I was asked if I was interested in coming to Michelin’s tire school, I said yes.
I figured I can always learn more about tires and I don’t think anyone could offer more factual information than Michelin.
Michelin was generous enough to offer to cover my travel, lodging and meal expenses for this 2 day school.
Now, I'm sure some of you are asking . . . "What is Tire School?" How much really goes into designing, manufacturing and selling a tire?
Tire School is a VERY condensed introduction to how Michelin makes tires, sells tires, and tests tires. Many new sales and management folks starting with Michelin will be enrolled in a form of this program. Some employees will spend 11 weeks in "Tire School" before they receive their first assignment. Those of us invited have made it known that they know a little more about Michelin tires than the average person, so Michelin thought that it would be even more helpful for us “tire users” to understand the "why" for some of their decisions (i.e. why certain tire sizes make it into production and others don't) to better address those type questions in our circles. This school will also show Michelin if this sort of program would benefit folks like ourselves that are not tire dealers/sellers but drivers passionate about the tires we use.
We had some classroom time to differentiate summer vs. all season tires, off road capabilities of on road tires, tour Michelins largest North American passenger tire manufacturing plant US1 and spend some time on the track to see how tires are tested. A few of us have been through some form of Pilot Super Sport testing, so we already have an idea of their testing procedures. This time, we will get to see the BMW Performance Center which is one of Michelins partner test facilities in the Greenville, SC area.
This training was held in their Michelin Sales Training Center in Greenville, SC………..just down the street from “PRIME” were they reportedly make race tires ………amongst other proprietarily made tires including the Pilot Super Sport!
One of our homework assignments prior to class was to be an unsuspecting buyer of 4 tires for a vehicle and try to buy at local stores and online…………bring your results.
I am sure MANY OF YOU that may read this have the same stories we had……….mostly we dealt with sellers that didn’t have a lot of or the correct information for us. I am sure there were a few that were spot on and very well versed in many manufactures tires including Michelins.
Michelin also talked about their Quality culture and their DNA; in a nutshell if you are not producing what the customer wants and backing it up with a class best warranty….step aside!
They stress “Obsessively Engineered for Ultimate Confidence”; they are the most trusted brand and based on my use of their BFG & PSSs I would not disagree at all.
Michelin North America backs this confidence up with a detailed tire leading new Promise Plan, check it out at their Website.
We spent a lot of time on tire load ratings and inflation. A main focus due to the great misunderstanding associated with it…………when you upsize your tires, what tire pressure do you put in?? Most likely not the OEM pressure. Normal air loss is 1psi per month and 1psi change due to every 10 degrees of temperature change. We cover a lot more topics in detail but I will keep it to some of the most important that also apply to your every day driver.
Michelin uses full depth Sipes( Small cuts/slices in the tread blocks down to 2/32) as this gives better handling in all conditions and can be done due to the construction of their tires……..no all OEMs can do that. There can be up to 20 different components/ rubber mixes in a tire.
Michelin uses their MaxTouch construction (Unique contact patch shaped evenly for maximum traction and wear) and Comfort Control technology (Computer optimized design and precision manufacturing) to assure even wear for a long lasting tire, reduced vibration and low road noise while giving you a very round gas efficient tire
European Tire profiles feature a more rounded shoulder to provide progressive, predictable cornering…….feel every twist & turn.
We also discussed their other tire lines including the new DEFENDER passenger car tire with a 820 tread wear rating and 90k warranty, light truck tires and SUV/Crossover tires that include a “Best in class fuel efficiency and safety” rating
On to the tire testing. Our dry timed runs (~ 30 second run) testing tires we used the BMW 328s with the Michelin Pilot Super Sports. Once again they make the car feel very composed and neutral on the tight course. This was a different type of course than I had run previously on the PSSs so I was testing the panic braking limits and break away threshold corning ability on every run. Once again the PSS made every maneuver smooth and kept the confidence of the driver to hold the car on line. We also had some fun on the wet oval track comparing Michelins All Season Pilot Sport A/S Plus vs. the PSS. As expected like before, the PSS won out over their all season……….it did better than I expected but it would be great to try these at 30 degrees and verify which one in fact does better. We also did a little 4 wheeling with a Michelin on road tire, it did very well.
We had a great Q&A session such as which tire dressing is best that does not degrade the rubber, should you shave Michelin tires for racing, do you need to heat cycle modern tires, do you need to break in Michelin automotive tires 500 miles before you drive them hard???
One significant fact to think about when choosing street tires for ANY vehicle; The contact patch for all four tires irregardless of size all fit on a standard 8 ½” x 11” sheet of paper.
Bottom line is the cheapest tire is not always the best tire for your application.
If you ever get a chance to attend a Michelin school of any kind, I highly recommend it!
Below are a few pictures, I will add some more later
Our dinner was held at a secret location........this was the only pic allowed
A Corvette guy in a BMW.........this sign was for me