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September 6, 2009 - Autos

Robert Eckaus
Safety idea for cars including fast ones!

When driving a car, cold tires can cause serious loss of traction and control. You've seen the races on TV when cars come out of the pits on cold tires and get on the gas too soon, losing control or spinning out. Ever see a lousy launch at the dragstrip due to tire spin? The same thing happens to street cars. A warm tire that is "sticky" from driving and on hot pavement is far, far different than a cold tire on cool asphalt. Also, high performance tires are "harder" when cold and not recommended in cold weather. Nothing wrong with spirited driving either. But loss of control and increased braking distances is wrong.

How do you know when your tires are warmed up? My idea to have the tire pressure warning system include temperature readings. Similar to these systems offered by the Tire Rack. Similar to the onboard telemetry of tire pressure, tire temperature can be included. A digital readout along with temperature range would be simple. That could even be an added safety factor in case of a blowout where the tire temperature spikes. There are infra-red meters that are designed for this already for motorsports. Here are some more examples: HP World.com and Truechoice.com

Some may argue this is yet another overboard safety measure. I would counter this is no different than what race teams do for proper car set-up on the road circuit or the the dragstrip. And since it just uses sensors and a digital display, it has no negative aspect unlike the structural safety standards of today that are excessively heavy. Have you seen cars and trucks with extra gauges on the A-pillar? These are purposefully installed for readouts that some may consider obscure like exhaust temperature, oil temperature, boost pressure, etc.

What if continuous mileage requirements push the edge of tire development to the point where tire temperature indication is a government mandated aspect due to compromises in tire design? Playing with tire construction is all too common in racing. The Michelin Debacle in 2005, MotoGP at Laguna Seca and Goodyear in NASCAR.

The stability and traction control that is standard on many performance (and non-performance cars) are great features for the motoring public. However, when someone wants to extract the maximum performance from their car, these features are disabled by a push of a button, purposefully. Sometimes, they are not totally disabled and a particular procedure or sequence must be followed. Why not have a system that helps with this decision? It doesn't mean the car is any less "pure" with electronic nannies.

The enthusiast community is aware of high torque cars that can spin easily. There are stories about the "treacherous" Vipers of the past. Get on the gas too much and quite a few owners have lost control and crashed. This occurred with a car that had neither traction or stability control. And the "driver mod" was probably needed as well. A "driver mod" is short for driver modification, i.e. an improvement in the driver's skill or decision making. A tire temperature reading could help prevent such things from happening by indicating if traction loss is very likely due to cold tires.

Spinning isn't winning after all. Even modern performance tires get "hard" and lose adhesion when temperatures drop. Numerous cars have become so powerful that drag racing on street tires becomes very challenging, hence the 60-130mph measurement gaining in popularity. My prediction is this will be upcoming "feature", desired or not, in the future.

Got a question about cars you would like answered? Performance, racing, modifying, shopping, makes, models, events, etc? Ask me here AskRobAboutCars@gmail.com and I'll do my best to answer your question and publish it here on soakonline.com!

Keywords: Cold, tires, TPMS, tire, Goodyear, MotoGP, laguna, seca, viper, enthusiast, spin, spinning
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