Yokohama Drift

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The importance of tires strikes this writer in the midst of a crazy ride in a Toyota AE86

The invitation to Pattaya, Thailand for a visit of YOKOHAMA Group’s largest facility in the world was a chance for Top Gear Singapore to refresh our knowledge on tyres, as well as to acquaint ourselves with Yokohama’s latest releases.

A factory tour of Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Thailand (YTMT) was planned (and you’ll hear more about that in the next page), but the focus (or at least my focus) was on the test-drives with the Yokohama Advans V552 and V105, and the Yokohama BluEarths RV02 and ES32 at the Tire Test Center of Asia (TTCA).

There was a 3-minute ride on a souped-up Toyota AE86 with the Advan Sport V105, a tyre designed for high performance vehicles to provide quality handling and grip. I spent much of that roller-coaster-esque being jerked around (literally) but when I stopped praying for my life, there was time to appreciate the grasp and ease-of-control of the V105.

Made for crossovers, the BluEarth RV02 was tested in a circuit that involved slalom trails, quick cornerings, and an emergency brake maneuver on a wet patch of road. Comfort and safety were of the essence when it came to the RV02, and the tire certainly accounted for itself very well in this instance.

The other BluEarth, ES32, was used on a circular race track flooded with three inches of water. The challenge? To drive as fast as possible on the round road following a red line on the inside. A competitor’s tire fared much worse across the board as the ES32 displayed its prowess under wet conditions. Accompanied with fuel-saving and long-lasting features, the ES32 will suit the everyday man in his family car.

The TTCA’s last offering to us was a ride across terrains of varying smoothness on the Advan dB V552. Best known for its silence, the V552 took on some rough roads and neutralised the unevenness into gentle bumps. Measured against the ES32 at the same station, the V552 definitely gave a noticeably smoother ride.

Size continues to take up the bulk of car-related conversations when it comes to tires, but the functionality of these round rubbers should place more importance in these conversations. A tour to Yokohama’s facility should satisfy the skeptics, but why take all that time to fly and learn when your favourite automotive magazine can do the job for you?

How Tires Are Made?

A day spent in the Yokohama Tire Manufacturing (Thailand) facility tells us more than what we need to know about tires

It’s the question nobody has ever asked – How are tires made?

YTMT has a little over 2,000 employees churning out at least 13,400 tires every day. The 15-year old facility is spread over 418,000 m2 of space, all dedicated to the creation of tires. It’s also the place where the lonely quest for the truth about tires end.

 Mixing

Raw materials and compounding agents like rubber, carbon black, sulfur and zinc oxide are mixed during this process. They are blended by a computer-controlled mixer, masticated by a roll and sent on to the next stage.


Material Processing

Material processing consists of producing individual tire parts such as the carcass (framework of the tire), belt (supports the carcass), bead (fits the tire to the wheel) and tread (comes into direct contact with the ground). Each part uses core materials such as steel and textile fabric, as well as special rubber to coat these components.

 Building

The finished parts (carcass, belt, tread and beads) are assembled into one tire by a building machine. The built tire is known as a “green” or uncured tire.

 

 Curing

The “green” tire is then placed in a metal mold, with high-pressure steam applied internally using a compression machine. During this process, the rubber and sulfur molecules link to give the tire rubber elasticity and durability. The final shape and tread patterns are also produced via the mold.

 

Inspection 

The finished tire is checked by inspection staff both visually and manually. Tires that pass the initial check go through further scrutiny using start-of-the-art inspection devices. They are finally ready for shipment after the highest quality is assured from these rigorous inspections. Less than 1% of tires are deemed defective.

Story & Photos: Loo Hanwei

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