It’s no secret that your tyres need to be adapted to the specificities of your truck from a technical point of view. But that leaves a little room for choosing them just for their looks too – as long as that doesn’t affect safety and performance. We asked Fabien Marlier*, a product development team leader at Michelin with 20 years of experience, to walk us through the do’s and don’ts of customising truck tyres
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Fabien Marlier - Product Development Team Leader at Michelin
Lights, curtains, sound systems, paint jobs… When you’re customising your truck, comfort and appearance are what you’re after. And looks can matter even for the tyres you put on your wheels! In fact, did you know Michelin has its own design team that works on giving tyres the right look to fit the job?
Of course, the trucking market is a very rational one: it’s no mystery that drivers and fleet owners want performance and cost-effectiveness more than anything. Nevertheless, some of them enjoy making their vehicles stand out from the rest, just for the heck of it. “Customers have a wide choice of tyre dimensions with specific performance levels for rolling resistance and fuel consumption. But the dimension of tyres also changes a truck’s look! Let’s just remember that the priority must always be choosing tyres according to usage, mileage, vehicle specifications and well, obviously standards and regulations...” (Fabien)
Simply put, when choosing your tyres, any subjective element that influences your choice can qualify as customisation. The trick is to find the right balance between performance and looks and, as Fabien says, to keep your priorities straight. To him, it’s a matter of fine tuning.
The robust look of wide tyres
You’ve probably noticed that wide tread tyres are popular with truckers for their “virile” look. They were originally designed for trailers, but in the 1990s, drivers started using them on their front wheels. “Safety-wise, this wasn’t a really great idea... So Michelin started designing wide tyres for front wheel use: they combine better driving comfort, stability and good safety performance.” As a result, there is a vast choice of wide tread tyres available today, but keep in mind they are more expensive and heavier.
Antisplash tyres are another item that’s popular because of how it looks at least as much as for what it does. This is an exclusive Michelin technology whose primary objective is to reduce water projections when a truck rolls through a puddle. But antisplash tyres also have a wider, more robust look to them that some drivers really like. “Another benefit of antisplash is that the trucks stay cleaner, so it makes maintenance easier.”
Changing the rims is another way of customising your wheels. Whether steel or aluminium, painted or not, none of that has any impact on tyres, so truck drivers and owners are free to do whatever they want here.
Colours that won’t alter tyres
Can they do whatever they want when colouring their tyres? Almost. You might have seen this on the road: on some trucks, the inscriptions on tyre walls have been highlighted with colour. Some tyres even have motifs painted on them.
There is no regulation against this, but Michelin advises caution. Why? Because with time, the ink can penetrate the rubber and eventually alter its properties. “Coloured tyres are great for personalisation, and they give the vehicle a sporty look. But you need to take some precautions regarding the products you use: they should be solvent-free and non-greasy. We recommend using only water-based paint.”
The same goes for the cleaning products used to make tyres shiny for shows and events: they must be harmless for the tyres and it’s better if they have a non-greasy finish. So what should you use? Well, new generations of eco-friendly products are now available to make your wheels sparkle without harming the planet.
There you go, now you know everything you need to customise your tyres with complete safety!
*Interview conducted on 16 July 2021
What's in and what's out for tyre customisation
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