As a car geek, I jumped at the chance to spend a few days with Continental Tire learning about tires by driving on their track in Uvalde, Texas. How could I pass up the chance to drive it like I stole it without having to worry about being arrested when I got out of the car?
This trip involved a group of bloggers who, for the most part, don’t know a lot about cars so it wasn’t geared toward gearheads with lots of boring technical specs, but toward real people. People who just need to know what they need to do to keep their families safe on the roads.
After a wonderful dinner in San Antonio where we all had a chance to get to know each other, we got up early the next day to drive out to Continental Tire’s proving grounds. This isn’t just a track or two, but a 5,000 acre facility with paved and dirt tracks designed to mimic every kind of terrain you might tackle. Okay, you probably aren’t going to tackle some of it unless you’re thinking of becoming a professional rally car driver, but it’s there to test the tires that would do the job.
There were three different scenarios set up with both Continental Tire TrueContact tires as well as competitive brands. The first test was a wet braking test that had us accelerating to 55 MPH on a wet track then slamming on the brakes to bring the car to a dead stop. The second test had us taking a tight 200 meter circle with a section of wet track on one curve, and the last test was a wet pad set up with cones for an autocross handling test. My drive partner, Jessica, was perfect, because she was as ready to put these cars to the test as I was and had no fear about driving hard.
The wet braking test easily painted us the clearest picture of just what a good set of tires can do to keep you safe. Check out these results with 55-0 MPH times and the distances it took to stop.
- Nissan Altima Bridgestone Ecopia 422 4 seconds, 145.2 feet
- Nissan Altima Michelin Defender 3.5 seconds, 135.7 feet
- Ford Mustang Continental TrueContact 2/32nd front tread 4.7 seconds, 178.9 feet
- Ford Mustang Continental TrueContact 4/32nd front tread 3.9 seconds, 141.1 feet
The takeaway there is really how much of a difference just 2/32nds of an inch on your tire makes in how quickly you’ll stop and how far you’ll go. I was on a closed track and the worst thing I was at risk of hitting was an orange cone or two. In the real world, those cones are other cars and other people. Your tires matter.
It’s also worth noting that they put those tires with the worn treads on the front of the car. This might not be what you’ve heard over the years, but if you can’t replace all your tires, the worn pair should always go on the front. We experienced the difference this makes while on the 200 meter circle. With good tires on the back, it was easy to regain control coming off of the wet track. With the good tires on the front, let’s just say there were not so many orange cones on that track as there were when we started the day and there was a lot of hysterical laughter in our car.
We spend a lot of time in our cars these days, and as moms we’ve often got our kids along for the ride. This experience showed me the importance of having good tires on your vehicle. We all get our tires checked once a year at inspection time, but after seeing how dangerous worn tires can be, I’ll definitely be checking mine more often.
Continental Tire covered all expenses for this trip.