By Heather Mosier – Director of Technology Development at Cooper Tire & Rubber Company
New tires are not likely to be at the top of your customers’ holiday wish lists, yet choosing and replacing tires should be a priority for everyone who owns a car. When it comes to vehicle safety and maintenance, tires are often an afterthought – but selecting the right tire, along with consistent tire maintenance, is absolutely critical when it comes to staying safe on the road.
There is a significant amount of innovation and technology required to design tires, and a complex process in place to ensure their quality. As the Director of Technology Development for Cooper Tire, I think about tires every day (so your customers don’t have to). I work with colleagues who are developing new compounds and tread configurations in labs; talking to auto service professionals like you to get feedback; and conducting performance assessments from the rocky deserts of Texas to our extreme winter test tracks in Canada.
Not all tires are created equal and below is an overview of tire construction basics to help your customers better understand this critical component of their vehicle and what to look for to get the right fit.
Basic Tire Functions
Tires have four basic functions:
- Holding air to carry the vehicle’s load (i.e. the amount of weight the vehicle can support) – Customers should select a tire that is recommended for their vehicle and that has the appropriate load rating to avoid premature wear, damage and, most importantly, tire overload.
- Responding to road hazards such as potholes, debris, etc. – Depending on the environment, these hazards can cause minimal to severe damage to your customers’ vehicles. Tires get the brunt of the impact – making tire quality, durability and strength crucial.
- Responding to the vehicle’s steering – A vehicle’s steering, handling and braking is directly related to the tread on the tires, which is covered in more detail below.
- Stopping and accelerating a vehicle – The vehicle can’t move without the tires!
Tire tread gives drivers the traction to handle curves on the road and to stop. Because tires are the only part of the vehicle that is in contact with the road, they need the appropriate traction for all types of surfaces and weather conditions, from loose gravel to rain to snow and ice. The section of rubber from the tire that contacts the road is called the “contact patch” or the tire “footprint.” The contact patch/footprint provides the necessary grip for the tire against the road.
When customers choose tires, they should consider both the conditions they will be driving in and the type of surface they are driving on (i.e. highway commuting vs. outdoor terrains). Depending on the weather and road conditions, a different tire may be needed to effectively handle those conditions. Here are some key tread aspects of different tire types:
- Winter tires – Winter tires have deeper tread grooves and more sipes (tiny slots in the tread) that allow the tires to maintain better traction in snowy, slushy and icy conditions. Additionally, the tread on winter tires is made of a special compound that does not harden in freezing temperatures, allowing your tires to remain flexible and keep traction with the road.
- Summer tires – The tread on summer tires has fewer grooves and is designed to have maximum rubber contact with road. The tread compound allows these tires to perform well in hot and wet conditions. They typically have fewer sipes and do not perform well in colder conditions with snow and ice.
- All-season tires – These tires have a blended tread design of both summer and winter tires to perform well during all four seasons with moderate weather conditions. Because the tread on all-season tires is not as deep as winter tires, they are not recommended for climates with serious snow, sleet and ice.
- On/off road tires – These tires also have a blended design and four-season capability, but their tread consists of larger blocks and deeper groves to handle off-road elements (mud, rock, sand, etc.) to a moderate extent. For rougher terrain, the deeper grooves would not be enough to handle those extreme conditions.
- Off-road tires – The tread on these tires has very large blocks and deep groves for maximum traction in off-road conditions. However, they can be louder to drive on smoother surfaces like highways and can impact ride comfort.
Many customers may not get into the technical details of their tires, but it’s helpful for them to know that tires are complex and advanced pieces of equipment, with a variety of components performing unique functions. All of this adds up to deliver the performance, quality and safety that your customers need.
- Inner liner – Made of impermeable rubber that restricts air molecules, this liner is fatigue resistant and a precise thickness. Its primary function is maintaining inflation pressure and reducing oxidation. All of these features are designed to keep the air in the tire.
- Bead bundle – This is the foundation of the tire and is made up of a very precise high-strength wire and rubber coating.
- Bead filler – Rubber wedge that has a high hardness and stiffens the lower sidewall area.
- Body plies – Helps the inner liner contain air pressure. This component is made up of rubber coated cords and provides the tire structure strength.
- Chafer – Composed of fabric or rubber to act as abrasion resistance and mounting protection.
- Sidewall – Rubber that is flexible, fatigue resistant and ozone/weather resistant. It also protects the carcass (click here to learn more about how to read a tire sidewall).
- Steel belts – Belts are brass coated steel cords encapsulated in a rubber coating. They strengthen the tread area and distribute the load from the contact patch.
- Nylon overwrap – Can be made from nylon, aramid or a hybrid. This overwrap influences speed ratings and ensures the tires maintain their shape and do not “grow” while traveling at high speeds.
- Tread cap/base – This component has a precise profile and is made up of polymer blends of natural and synthetic rubber, which can be formulated to meet different needs including high performance handling, higher mileage capabilities, and heavy load applications. Fillers, such as carbon black and silica, are utilized to varying ratios to reach specific performance targets.
Key Tire Components
Choosing the Right Tire
While they look simple, tires are a complex product designed to accomplish specific performance requirements, and there are many factors to consider when helping your customers choose the best tire. The right tire for your customers depends on the conditions they drive in, vehicle type and the activities the vehicle is used for (i.e. off-roading).
By helping your customers understand and consider each of these aspects when they are tire shopping, you can also help them get a good value for their spend. According to a recent survey conducted by Cooper Tire, Americans want a product that will deliver a good value and among the top features that drive purchase decisions include a reasonable price (69%), being long lasting (63%) and having the exact features needed (51%). Help your customers:
- Think about their driving style. How and where your customers typically drive is a critical factor in making sure they are getting the right features in their tires—not too many features and not too few for their real-life needs. For example, longer commutes and frequent road trips may require your customers to consider the tires’ anticipated mileage, ride comfort, fuel efficiency and road noise. Colder winters will require a tire designed to have better traction in harsh conditions, such as winter tires. And, for off-road driving on muddy and dirt roads, all-terrain tires or dedicated off-road tires might be good options.
- Identify the correct tire size. Just like vehicles, tires come in many different types and sizes, including tires sized for passenger cars, minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks. Help your customers find the right tire size by consulting the information placard on the driver’s side doorjamb, glove box or fuel door.
- Maintain your new tires (value is about long-term benefits and savings!). Your customers should understand that maintaining and regularly inspecting their tires is a critical component of value shopping to make sure they get the longest, safest life out of them. Emphasize the basics, like checking to be sure that the tires are not over- or under-inflated, ensuring the alignment is correct, checking that the tires have enough tread depth for proper traction, and rotating the tires as recommended.
For more information, visit coopertire.com.
About the Author
Heather Mosier is Director – Technology Development for Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. In her role, Heather leads an organization of engineers and scientists who develop advanced technologies and processes that are utilized in the manufacture of new tires to meet key performance criteria such as noise reduction, fuel economy, wear, and traction in various weather and on/off-road driving conditions.
Heather has over 24 years of automotive experience, and successfully led a group of engineers in developing several of Cooper’s award-winning products including the Discoverer SRX, the Discoverer A/TW, and the Discoverer STT Pro. Heather and her team developed tires that were selected by luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz as original equipment on their SUVs. In 2016, she received a national Women in Manufacturing STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Award from The Manufacturing Institute/National Association of Manufacturers.
Heather joined Cooper in 1996 as an engineering co-op and has since served in various engineering, managerial and director roles of increasing responsibility. In April 2020, she was promoted to the role of Director – Technology Development.
Heather holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of Science degree in manufacturing management from Kettering University.
Cooper Tire shares answers to the questions they know customers will ask auto service professionals about tires as the weather gets colder
By Jenny Paige, Cooper Tire Product Manager
Winter brings the potential for unpredictable weather and harsh conditions. Thus, it’s critical that drivers know the basics of winter driving safety. Driving with care during cold weather starts with educating your customers about the only part of their vehicle connected to the road: their tires.
Depending on your location, over the next several months your customers are going to ask many questions about winter tires. Here are the top eight questions customers may ask when it comes to understanding and purchasing winter tires:
1) “Should I get winter tires?”
This depends on where you and your customers live and drive. You should recommend winter tires to your customers if they are regularly driving in an area where the temperature consistently drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Contrary to what many believe, there doesn’t have to be snow on the roads for a winter tire to be beneficial. The tread rubber on a winter tire is specifically formulated to stay supple and provide grip as the temperature drops. And, a winter tire will outperform an all-season tire once the temperature drops to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or when you can start to see your breath.
2) “What’s the difference between winter tires and all-season tires?”
Before investing in winter tires, customers will want to know why they should spend money on winter tires when they may already have all-season tires. The main point to emphasize is that all-season tires are NOT winter tires. All-season tires are designed for year-long driving and can handle some light winter conditions, but winter tires are specifically made to improve braking and handling on snow, ice and in cold temperatures.
Picking the right winter tire for you and your customers’ driving conditions is key. There are winter tires tuned to handle slush and black ice for highway commuters, or there are winter tires that can plow through snow. For those in the most extreme winter conditions, some winter tires can be fitted with metal studs, which provide extreme grip on icy surfaces.
Having the right set of tires for driving conditions (even if that means having a summer and a winter set of tires) optimizes both the performance of the tires and their longevity, which is healthy for your customers’ bank accounts in the long run.
3) “I have four-wheel drive / all-wheel drive, do I even need winter tires?”
This is a popular misconception, and you’ll need to clarify with your customers that four-wheel drive does not offer any braking advantages when it comes to stopping on ice and snow. Winter tires are made to provide better traction on snow and ice and through freezing temperatures. If you’re located in an area that regularly experiences temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or heavy snow, dedicated winter tires are the right choice.
4) “How do I know which winter tires are right for me?”
Most people probably don’t realize that there are different types of winter tires and that the technology is constantly evolving to address the challenges of driving in different kinds of winter conditions – from slush to snow to ice. At Cooper, we spend a lot of time thinking through the various winter driving conditions and work to create tires to address those unique challenges.
For example, we are introducing a new tire designed especially for trucks and SUVs. The new Cooper® Discoverer® Snow Claw™ tire gives drivers confidence and grip on the road in the bitter cold, snow and ice. It has the rugged dependability and strength that can be expected from a Cooper light truck product but is specifically designed to handle extreme winter conditions. The tire’s been tested on a variety of vehicles and roads, and the test data proves its performance. The Discoverer® Snow Claw™ tire stops on average eight feet shorter on snow and 12 feet shorter on ice than select competitor tires.* The Discoverer Snow Claw can also be studded, if your customers desire.
Another winter tire, the Cooper® Discoverer® True North™, is ideal for daily commuters who drive on plowed and treated roads, and deal with slush and black ice throughout the winter months. It offers exceptional wet traction for slush-covered roads and superior grip on ice and snow. It features a tread compound that remains flexible when the temperature drops, offering supreme control, while maintaining a smooth, quiet and comfortable ride.
5) “How can I tell the difference between a regular tire versus a winter tire?”
When identifying a winter tire, the first place you need to look is on the tire sidewall. If the tire carries the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol then you know it has an acceptable level of winter performance, per the U.S. Department of Transportation’s requirements.
Recently, a number of tire makers have started developing “all-weather” tires. These are tires that carry the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol, but are still marketed as 12-month tires. These products offer more snow traction than a traditional all-season tire, and they are a great alternative for customers who are not willing to own two sets of tires. However, for someone who drives in harsh and unpredictable winter conditions, such as during a winter travel advisory, Cooper would still highly encourage that motorist to consider a dedicated set of winter tires.
6) “Can I just buy two winter tires?”
Always recommend that your customers purchase four winter tires. By switching all the tires to winter tires, drivers are better equipped to maintain vehicle control in unpredictable winter conditions. Proper braking and vehicle handling depend on tire traction. If a vehicle only has two winter tires, this can lead to an imbalance in how the tires are gripping the road and negatively impact handling and braking.
We’re all watching our spending more closely these days, so if a customer insists on only purchasing/installing two winter tires, they must be on the rear axle.
7) “Do I need studs on my winter tires?”
This will depend on the road conditions travelled and local laws, but let customers know that in slushy or wet conditions studs aren’t necessary on winter tires and have no added benefit. Studded winter tires provide more traction in icy conditions as the studs are designed to dig into ice. Studded tires do have a few downsides as well such as damaging roads and creating an uncomfortable ride, thus they aren’t recommended unless drivers are consistently facing icy roadways.
Click here for the full list of state regulations on studded tires.
8) “I noticed my ‘check tire pressure symbol’ on my dashboard lights up when it gets cold outside – is this a sign I need to change to winter tires?”
Your customers may not be aware that the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) warning light often turns on when the temperature drops. To put it simply, when the air inside a tire gets cold it condenses and the pressure inside the tire goes down, regardless of the season. Tire pressure decreases by about one pound per square inch for every 10-degree drop in outside air temperature, so the colder the weather, the more tire pressure decreases. The warning light activates when the tire pressure is 20-25 percent lower than the required pressure.
Driving on underinflated tires can be dangerous and may lead to blowouts. The TPMS light coming on is less a sign that drivers need to switch to their winter tires and more a reminder to properly maintain the tire pressure to stay safe on the road.
For more information on winter tires as well as other important tire information, visit the Cooper Tire website here.
**Based on the results for Discoverer® Snow Claw™ LT275/65R18 tires in comparative snow braking and ice braking testing against three select competitor tires and the previous generation product.
By Andrea Berryman / Director of Product Development/ Cooper Tire & Rubber Company
The tire sidewall provides a lot of important information. You can help your customers understand this information, making them smarter about their tires and tire purchases, and helping you continue to be their trusted ally.
Here’s a breakdown of how to explain some important sidewall information on passenger vehicle tires for customers who may not be familiar with tires or have always wondered what this information means.
BEYOND THE SIDEWALL: PROPER TIRE INFLATION PRESSURE
This is one case where the vehicle owner must look beyond the sidewall for the right information. What is printed on the tire sidewall for inflation pressure is the maximum cold inflation pressure allowed in the tire, not the proper inflation pressure for the tire when fitted to a specific vehicle. The proper inflation pressure is provided by the vehicle manufacturer and can be found on the vehicle tire placard usually located on the driver side door jamb, glovebox or inside the fuel door of most vehicles. This sticker provides the correct inflation pressure for the vehicle’s tires.
Inflation pressure enables tires to support the load of the vehicle. Therefore, proper inflation is critical. The right amount of inflation pressure helps the vehicle and the tires achieve their optimum performance, last longer and even helps reduce fuel costs.
Note: tires heat up from driving, so do not check tire pressure immediately after a trip, no matter how brief. Wait a few hours until the tires have cooled.
The letters “M” and “S” indicate the tire is intended for limited mud and snow service. This mark may be found in several formats that may include: “MS,” “M/S,” “M&S,” or “M+S.”
MOUNTAIN SNOWFLAKE SYMBOL
The snowflake symbol inside a mountain range indicates how a tire will perform in the snow. If your customers drive in snow frequently, checking the tire’s sidewall to see if this symbol is present is very important. The three-peak mountain snowflake, or 3PMS, indicates that the tires were designed specifically for severe snow and can handle those conditions.
The load index is a numerical code (104/101 in the example image below) associated with the maximum load a single tire can carry at the speed indicated by its speed symbol (see below) under specified service conditions. The load index is a code ranging generally ranging from 50-129 that represents the maximum load carrying capacity for a single tire. In the example below, single and dual application load indices are listed.
The maximum weight (load carrying capacity) is also stamped on the lower sidewall of the tire. A driver should never exceed the maximum limits on the tire or the rim/wheel. Driving on an overloaded tire is hazardous. When a car is carrying too much, the weight can create excessive heat in the tire, which can cause sudden tire failure.
The speed symbol is a letter that indicates the speed category at which the tire can carry a load corresponding to its load index under specified service conditions. Speed ratings are based on laboratory tests that relate to performance on the road, but are not applicable if tires are underinflated, overloaded, worn out, damaged, or altered. In the example, the speed symbol “T” in the service description means a speed category of 118 miles per hour (or 190 km/h).
Excessive speed is not only unlawful but may also cause injury. Although a tire may be speed rated, Cooper does not endorse the operation of any vehicle in an unsafe or unlawful manner.
The most common speed ratings on passenger car and pickup truck tires are:
Q ….99 mph / 160km/h R …106 mph / 170km/h
S …112 mph / 180km/h T… 118 mph / 190km/h
H …130 mph / 210km/h V …149 mph / 240km/h
W…168 mph / 270km/h Y …186 mph / 300km/h
Z …149+ mph / 240+km/h
Radial is the most popular type of tire and denotes a particular design in which the ply cords are arranged at 90 degrees to the direction of travel. Radial tires provide reliability, comfort, protection, stability, durability and maneuverability for drivers. A tire with radial construction will have the word “RADIAL” on the sidewall.
A radial tire is also delineated by the character “R” in the size designation.
DOT TIRE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
The “DOT” symbol certifies the tire manufacturer’s compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) tire safety performance standards. Next to these letters is the tire identification number (TIN), also known as the tire “serial” number.
Think of a tire’s identification number as its “birthday.” The first two digits are the factory code indicating where the tire was made. The last four digits identify the week and year of manufacture (Example: “0309” means third week of the year 2009), so drivers can know exactly when their tires were manufactured. Other characters in between the first four and last four characters are optional manufacturer’s codes for tire type, make, etc. All tires produced after September 2009 must have the full TIN on the intended outboard side of the tire and at least a partial TIN on the intended inboard side. The partial TIN does not include the date code.
It is important to know the DOT tire identification number in the event a driver needs to verify safety certifications or in the event of a manufacturer’s recall.
ADDITIONAL OPTIONAL SUFFIX LETTERS
- LT – Light truck
- ST – Special trailer
- TR – Tires for service on trucks, buses or other heavy vehicles. This suffix is intended to differentiate between truck tires and light vehicle tires with similar size designations.
- ML – Mining and logging tires used in intermittent highway service
- MH – Tires for mobile homes
- HC – Identifies a 17.5 rim diameter code tire for use on low platform trailers
- NHS – Not for highway service
- P – Indicates a P Metric tire
For more information on tire sidewalls as well as other important tire information, visit the Cooper Tire website here, and also see the Care and Service of Passenger and Light Truck Tires document on the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association website.
Andrea Berryman / Director – Product Management
Andrea Berryman is the Director – Product Management for Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. In her role, Andrea leads the North America product development team to drive forward Cooper’s long term product strategy. Andrea’s efforts focus on Cooper brand products as well as Mastercraft, Starfire and private label brands.Andrea joined Cooper in April 2017 as Product Manager – SUV. In January 2020, she was promoted to the role of Director – Product Management. Prior to joining Cooper, Andrea worked for the Dana Corporation where she was a Program Manager for commercial vehicles. Earlier in her career, she spent 24 years at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company working in a variety of engineering and product marketing roles.
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from the University of Kansas.
From Federated Insurance
It’s nearly impossible these days for businesses to operate without the help of Internet-connected devices, which exposes them to cybercrime.
It’s the small- to medium-sized businesses that are especially vulnerable: half are victims of cybercrime and nearly two-thirds of those victims go out of business.1
Hackers increasingly target small businesses because there is a low risk they will be caught and a high probability they will be successful.
Maintaining personally identifiable information (PII) on a computer connected to the Internet creates a nearly unavoidable risk. More than likely, names, addresses, and employment information are stored. If PII is acquired by someone without the authority to do so, that may result in a data breach.
Banking, credit, and vendor account information is also vulnerable. Even if that valuable information is not stored on an Internet-connected computer, employees who have access to it can be duped into handing it over to criminals.
Best Practices and Security Tips
Tip 1: Train Employees in Information Technology Security. Training should be offered, especially to those who are responsible for accounts payable, human resources records, and wire transfers. Training for all employees should be reinforced periodically.
Employees should be instructed to refrain from clicking links or attachments in e-mails, and not to pay an invoice until it’s confirmed that the sender actually sent it. Even if the e-mail appears to be from a trusted source, employees should learn to always copy and paste links or type URLs into a browser to see if the address is valid.
Tip 2: Funds Transfers. Put a policy in place to have an in-person or telephone conversation to confirm e-mail requests for funds or personal information. It can greatly reduce the likelihood of fraudulent transfers or information sharing.
Tip 3: E-mail Authentication. Phishing can be substantially reduced by verifying that the e-mail originated from the domain it is associated with. If your domain is hosted, it’s worth taking some time to look at how your e-mail is set up to ensure proper authentication schemes are used.2
Tip 4: Change default passwords on your router and other Internet-connected devices.
Tip 5: Use a trusted VPN service when using Wi-Fi.
Tip 6: Back up your data regularly both to the cloud and to a removable device.
Tip 7: Update firmware and software regularly.
Tip 8: Provide firewall security for your Internet connection. Ensure your operating system’s firewall is enabled, especially if have employees working from home.3
Tip 9: Limit employees’ authority to install software and their access to only necessary information and data.3
Tip 10: Require employees to update unique passwords every three months.3
Security professionals used to strive for perfect security, but today they accept that goal as unachievable. Instead, they strive for optimal security by combining best practices with a risk management program that considers purchasing data compromise and cyber coverage through a knowledgeable insurance provider.
Cyber Shield® from Federated Insurance is a two-part coverage program designed to help provide essential protection against many of the critical cyber and privacy exposures businesses face. Data compromise coverage and cyber coverage can help your company recover from intentional or accidental breaches.*
- “Small Business, Big threat: Protecting Small Businesses from Cyber Attacks,” Statement for the Record: Dr. Jane LeClair, Chief Operating Officer, National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College Before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, 4/22/15. https://smallbusiness.house.gov/uploadedfiles/4-22-2015__dr.__leclair__testimony.pdf
- The leading e-mail authentication protocols are SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance); best practice is to utilize the three protocols together. https://dmarc.org/2016/03/best-practices-for-email-senders/
- “Cybersecurity for Small Business.” Online at https://www.fcc.gov/general/cybersecurity-small-business
- Coverage will be determined solely by the circumstances of the event and the terms of your policy, if approved for issue. This article is not an offer of insurance.