Sunday, 26 September 2010

No More Budget Tyres

It was an eventful day for me, yesterday. We had slept overnight in the car no thanks to my tent being torn apart by Cornwalls cliff-top gustiness. It was a long drive ahead of us, my girlfriend would be doing the first stint, it was her car, after all. On the road, things didn't get properly interesting until just short of Okehampton on the A30, and it was all the fault of a Nissan 100NX.

On one of those ridiculous junctions where you turn off the dual-carriageway from the fast lane, the Nissan sat there ready to join our side of the road. Nicola is a steady driver, we were doing 70, any more and we would have fallen foul of the speed camera standing sentry over the junction. Without warning, the Nissan and its elderly occupants decided that pulling out into traffic was just as effective as waiting for clear passage.

Nicola's reactions were fantastic, she held the wheel firmly and pumped the non-ABS brakes instinctively, but still couldn't prevent lock-up. As the Nissan meandered further into our path, seemingly determined to get hit, Nicola was all over trying to find a path with no 100NX in it, eventually he decided on the teft hand lane and Nicola brought the Peugeot to safety no more than eighteen inches short of the Nissan. There was much tyre smoke and brake dust in the air as we pulled over to let her get her breath back.

With her in considerable shock, I sympathetically took over driving and pretty soon it became apparent that our evasive action had had ill effects on the car, there was an extremely pronounced vibration, more like a gyration at anything above 30mph. I pulled over again and took a look at the wheels, and was shocked by what I saw.

I've seen flat-spotted tyres before, but these budget Riken (Who?) tyres had virtually caught light under heavy braking. You could see where the rubber had burnt right down to the cord and there was considerable cracking into the sidewall. On removing the offending wheel and swapping it for the spare Firestone I rolled it to the back of the car and it was definitely no longer round. No wonder the steering wheel had shaken so dramatically. The tyre, on the car for less than a thousand miles, was no longer useable. One instance of emergency braking action and it was all but destroyed. Now, I've no way to be sure but I'm pretty confident that a tyre from a respected marque would have survived rather better.

I have bought various sets of second-hand alloy wheels in the past, often they come fitted with tyres of questionable pedigree, most recently a set of AMG rims wearing front tyres made by a company who called themselves "Sunny". These were, without a doubt, the worst round things I had experienced in my life, and i've eaten Tesco doughnuts. From the first mile I knew something was wrong, the road-noise was such that it sounded as if my brand new front bearings were already shot. They weren't. Aditionally, wet weather braking was utterly unpredictable. You'd stop no problem at all, but you couldn't possibly guess whereabouts on the road you'd end up. As soon as I got a chance I chucked them out and went for Kumho Ecstas as already fitted at the rear. I've had no problems since.

Please, I implore you: Only buy into a brand you have never heard of if their tyres come with personal recommendation of family or friends whos opinion you feel is worth listening to. Probably not your grandmother, or your friend with the Kia Rio wh has never driven out of town. Read proper tyre reviews in magazines, not on commercial websites. The cheap brand you've never heard of is probably no less than half the price of the famous brands, that cost saving is nothing when you consider eight thousand miles of safe motoring.

I'm not saying there is no good budget rubber out there, all I'm saying is to follow reliable advice rather than buying on price alone. In rubber terms, Tyres and condoms both need to be equally trustworthy when you need them the most.