, 2009

Tubeless Tyre Valves

The little rubber and brass valve that holds the air in your tyre, and admits new air, is one of the world’s most successful inventions. William Schraeder designed its fundamentals nearly 120 years ago.

The little “springy thingy”, called the “valve core”, that screws into the brass valve really hasn’t altered all that much in that time, and all you need to remove it and let the air out, is a slotted valve cap. Or you can just depress the little button in the centre and you get the same effect, only slower.

Yet when you buy a new tyre, the fitter always replaces the valve. Why does he bother?

The modern tubeless snap-in valve is compressed into a hole in the rim to provide a seal. A brass stem is adhered to a rubber skin, with a domed shape on the inside of the wheel to prevent it being blown through the hole by the air pressure.

 Over time, the degree of compression is lowered (it doesn’t fit as tightly). It may even crack around the groove in the rubber which lodges in the rim hole due to flexing.

The valve actually flexes as the wheel revolves, particularly if it is a long one designed to protrude past the wheel trim. Ultra-high-speed photographs have shown the valve actually touching the rim at right angles at very high speeds. Also the heat during service causes the bond of the brass to the rubber to deteriorate, and if this bond ruptures, the stem blows out, and the tyre goes down quickly.

So reliability is what it’s all about. It’s much better in the long run to replace it after one tyre life.

You can contribute by using dust caps or valve caps, and giving a blast of air around the valve before you clamp on the air chuck, which you should do monthly. If you suspect a leaking valve, a “dob of spittle” on the end of your finger into the brass stem is the tried and true method. If it bubbles, first check the valve core is tight. If it is, loosen it, let some air our, then retighten to dislodge any dirt that might be there.

If it still leaks, replace the core. Unscrewing the core right out will let all the air out, and coincidentally clean the seat that the “springy thingy” seals on. To do this, you need a slotted metal valve cap, or a valve tool, and a kindly service station operator to assist if needed.

The metal clamp-in valves are different. These are used in some alloy wheels, where the thickness of the metal around the hole is too great for a snap-in type. But they are even more desirable when high speeds are the norm. Unlike a snap-in, they do not flex, and they sandwich two air seal washers under compression to get the air seal. So even though they cost more, they last longer, because it is not as necessary to replace them after every tyre life.

Want to know more? See our “All about tyres” section or our “Inflating Tyres Safely” post.


November 9, 2009 at 9:29 am 2 comments

Tyre Supplier Wanted for F1

Tenders are invited for supply of tyres to high tech automotive company.

Previous inscrutable supplier of past 13 years, exclusive supplier past three, willing to pass on tales of heartaches and drama to successful tenderer at the conclusion of the 2010 season.

Apply – if you’re rich, resourceful, and only slightly demented – to:

Bernie Egglestone PLC -F1 cars Division

(Bridgestone Firestone have announced that they are relinquishing their role as the only tyre supplier to Formula 1 Racing at the end of the 2010 season.)

P.S. The ad is a spoof.

November 3, 2009 at 5:00 am 1 comment

Good Tyres, Bad Tyres, What’s the Difference anyway?

Because so much of the detail of a tyre is hidden from view, and it doesn’t mean much to the average tyre buyer anyway, the customer feels quite entitled to ask “Why does this tyre cost more than that tyre, and what does the difference mean to me anyway?”

Because more often than not, the tyre is presented in a vertical stack alongside other tyres, the salesperson is quite likely to launch into a comparison of tread and buttress design and width, tread pattern design, accompanied by claims of superior mileage, roadholding, reliability, and “it’s on special this week only” sales presentation. The reason is that either the customer can see these things for themselves, or can conceptualise, or are prepared to accept because the salesman obviously knows more than they do.

The question remains though – “why does this tyre cost more than that tyre?” It’s a valid question from the customer’s point of view. Why do some tyres cost more than others, and is it worth it to buy the more expensive tyre?

So start with “how recent is the design?” Most new tyre designs (sizes, patterns, constructions) are brought into production to meet the requirements of the design engineers of new cars. If they didn’t ask for particular improved tyre attributes, then the design process would stagnate. They drive the improvements, to meet design parameters that they want to incorporate in their new car design. This process goes on worldwide, all the time.

The tyre company, needing their business, designs, qualifies, tests extensively, government certifies their new tyre design, and submit prototypes to the car company for evaluation on their new design car. To this stage, this has cost a great deal of money in technical resources, tooling costs, mould manufacture, and qualifying testing. Then they wait while the car company engineers evaluate their tyres against others from competing tyre companies. So there is no certainty that these prototype tyres will ever see enough of a production run to amortise their development costs.

Remember, each new car has at least 4 new tyres, possibly 5.

So hurrah, at last the car company accepts the tyre for production, and contracts for supply at a particular rate at 12 hour’s notice is arranged, at a price that is barely adequate.

Then, after two to three years, replacement tyres are required by the car buyer from a retail tyre store, in competition with tyres from all over the world in the same size. This is possible because of currency alignments, and because tyres are all made to conform to the same standards regarding size dimensions, speed and load carrying capacity.

But there emerge major differences in appearance, because the car engineers may have specified a quiet riding tyre for a saloon, whereas more eye-appealing tyres from say Europe in the same size may have been designed for a more sporty vehicle; or advertising campaigns, consumer reviews may influence both retailer and buyer; the reputation of the brand definitely carries weight; word of mouth approval; bulk package deals from wholesaler to the retailer; or simply the skill of the salesman in influencing the customer’s choice, based on questioning the customer as to the application of the tyre. Always in the background, is the appeal of low price.

Another 3 years on, another 60000 kilometres, time’s moved on, probably the car’s changed hands, the pattern is no longer available (the moulds do wear out), fashion has changed, tooling costs have been recovered, so the price of the product has been lowered to meet competition and retain market share. Besides, 18 inch wheels have superseded 15 inch- that wasn’t so long ago, was it! Your once newly developed tyre has now become the price leader into the tyre shop so that hopefully you will buy something better, more modern, better performing, more costly.

Tyres are all fat and black, look the same from the outside, they’re almost all truly round these days, and the detail of the construction differences are inside the casing. However, small differences inside add up to small improvements in braking, handling, cornering, steering response (lane changing ability), quietness, and harshness over concrete road joins, durability under high speed/high load conditions, and other measurable improvements. All carry a cost, improvements are small, but when it comes to the crunch, may make a difference to your comfort or wellbeing. Just the design of the tread pattern, the scrambling of the tread elements to break up the noise generated, can add considerably to the cost of the mould. Then you have to have the I.T. expertise to be able to produce the noises the pattern makes on a computer first.

If you buy a bad tyre, it will be with you for a long time.

Tread life isn’t the be all and end all. A survey of Australian motorists some years ago showed that the quality most desired in a tyre was the ability to stop, and handle, in the wet. Perhaps the average motorist is more discerning than they are given credit for!

If you would like to know more, have a look at the blog on, and the “All About Tyres” section too.

November 2, 2009 at 4:10 am Leave a comment