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May 26, 2010

Drive Safely Into Summer With Cooper Tire--By Doing Your P-A-R-T

PATRICIA-ROBERTS_AT_COOPER_TIRE_EVENT_6167 I recently attended a "Driving & Tire Boot Camp" event at The Cooper Tire Vehicle Test Center (CTVTC) in Pearsall, Texas, which is about 40 miles south of San Antonio.  The Cooper Tire Vehicle Testing Center is where Cooper Tire evaluates and assesses new tire products performance in the Cooper Tire family.

The thousand-acre facility offers four primary test areas:  1) A Ride/Traction/Slalom 2-mile Oval, 2) A 1.3 mile Dry Handling Circuit,   3) A 14 acre Wet Vehicle Dynamics, Area (VDA), and   4) An Off-road Test Course to evaluate light truck and SUV tires. 

Before we had the opportunity to do our own "up close and personal" test driving and thus experience the driving effects of both properly and improperly maintained tires, Cooper Tire provided an overview about proper care of tires and the reasons why correctly maintained tires were critical to the safety of all members of the family not to mention the safety of everyone else on the road. 

TIRE-contact_patch Did you know that when your vehicle is moving down the highway that the amount of each tire contact surface-to-the-highway is about the size of a post card or a dollar bill?  This one statement of fact put everything in perspective for me.  We propel millions of these heavy machines called automobiles on the highways every hour of the day and night and the control contact surface equals only a few inches or millimeters of rubber.

To begin with, the role of tires on the vehicle is to provide vehicle acceleration and braking at the tire-to-road contact area, to steer the vehicle predictability with control and precision, to support the vehicle load and allow the vehicle to roll smoothly.   Seems like a big job for those four round black rubber things we all have on our vehicles, doesn't it!! 

WIKIPEDIA-Tirefootprint-CONTACT-PATCH And yet, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), 49% of vehicles on the road have at least ONE underinflated tire and that 85% of people do not properly check tire pressure.  Additionally they report 64% of drivers do not know how to check tire tread depth and that 11% of vehicles or approximately 28 million vehicles could have one bald tire.

The cumulative estimate for year 2009 of vehicle miles of travel in the USA is 2.932.4 billion so having properly maintained tires is not an option but a safety must!!

Statistics show that 65% of all vehicle maintenance is handled by women and thus it is imperative that we all understand Tire Maintenance and its role in creating a safe environment for our families.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) provides education and guidelines for everyone on proper tire care and simply states that everyone who owns or drives a vehicle should do their P-A-R-T.
-Pressure-Underinflation is a tire's #1 enemy. It results in unnecessary tire stress, irregular wear, possible loss of control, and accidents. A tire can lose up to half of its air pressure and not appear to be flat!  Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
-Alignment- Is your vehicle pulling to one side, or shaking? A bad jolt from hitting a curb or pothole can throw your front end out of alignment and damage your tires. Have a tire dealer check the alignment periodically to ensure that your car is properly aligned.
-Rotation-Promotes uniform tire wear. Regularly rotating your vehicle's tires will help you achieve more uniform wear. Unless your vehicle owner's manual has a specific recommendation, the guideline for tire rotation is approximately every 5,000 miles.  Schedule your appointments for tire rotation and keep them.
-Tread-Measure it and inspect it.  Advanced and unusual wear can reduce the ability of tread to grip the road in adverse conditions.  Visually check your tires for uneven wear, looking for high and low areas or unusually smooth areas.  Also check for signs of damage.  Visit your tire dealer regularly.

Armed with this knowledge, we were then provided the opportunity to drive vehicles on various areas of the test tracks and compare the handling of vehicles with proper tire care and those that were not maintained. 

On the 14-acre Wet Vehicle Dynamics area we drove V-6 Ford Mustangs with Cooper CS4 tires (size 215/65R16) thru an orange coned pathway on a wet surface with both brand-new and with worn tires.  The control and handling experience was like night and day.  The worn tires provided no traction in the turns, provided loss of some control in the braking and a much longer distance to stop, and the vehicle swayed into and out of the curves.  With the new tires, I was in complete control and could drive much faster through the course...without knocking over any cones. 

Zeon_2xs_Cutaway On the Dry Handling Hot Laps Track, we rode in a Roush Mustang with Cooper Zeon tires (size 275/40R18). JOHNNY UNSER IS THE COOPER TIRE PERFORMANCE ADVISOR and he was the driver as I rode in the passenger seat and was able to experience the critical role that tires play in a vehicle's performance by pushing the tires - and the vehicle - to their limits. 

At the Soft Handling and Wet Braking area, we utilized a Ford Edge with Cooper CS4 tires (size 235/65R17).  We were able to experience the effects that low tire inflation has on soft handling maneuvers of a vehicle. What a BIG difference the underinflated tires have on ride, noise, steering feel, response time, and emergency lane change performance.  Having proper inflation is a MUST!

I returned to the Wet Track to experience the affects of replacing two of the four worn tires. We again drove V-6 Ford Mustangs with Cooper CS4 tires (size 215/65R16).  Until this exercise, I never knew how dangerous it was to only replace two of four tires during routine maintenance.  All I can advise is NEVER REPLACE ONLY TWO OF THE TIRES!!  The vehicle becomes very difficult to manage by doing this and is so high risk that it causes loss of control and therefore potential accidents.   And if you absolutely must replace only two of the tires, install them  in the back for both front- or the rear -wheeldrive vehicles.... BUT TRY NEVER TO REPLACE ONLY TWO TIRES AND ALWAYS REPLACE ALL FOUR.

THE OFF-ROAD TRACK!!  And finally, we were able to take the Jeep vehicles off road and climb over HUGE boulders to test overall durability; over steep rock inclines to test tire traction; over gravel traction bins to test traction; in mud to test for acceleration; and in silt to test soft-surface handling.

AP-COOPER_TIRE_group My thanks to all of the Cooper Tire Family for including me in this event to learn first hand why, and how, tires play a critical role in the handling and overall performance of our vehicles. 

If I can leave you with one bit of advice to keep your families safe, it is to:

Cooper Tire was voted by JD Powers as the #1 replacement tire purchased most often.  They provide a full line of replacement tires for everyday, high performance, and off road vehicle uses at a very affordable price.  For more information, you can visit their site at

This article is my review and is based on an opportunity I had to experience the "Driving & Tire Boot Camp" at the Cooper Tire Vehicle Test Center.   I trust that you have found it educational and informative to help keep your families safe.

Patricia_Roberts_GM_askpatty Patricia J. Roberts Director of Business Development

Prior to joining AskPatty.Com, Patricia Roberts was the General Director- Women's Retail Initiative on the General Motors Vehicle, Sales, Service and Marketing Staff in Detroit, Michigan.  She was responsible for programs to increase the number of females in retailing for General Motors.  This included the recruitment, training and appointment of female dealers, working with dealers to attract more women into automotive retailing positions, and to provide an enjoyable selling and service experience.

Patricia has more than 39 years of experience in the Automotive Industry to include increasing the number of women who own, who work in, and who shop in automotive businesses. 

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