If you are into car racing or use competition tires you may know about heat cycling. If you're new to motor sports, you may hear people talk about heat cycling and wonder what it's all about.
Competition tires are made by leading tire manufacturers including BFGoodrich, Kumho, Nitto and Yokohama, with very sophisticated tread compounds which can sustain traction throughout a much wider temperature range than normal every-day tires. But, these tires are also extremely sensitive to the first heat cycle which they are subjected to in use.
If careful controls are maintained during the first use the tread compound stretches as it heats, breaking the weaker, shorter molecular bonds within the rubber. Done correctly this process results in the tread compound lasting longer and giving better traction. But, and it is a big BUT, if the first cycle is not done right, the tread may develop irregular compounding, leading to poor wear and inconsistent traction.
Many racers used to do their own heat cycling of their own tires but the results were often mixed. Besides getting variable results, they also had to mount and unmount the tires before using them to race because after the first heat cycle the tires need to rest from 24 to 48 hours so the molecular bonds re-form.
These days some tire retailers (one is Discount Tire Direct) offer a heat cycling service at a modest cost per tire.
The process involves maintaining key conditions during the process: vertical scrubbing and controlled temperature curve. One process uses rollers of proprietary design and placement, to generate a uniform heating and temperature build up throughout the tread (a condition not possible on a vehicle because of the camber) by rolling the tire and applying vertical scrubbing force only. No lateral (sideways) force is applied.
The controlled temperature curve --called "soft" by some-- where the tire is gradually heated and then cooled over a specified time, taking into account the surrounding temperature as well, is maintained and monitored during the cycle. By doing this the entire tread is heat cycled uniformly throughout its entire depth and width.
If this is done at a centralized location the time delay in shipping the tires after the heat cycling will provide the required rest period for the tires and they will arrive ready to be raced.
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