The Importance of Tire Choice and Maintenance in Road Safety

During my recent stint in the United Arab Emirates, I led a group of business students through development of a Road Safety Awareness campaign. Having spent four years investigating fatal traffic incidents in the greater Brisbane Metropolitan Area (Queensland, Australia), many years ago, it was an interesting revisit to road safety.

The Emirates has the highest road fatality rate in the world eg, in Dubai, one person dies every 32 h from some kind of road trauma. The rest of the country also figures high in road deaths. One area of our research that got my attention was the inordinately high number of single vehicle incidents apparently involving tyre failure.

The Emirates has some of the best roads I have seen; divided carriageways in excellent condition, multiple lanes, fencing to keep stock from the road, and brightly lit during the night. It also has some of the worst drivers and very lax law enforcement. Although the speed limits posted on major highways are 120 km/hr, most believe they can do 140 km/hr without being fined for speeding. Many people go much faster.

With money to burn, petroleum prices a pittance, fast cars and inexperience, it’s a dangerous mix that kills many young Emirati nationals every year. The mix is even more dangerous when drivers have no knowledge of tyre specifications and maintenance. I feel sure this lack of knowledge about tyres, apart from speed and lack of experience and attention, is a major cause of the many roll-overs on perfectly straight, well-engineered roads.

Tyres have different specifications depending on their use. Those specifications don’t only include such things as tread pattern, style and depth, construction etc, but more importantly, the maximum sustainable speed at which they can be used for long duration driving and maximum weight limitations.

It figures that if you buy a tyre with a maximum sustainable speed of 120 km/hr, it’s not a safe practice to travel for long at higher speeds. Given that the Emirates is a very hot country with ambient temperatures in summer months often around or above 50 degrees Celsius, the capacity of tyres to withstand high temperatures is also essential.

When buying tyres for a vehicle, the owner/driver needs to consider where, how and for how long the vehicle will be used. Getting water dispersant tread patterns in the Emirates would be pointless… it rarely rains, whereas in those cities with high rainfall, it makes much more sense. What one needs for the Emirates is a tyre that will sustain high speed driving on very hot roads for at least three to five hours at a time. While the loading capacity of a tyre isn’t as important (they are usually overspecified) on sedan vehicles, on a light truck, it needs to be factored into the purchase decision. Additionally, the loads placed in light trucks need to fit tyre capacity. No overloading.

The next important considerations are tyre inflation and wheel alignment. Improper wheel alignment will cause tyres to wear unevenly and is usually a matter of wasting money by reducing tyre use rather than a safety matter (unless the tyre becomes bald). Tyre pressure, however, is critical.

Manufacturers of tyres and motor vehicles specify the inflation pressure of tyres, usually with varying loads. Apart from wearing out tyres faster if they are under or over-inflated, tubeless tyres can also roll off their rims if they don’t have sufficient air pressure. With too much air pressure, tyres may burst or develop weak spots in the tyre walls. These may eventually fail causing tyre blowout, collapse or complete disintegration.

Given that the tyres are what keep a vehicle from skidding and provide traction, it’s not rocket science to suggest that they are an integral part of overall road safety. Poor tyre selection, improper use and poor maintenance can lead to disasters.

If we could only get Emirati drivers to pay more attention to their tyre selection, maintenance and use, the lives of many people could be saved annually. But, as I found so many years ago, changing people’s attitudes is so very difficult, even when it involves saving their lives.

How long is it since you checked your tyre pressure?

Copyright 2008, Robin Henry

Milestone Machine: 1984 Hildebrand and Wolfmullet

“Before the beginning of great brilliance and beauty there first must be a period of complete chaos.”

— I Ching

One could arguably trace the embryonic days of motorcycling back to 1817 and the German ‘hobby horse’ which was in effect a human powered two-wheeler with the locomotive force provided by paddling one’s feet along the pavement. Good for shoemakers, bad for the spine. More efficient cranks and pedals attached to a wheel didn’t appear until 1861 when a Frenchman put it all together. Over the next two decades, a succession of two-, three- and four wheeled steam- and gasoline-powered cycles huffed, puffed and sputtered themselves into existence as the evolution of the motorcycle spawned ever newer, and occasionally better, designs across Europe and America.

Although the above quote from the prophetically inclined I Ching may not pertain to the entire state of the fledgling world of motorcycles prior to 1894, it wasn’t until that year that things began to coalesce. The year brought profound changes, those advances synthesized from German, French and British designers and manifested in one of the seminal machines of motorcycling… the Hildebrand & Wolfmuller.

The stage was set: Munich, Germany, 1894. Not far away in Russia, Nicholas II, the last of the pre-Soviet czars had ascended the throne while further east China and Japan were at war in Korea. However, politics and empire building were of little interest to brothers Heinrich and Wilhelm Hildebrand. They were busy revolutionizing human transportation. True, their initial focus had been on building steam powered machines in an effort to conquer the steep inclines of their beloved Bavarian hills, but it was a start, if a hot and bubbly one. After a period of steamy experimentation, Heinrich and Wilhelm discovered that a bunch of hot air could only take you so far. Being bright and industrious lads, the Hildebrands decided to join forces with two nimble-minded engineers Alois Wolfmuller and Hans Geisenhof, both residents of nearby Langsberg, a few kilometers from Munich. Geisenhof brought some extra clout to the party as he had been a member of the Benz automobile group and knew his way around powerplants.

The Geisenhof/Hildebrand early efforts resulted in a rather anemic and unreliable two-stroke gasoline fed engine, a powerplant that did not reach their level of expectations. But then it was Wolfmuller’s turn to try his hand. He met the challenge, designing a much more robust four-stroke engine of parallel twin design. Unfortunately the sheer mass of metal that went into his creation proved too burdensome for the spindly bicycle “safety” frames of the era. In fact, very shortly after implantation, the weight of the engine snapped the frame. Now they had an engine, but no frame.

It was not exactly back to the drawing board since the H&W team came up with a reworked version of the frame originally utilized by their 1889 steam bike, so all that effort had some pay back after all. The twin-tube, open duplex design nicely accommodated the big four-stroke gas engine. It seemed to be a well-planned out execution including the fuel tank attached neatly to the down-tubes. In any case it all managed to hold together well enough for the clerks at the Munich patent office to grant their official state stamp of approval. Thus as of January 1894 the Hildebrand & Wolfmuller motor cycle was a legitimate, and thus saleable, product. Now all the four inventors had to do market the fruits of their labor.

They promptly formed a company called, with true Teutonic verbal efficiency, the Motofahrrad-Fabrik Hildebrand & Wolfmuller and built headquarters in Munich. The company’s coffers were well stock with funding and now it was full-steam, rather now full-gasoline, ahead as the entrepreneurs hastened to put their innovative H & W motorcycle into production… and into the history books as literally the first vehicle to be described with the generic term “motor cycle.”

The H &W was also remarkable for several other “firsts.” For one, it featured the largest engine ever successfully fitted into a two-wheeled production vehicle in the 90-year history of two-wheelers with a displacement of 1498cc from a pair of horizontal cylinders with a bore and stroke of 90 x 1117 mm.

A closer look at the engine uncovers its steam heritage as the design incorporated long connecting rods that linked, in a steam locomotive style, directly to rear wheel spindle cranks that incorporated an epicyclical reduction gear. The solid rear disc wheel stood in place of a flywheel (a design that would later haunt H &W) while a pair of wide rubber straps facilitated the return stroke of each piston. Borrowing from the Daimler auto people, the H &W utilized a platinum hot tube as a means of igniting the fuel that found its way from the gas tank to a surface type carburetor. The inlet valves themselves were automatic, while long rods and a cam on the rear wheel actuated the two exhaust valves.

Yet another technological development borrowed from other designers was the combination rear fender/water tank configuration. First innovated by the Englishman Edward Butler and the Frenchman Georges Richard, the fender served not only to keep the rider tidy, but also served as a reservoir for a supply of water used to cool the engine. In addition one frame tube took the place of an oil tank. Yes, an oil-in-the frame, water-cooled four-stroke engine of almost 1500cc displacement built more than a hundred years ago. Such wonders obviously will never cease, but this was a “first.”

It also seems the Munich motorrad was the first motorcycle to come equipped with pneumatic tires, the air-filled rubber treads built by the German company of Veith via the British Dunlop company who had pioneered the tire design in 1888.

Now, with all the accolades heaped upon the H&W notwithstanding, the machine did have its share, and then some, of shortcomings. The term “spoon” is used to describe the Stone Age-ish contrivance working its friction upon the front tire. When it was applied, it also automatically closed down the throttle, while in the early models, a pedal operated a metal plate to bring it into direct contact with the pavement in a further if desperate effort to slow the bike’s forward progress. It certainly made for an entertaining and startling sight in the dark hours of night with sparks flying all about. At least it would give ample warning for pedestrians to make their escape.

The starting procedure for the H&W required grit, grip and cardio-vascular integrity. Gripping the machine you flung it and yourself forward, your legs pumping as fast as they could go until you heard the pop and crack of ignition… there was no clutch by the way…and then you would leap aboard and make all effort to quickly find the thumb-screw operated throttle and then turn it just the right amount to maintain an equal supply of fuel. In other words, athletic ability akin to Olympic bobsledding and the dexterity of a brain surgeon were helpful.

But the rewards were… well you were off and running to a maximum of 28 mph, all the H&W’s 2 ½ horses could manage at a ripping 240 rpm. Again, these are relative fun-factor figures since we must remember we’re blasting along on 1894 roads, our snarling, spark throwing machine terrorizing man and beast. The world would have to pass in a blur, since even the steam powered trains of the day, riding on nice safe steel rails, could only manage twice the bike’s speed.

The H&W was indeed “wunderbar”, and at first glance a brilliant success, a miraculous machine that caught the fancy of many an adventurous and advant garde customer of the day. Orders flooded the company’s offices to the tune of 2, 000, 000 Deutschmarks. Such was the public demand, and the money in hand, that Hildebrand and Wolfmuller ordered up architectural plans for an all new factory to be erected on the Colosseum Strasse. Its vast interior would be home to 1200 employees not to mention satellite buildings and the contracting of work from many local engineering workshops. You could say that H&W had brought a boom of more than one kind to the city of Munich.

As part of the promotional activities H &W sent one of their new machines to Paris to test the French Vichy waters. The plans included a public relations fete hosted by bon vivant Pierre Giffard, a newspaper publisher and pioneering motor sport enthusiast, who in fact had hosted the world’s first motoring contest, the 1894 Paris-Rouen race.

Once again it was another glorious outing for the H&W, and as a result the French company of Duncan, Suberbie et Cie signed on as licensed dealers. However, they felt the German name might not be that much of a selling card for their French customers and conjured up the named “La Petrolette” which seemed to translate to something like “small gasoline.” But in any case there was an almost immediate order for 50 of the motorcycles, so the French called in for a hundred just to be safe.

Now the “Duncan” of that French company was an Englishman transplanted to Paris, and he was very bully for the bike, and thought it would be good advertising to stage a race in the lovely town of Lille. So it came to pass in the spring of 1895 that the roar of “La Petroletttes” were to resound in the previously tranquil French countryside. However, Fate made a sudden and foreboding detour in the fortunes of the H&W. A fire broke out in the event’s hotel the night before race day, the flames ravaging the three bikes intended for the demonstration. Moreover, adding insult to injury, the loud sounds of the exploding Dunlop tires fed rumors that the gasoline powered machines were inherently dangerous. While the event was canceled, it did not thwart the H&W company’s plans for expanding their market.

Looking for the proper venue to highlight his product, Wolfmuller himself transported two bikes to Italy where he and Giovanni-Battista Ceirano, an automobile enthusiast, would ride them in another history making event, the country’s first combination car and bike race. The machines would speed from the city of Turin to the village of Asti and return, all on the day of May 28, 1895.

Over hill and dale, the slew of pre-1900 cars and motorcycles slid, slipped and surged along the 62-mile course. By day’s end, the two stalwart H&W’s with Wolfmuller and Ceirano covered in dust and glory crossed the finish line in 2nd and 3rd Place, bested only by a Daimler automobile. But that glory was short-lived as the next race, the important Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race ended in disaster at the mid-way point as both H&D entries fell victim to what were becoming glaring and dangerous design flaws. The problems lay with the hot tube ignition, and the erratic handling of the rear wheel caused by its poor flywheel effect that in turn caused the rider to lurch around violently on his mount.

When things go wrong, they can go wrong all at once and as if nobody had an inkling until it all too late. Not only were the bikes in need of “recall,” the bean-counters back in Paris and Munich finally figured out that the cost of making the machines was more than their price tags. In effect, the company was operating in the red. And then it started, the droves of first-time customers, recently acquainted with their new purchases, were writing unpleasant letters about starting problems among other issues.

Worse yet, many wanted their money back. Sadly, by 1897 and after producing approximately 800 machines, the German and French companies imploded, and the H&W was no more. While the marque became another of the many short-lived and long extinct motorcycles, it had well-earned its niche in the history books. As the first production motorcycle, H&W had brought together many innovations and the genius of several nations, and in so doing carved yet another stepping stone on the long, often rocky road of the motorcycle’s evolution.

In all fairness, the Hildebrand and Wolfmuller should be remembered in the context that it represented the pivotal moment when the so-called motor-bicycle entered the public consciousness as the motorcycle. And like many technological introductions, it had a dramatic effect on the cultural psyche. An English test rider of the day, after riding the H&W responded, “I have never forgotten the first sensation of riding a bicycle propelled by its own power. The feeling of traveling over the ground without effort was delightful. From that moment I became a staunch believer in the motor-bicycle and predicted a great future for it.”

Don’t Pre-Judge the American Automobile Industry

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever play in the NBA. Danny Ferry was at the time, one of the greatest college basketball players of his day. Michael Jordan was not select as the first pick in the NBA draft after he finished his career with North Carolina-he was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the third overall pick-and the rest is history. When Danny Ferry completed his days at Duke University, he was the first player selected in the draft, but he chose to ply his trade in Europe. After a few years he came back to the NBA and played with the Cleveland Cavaliers as a mediocre player on a mediocre team. This article is not a sport critique of basketball players, but I am trying to draw an analogy. What if an NBA GM issued a statement such as “Michael Jordan is an African American and Danny Ferry is a Caucasian, therefore, I will only draft African Americans from this time forward”? A statement such as this would probably cause quite a stir not only in the NBA, but across the entire country.

If a police officer stops a car full of kids in an affluent neighborhood because they don’t look like they belong there, it is called racial profiling. The ACLU would be on the case as soon as this information became public and the officer could face disciplinary charges.

Neither of the above examples would be accepted in today’s “enlightened” society, but how many times have your heard “I will never buy an American car…they’re not as good as the Japanese”? I’ve never understood society’s acceptance of this type of prejudice. I am not saying this as an out of work auto worker, or a flag waving patriot blinded by the red, white and blue, but as a quality professional with over 25 years experience. I have personally been on the receiving end of upset plant or quality managers in Ford, General Motors and Chrysler assembly plants. I have been in plants where components rolled off the same line and into two boxes-one goes to an American OEM and one to Honda or Toyota.

When I graduated from college in the early 1980’s, the Midwest was in terrible shape. I was an industrial engineer who could not find a job. With minimal experience, I was competing for “entry level” jobs against people with 5-10 years experience; I ended up working through a series of jobs with very limited futures. Right or wrong, I believed that the condition of the American Automotive Industry was at the root of the problems. It is well documented that the “big three” was struggling with the quality of their cars and trying to introduce more fuel efficient cars into their platforms, that just a few years earlier were filled with “muscle cars”. The Japanese really caught Detroit with their shorts down. As a young idealist, I was going to do my part and buy American. Over the years I’ve owned ten American cars, (five GM, three Chryslers and two Fords). And over the years I’ve been extremely satisfied with my American Cars. My favorite of all of the cars was a 1996Ford Escort. I owned that vehicle for 8 years and put over 230,000 mile on it. The car had the original suspension, original motor original transmission and the original clutch when I replaced it. The body looked great, and other then the normal scratches, was in great shape. By the way, I didn’t trash the car, I gave it to my 16 year old daughter who learned to drive on it and also learned to drive a stick shift (a lost art for many young people-but that is story for another time). After much soul searching and self justification, I convinced myself to look at all models of cars-not just American cars. I searched the web, shopped around and finally found a good deal on a Toyota Matrix. Working in the Automotive Industry as a Quality Manager at the time, I was very excited at the prospect of getting a vehicle produced from the acclaimed “Toyota Production System”. If I could be so happy with a simple ford Escort, I couldn’t wait to see what joys were ahead of me as I got behind the wheel of a Japanese masterpiece. The honeymoon lasted about two months, when the first hubcap fell off. A new one was purchased at the dealer, and it promptly fell off. This has been an ongoing battle from the entire time I’ve owned the car. There are other minor issues with the car, but nothing more then an inconvenience. The vehicle has been a reliable car with over 140,000 miles and has never left me stranded, but the allure of a Toyota was overrated. It’s just a car, like my Buick, Fords, Chevys, and Chryslers. There is nothing magic about the name of the rear of the car.

Honda and Toyota and Nissans etc all make very good cars-as does Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. There is no comparison between cars of today and those of thirty years ago. In the mid 1970’s you could look in a newspaper for a used car and find one listed with “high mileage” and it would turn out to be 65,000 and the owner needed to get rid of it before it fell apart on him. Now a car is broken in at 65,000 and may need a new set of tires. Please don’t paint today’s American Automotive Industry with a 30 year old brush. If you do, we may paint ourselves into a corner that there is no easy way out of. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to buy American, only that we need to stop spreading negative “rumors” about the Big Three.

Dynamometer History – A Timeline of Innovation

Dynamometers have been a part of performance measurement since the days when the presence of horsepower was usually accompanied by four hooves and a tail. This versatile tool is applied around the world, as companies like Taylor Dynamometer build on past innovations with new breakthroughs in data gathering and system control technology.

  • 1828 Gaspard de Prony invented the de Prony Brake, one of the earliest dynamometers
  • 1838 Charles Babbage, known to historians as the Father of the Computer, introduces a dynamometer car to measure the pulling power of English railroad locomotives
  • 1877 William Froude of Great Britain invents the first hydraulic dynamometer, with the first commercial models produced in 1881
  • 1921 Professor E.V. Collins of Iowa State College develops a draft horse dynamometer, used to measure a horse’s capability to pull the era’s heavy metal farm implements
  • 1930 Using designs pioneered through a collaboration with Rudolph Diesel, John Taylor forms the Taylor Dynamometer and Machine Company to produce engine dynamometers
  • 1931 Martin and Anthony Winther introduce the first eddy current dynamometer

Throughout the past seven decades of continued dynamometer development, Taylor has maintained its status as a leader in advancing power measurement technology. Contact us to learn about the latest developments in dynamometers and engine diagnostics, or to inquire about a specific dyno product or application.

How Dynamometers Work

All dynamometers perform the same essential function, measuring the torque, rotational speed and power output of a combustion engine, electric motor or other power source. While the outcome is the same, many technologies are used to achieve the desired result.

Two Main Types

Most dynamometers can be placed within two distinct categories. Engine dynamometers are designed for coupling directly to the driveshaft of an engine under test, and chassis dynamometers measure the power output of a drive train by using rollers turned by the tires of a vehicle under test. In addition to the two traditional types, Taylor offers a line of portable dynamometers that attach directly to the flywheel of an engine. This allows accurate measurement of engine output without removal of an engine from its drive train.

A Variety of Designs

The work of handling and measuring input power is performed by instruments with a variety of different designs:

o Eddy current dynamometers present a measurable resistant force to engines under test by harnessing the magnetic flux between fixed and rotating electromagnets spun by the engine under test.

o A variant of the eddy current design, powder dynamometers create flux through the application of a fine magnetic powder between the rotor and coil

o Electric motor/generator types are a variation on the adjustable speed drive, using solid state components rather than the physical relationship between electromagnets to create measurable power transfer

o Fan, hydraulic and water brakes use air, water or hydraulic fluid to deliver physical resistance to the power applied by an engine or motor under test. The amount of resulting force absorbed by the fluid is measured to provide an indication of the power applied to the system

The best resource for details on dynamometer function and application is a Taylor Dynamometer application specialist. Contact us for full details on putting the latest in dynamometer technology to work in your application.

Eddy Current Dynamometer History

The story of the eddy current dynamometer is a tale of two Danish boys from Wisconsin, growing up in a time when innovations required an inquiring mind and a machine shop rather than a supercomputer and a doctoral degree. Martin Phillip Winther arrived at Ellis Island, New York in 1892 from his native Denmark. The family ultimately settled in Kenosha Wisconsin, where Martin and his American-born brother Anthony began their working lives as laborers at the Jeffry Company, makers of the Rambler automobile. At Jeffry, the brothers were involved in the engineering of a four-wheel-drive truck, which led them to break away and found the Winther Motor and Truck Company in 1917. While Winther Motor and Truck made several types of motor vehicles (including light trucks, fire engines and a sporty automobile) the firm’s chief product was innovation. Beginning around 1920, Martin and Anthony Winther were granted patents for almost 300 mechanical devices. These included the first successful air conditioning system for Pullman railroad cars, a four-wheel-drive post hole digger for AT&T, the first induction coupling, a magnetic clutch, a cycle-car, variable-speed transmission gears, as well as a giant press drive, brakes and couplings for the oil field industry.

Although prolific, only one of the Winther brothers’ inventions proved to have lasting impact. They are chiefly known for the invention of the eddy current dynamometer, a type of high speed, high power dynamometer capable of far surpassing the products then available in terms of power handling capability. The eddy current dyno was able to turn fast enough to test the turbine engines used in aircraft, wind tunnels and high speed automobiles of the day. The eddy current dynamometer was the chief product of the Dynamatic Corporation, founded by the Winthers in 1932. The firm was successful for many years both before and after the brothers sold their interest to Eaton Corporation in 1946. Variations on the eddy current design still serve as the basis for dynamometers today. The designs continued use is a testament to the ingenuity of two men who never rose above the eighth grade in formal education, yet parlayed their considerable on-the-job insight into a lasting legacy of technical achievement.