Goodyear tests snow traction in Florida … ‘no (s)kidding’
EGLIN AFB, Fla., Sept. 9 – It may seem unlikely, but a tire’s ability to perform in the harshest snow and ice conditions is sometimes developed in a setting surrounded by white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and brilliant sunshine.
Here, on Florida’s Panhandle, near the Gulf of Mexico, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company sometimes works with the United States Air Force to gain a better grip on tire traction in winter conditions.
The severe winter conditions are recreated inside the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, an immense scientific building located within the gates of Eglin Air Force Base.
Goodyear engineers and test personnel traveled here to test tires in the world’s largest climatic chamber where they have the capability to control freezing temperatures and to create a snow depth suitable for the extensive testing process that all of the company’s tires must complete.
“In essence, we put our tires through the types of conditions during the development and testing phases that any consumer may face when that tire is mounted to a vehicle in the real world,” said Mike Wilps, Goodyear’s manager of tire evaluation.
“Our tires are subjected to high-speed, extended treadwear, extreme weather and other tests before any product is released for manufacturing and eventually sold to a customer.”
One of those possible test sites is the climatic chamber at Eglin AFB, occasionally used by Goodyear when its test group wants to be sure of cold temperatures and a suitable testing depth for snow or ice.
The chamber is large enough to house aircraft such as a Boeing 747 or a military C-5 transport plane, and it has the capability to reach temperature extremes of –65F to +165F.
Weather conditions such as snow, ice, freezing rain, extreme humidity, strong winds and blowing dust can be created in a controlled test environment.
Goodyear test engineers around the world venture to snowy/icy regions such as New Zealand, parts of Yellowstone Park and the northernmost reaches of Minnesota and Michigan to seek proper test conditions.
In a departure from such natural environments, Goodyear and Eglin personnel sometimes use snow-making equipment inside the McKinley lab to recreate the winter conditions facing motorists in the northern U.S. and Canada.
During much of the year, the U.S. Air Force uses the unique test chamber for its own needs – perhaps to mimic icing conditions on the wings of military aircraft, or to create dense fog to evaluate the ability of optical devices to operate in low visibility conditions.
Changes in temperature and the structure of various road surfaces can make the development of new tires a formidable challenge, according to Wilps.
That is one reason Goodyear recently introduced the Ultra Grip IceWRT winter tire, with tread designs for both SUVs and light-trucks.
The tire features Winter Reactive Technology, a combination of innovative tire features that work together to help provide a balance of starting, stopping and turning traction to help drivers react to changing winter road conditions.
The tire features 2D blades in the center zone for hardworking biting edges for enhanced starting and stopping power on snow and ice. Goodyear’s 3D TredLock Technology blades in the shoulder zone of the tire lock together to form large outer tread blocks for confident winter grip and handling in sweeping turns.
“To get the best traction and gripping power on ice and snow, you can’t beat a true winter tire,” said Gary Medalis, Goodyear brand general manager. “Goodyear’s Ultra Grip family of winter tires are worth a look for many drivers, and winter is just around the corner.”
For more information about the Ultra Grip line of winter tires or any other Goodyear tires, visit www.goodyeartires.com.