Tyres

Reporter: Helen Wellings

There are 45.6 million tyres on the road in Australia and experts say 1 out of 3, 15 million, are bodgy or under par. That's usually because motorists are unaware of how critical tyres are to safety but also to saving fuel. The latest technology in tyres delivers substantial savings on fuel and the environment.

"Let's put $100 bucks in our back pocket every year by buying low rolling resistance tyres .. that's 1 billion litres less fuel consumed" says John Cadogan. The saving to be made from using these new, very efficient tyres, are quite substantial and even on a world basis, remarkable" says Peter Gallagher.

The big 2 supermarkets continue to lure shoppers by the thousands every day with their 4 cents a litre petrol discount vouchers - but you could save 6 cents on every litre .. just by using these tyres. "These tyres cut rolling resistance and what that means is you get something for nothing. You just roll along the road a bit easier and you don't consume as much fuel and everything else stays the same" says John Cadogan, mechanical engineer and motoring journalist for 15 years. He says most drivers waste money on cheap or old technology tyres.

They just want the cheapest tyre money can buy, that's not the best tyre" says John. He's proven these newly developed silica compound tyres using 100% silica, made by leading tyre manufacturers, like Hankook and Michelin, have a triple advantage. They save money, fuel and the environment.

"The tyre industry has a real problem because all tyres are black and round and you can't really see the difference here, it is more than skin deep they've got a material called silica blended with the rubber and it just makes the material perform better for rolling and it's just slipperier as it rolls, it does not consume as much energy" explains John.

John conducted controlled tests supervised by an impartial motoring panel on these low rolling resistance tyres, "Hanook enfren" and conventional steel-belted radials. The aim - to measure and compare fuel economy and carbon emissions. "We did that by driving 2 identical cars from Sydney to Goulburn and back about 400 km with impartial oversight" explains John.

The results;

"Basically these tyres consumed 5% less fuel than a standard steel belt radial … so what a good deal. Because rolling resistance accounts for 20% of the fuel consumed, every fifth time you buy petrol, you are buying it for your tyres and you are not getting a tangible benefit for it and the really smart advance with this materials technology is they do the same job without burning the same amount of energy."

They cost about $20 more than conventional tyres, but that's more than paid for in the first year of fuel savings and they're as safe."There is a definite saving there … they just feel terrific, whatever it is, whether it's the technology" says Gerry Plim. Builder, Gerry Plim's had 85,000 km driving so far on his Michelin Energy Saving MXI's and they drive his dollar further.

"The most prominent saving to me is I am not filling up on a regular 7 day cycle. I can usually get between 9 days use out of this vehicle, whereas previously I was getting 7 days. Run it right down til its empty, fill it up once and I'm doing it 9 days instead of 7" says Gerry. "The technology shift in tyres these days is fantastic and it's improving at such a rate, you wonder where it can stop. The benefits for the world are enormous" says Peter Gallagher.

Peter Gallagher, owner of tyre specialists, Spinning Wheel, says silica rubber tyres have been around since the late 90s, but the latest generation is a huge leap into the future. "Less cost to the hip pocket, petrol tends to go further, also we pollute the world less, which in this day and age we need to be very conscious of and do" says Peter.

A recent industry study found 90% of drivers don't even know the basics about maintaining their tyres. 1 out of 3 tyres on the road doesn't have sufficient tread to be roadworthy and safe. 7 out of 10 tyres don't have sufficient inflation - they are well under what they should be. "Under inflation of tyres is very dangerous, it consumes more fuel, cars don't drive and handle like they should" says Peter.

No Matter how good your tyres, you must maintain them properly. "A normal tyre will lose 1 to 1.5 pound a month in pressure and if they are not checked regularly, you are in trouble. Every time you fill up you should check pressures" says Peter. Also, regularly check the tread depth - easy to do, the tread should be 1.6 mm minimum.

"Exactly right, it is very obvious with the tread indicator. If you look at a new tyre, this one here, you can hardly see the tread depth indicator, because they are buried in the tread. As soon as the tyre is worn, they are very visible and they are all around the tyre at regular intervals … the tyres become dangerous on a wet road, doesn't ride well, fuel efficiency start to suffer, the tyre is basically worn out" adds Peter.