Products for Car / Van / 4x4

Scaling tire design: from small to big

  • Tread design is a key factor in delivering grip on wintry roads

  • Transferring tread patterns from smaller to bigger tires is no easy matter

In recent years the summer and winter tires on new cars have been getting progressively bigger and wider. For tire manufacturers this means for one thing that a tread pattern from one of their “development sizes” – that is the tire sizes used for in-house performance characteristic testing – needs transferring to a different and often both wider and larger model of tire. “If we’re going to ensure that the required handling characteristics of the tire remain intact, we can’t just make all the blocks and sipes a few percentage points larger,” explains Dr. Holger Lange, Head of Global Winter Tire Development at Continental. “To upsize the tread patterns we need to resolve a tricky equation with any number of variables as we try to deliver similar performance characteristics across the different sizes.”

Dr. Holger Lange, Head of Global Winter Tire Development at Continental

“Wider, bigger tires have the advantage that we can fit more blocks and sipes on the tread, which means more edges,” Lange reports. But as he goes on to explain, making sure these have the desired effect involves a lot of complicated mathematical processes: Sipe lengths, tread blocks and grooves all need recalculating and adapting, as well as locating at the correct angles on the respective tire widths and circumferences. “There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all procedure here,” says Lange. “Every new product line calls for its own made-to-measure scaling concept. Along with the size of the tire, we also take account of the number of blocks, the average pitch length, the length of the individual blocks, and the number and size of the sipes. Basically it’s like doing a complicated jigsaw puzzle involving all the different tread elements. The aim is to arrive at the optimum result in the interests of maximum safety – which means largest possible number of edges to generate grip.”

For premium tire manufacturers like Continental, upscaling a tire is a frequent necessity, because over recent years, wheel and tire sizes have been constantly on the increase. “Our goal is to ensure that the new, larger sizes offer the same safety potential as the smaller development sizes,” says Dr. Lange. “Our in-house measurements tell us we’re on the right track here and can generally offer drivers with the larger tires even more safety, because with the increase in circumference and width we can also upscale the number of edges.”

Alexander Bahlmann
Kai Rühling

Senior PR Consultant & Content Management Passenger & Light Truck Tires EMEA
Continental AG l Divison Tires

Büttnerstraße 25

30165 Hannover, Germany

+49 (0) 511 938 2370

+49 (0) 511 938 2455

Klaus Engelhart
Klaus Engelhart

Press Spokesman Passenger Car Tires Germany

Büttnerstrasse 25

30165 Hanover, Germany

+49 (0) 511 938 2285

+49 (0) 511 938 2455