How A Manufacturer Tests Tires
We ideally like to test tires in a variety of conditions from mud to rocks to snow to sand to pavement. After all, that’s where off-road tires are going to get used. Unfortunately, seasonal conditions combined with limited test budgets sometimes keep us from doing all the examining we want to do in a standard testing period (thus why we have our “Long-Term Updates” section). But large tire companies have a few more resources on hand and can take the initiative to bring potential road conditions and terrains to a single testing facility that can give measurable data to help Cooper tire & Rubber not only manufacture but also continuously improve upon their tires.
The staff of OFF-ROAD magazine, along with a number of other journalists, was recently invited out to see what Cooper puts a tire through before it ever goes to market. Cooper Tire has invested in a large 1,000-acre tire-testing facility in Pearsall, Texas, that offers a variety of conditions and terrains to put a tire through. The Cooper Tire & Vehicle Test Center (CTVTC) has four primary testing areas: an off-road test course, a wet vehicle dynamics area, a dry handling circuit, and a two-mile oval track.
We were taken through a series of demonstrations and actually given the chance to experience testing procedures with both the Discoverer A/T3 and Discoverer S/TMAXX mounted on Chevy Tahoes and Jeep Cherokees.
Not only was it a great way for us to learn a little more about two of Cooper’s light-truck tires, it was also some great insight into what a tire manufacturer puts a tire through before you ever see it in a tire store. OR
A large 14-acre wet vehicle dynamic assessment pad and a two-mile oval track allows Cooper Tire to put all their (light-truck and passenger-car) tires through wet- and dry-pavement conditions in a variety of speeds and braking conditions to measure lateral grip, noise, wet handling, and many other factors that are looked at before a tire is ever brought to market. If the facility gives a poor report on a prototype tire, it’s back to the lab for further revisions and improvement. Cooper will not release a tire until the CTVTC gives its stamp of approval.
Included in the CTVTC is a large mud course—something they keep goopy with giant sprinklers that proved to add a bit of sight difficulty in with the traction problem. We were able to try both the Discoverer A/T3s and the Discoverer S/TMAXX tires in the mud field on matching Jeep XJ Cherokees. While we were never completely stuck in the A/T3-adorned XJ, the S/TMAXX tires were clearly the superior choice in terrain like this.
After the tires were put through a bunch of off-road conditions, packed with as much mud as they could be, and then chipped away at on a sharp rock course, Cooper Tire showed us their wet-incline test that can test the limit of friction and loss of traction.
A Century of American Service
Cooper Tire was initially started in 1914 as a tire patch and repair kit company, and it expanded to tire manufacturing in 1915. In 1946, the name changed to Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. The company is now the fourth largest tire company in the United States (ninth worldwide) and includes brands like Cooper, MasterCraft, Mickey Thompson, and Dick Cepek. It employs 13,000 people worldwide.