Performance up to the legal wear limit of 1.6mm
As a tire becomes worn, the tread depth may become shallower. Does this mean the tire’s performance is diminished? No. Not until it has reached the legal wear indicator. And it's even the opposite for fuel economy performance! At Michelin, we design our tires to provide you with quality and safety throughout their lifetime. We recommend not changing them prematurely, before the appearance of the wear indicator. This position is a responsible one because it benefits both the planet and your wallet at the same time.
Tire wear: legislation and use
For your car, a new tire represents a tread depth of around 8mm and can sometimes be as much as 9.5mm on some models. Current legislation in most of the European Union as well as Japan, the US and Canada sets the legal wear level at 1.6mm. This minimum tread depth established in 1997 is no random number. It ensures a good quality tire can evacuate the film of water on a wet road, for safe and secure driving.
Currently, some manufacturers are recommending early replacement of tires at around 3mm. In our opinion, this is reminiscent of programmed obsolescence which is no doubt profitable for the manufacturer, but definitely has no benefit for the consumer or the environment. Our customers do not need to change their MICHELIN tires until the wear indicators appear.
Technological innovation for a long life
In 1997, legislature believed that safety was guaranteed up to 1.6mm. Since then, we have made major technological advances which have been integrated into each of our ranges. We have, for example, optimized the use of silica to make our tires wear-resistant whilst maintaining and even improving other specifications for great performance. More recent innovations like metal 3D printing mean today we can offer complex tread patterns on the full depth of the tire. Traction is also better throughout the lifetime of our tires, including in critical conditions: wet or snow-covered roads.
Tire performance changes as the miles go by
By definition, a new tire does not stay new for long. After a few miles, its performances will change marginally at first, then its traction on wet surfaces will, for example, progressively deteriorate over time. But it's not all for the worst! A worn tire uses less fuel. It also makes less noise. It even brakes better on a dry road! And in Europe, the roads are dry most of the time!
Braking plays a major part in safety on the roads; so let's focus on that. Braking does not only depend on the depth of the tire tread. The tire’s architecture, rubber structure, even its temperature and pressure are more important when it comes to stopping over a short distance. Braking is also affected by other parameters such as the vehicle's brake system, its ABS performance, the condition of the road, the weather and of course the speed of the driver’s reactions.
Today, performance tests are only done on new tires but this does not reflect the everyday reality of most car drivers. We claim that tests should also be done on used tires, under conditions where performance is the weakest. These tests would provide drivers with useful information and encourage all manufacturers to design tires that perform well over time.
Long-term performance: what are the benefits?
Guaranteeing the performance of our tires over time reflects our strategy for sustainable growth which endeavors to improve mobility for our customers, for the long-term. Our commitment to a circular economy with greater respect for our planet’s resources is an integral part of this strategy and is expressed by our "4R approach":Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Renew. The first R stands for Reduce.
The primary benefit is for you, the user. A tire used for longer means saving fuel and less frequent replacement costs.
The other benefits are for the planet. Less fuel consumed means less CO2 emissions. Using less tires helps save raw materials and the energy used for manufacture and transportation. On a global scale, keeping the legal wear standard at 1.6mm instead of 3mm will avoid the consumption of 400 million tires a year and the emission of 35 million tons of CO2. . Or the equivalent of 6 months of emissions in New York!
Industrial design helps you keep an eye on your tires
Ideally, your tires should be checked once a week. Wear indicators, the little bumps at the bottom of the grooves, must not show on the tire’s surface. To make your life easier, our industrial design teams are working to make the indicators more visible. And they show you where to find them: the Michelin Man shapes marked on the top of the side of your tire show you were the indicators are.