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Tire Tips: Mounting, Rotation, Tricks, etc.

Posted 01-23-2009 at 09:43 PM by color0
Updated 03-08-2011 at 10:37 AM by color0
This week I'm just covering some tips I've picked up and figured out myself over the last year regarding tires.

Mounting tires: if you're a casual racer you don't really have to care about this, but for the semi-serious racer, of if you're losing tires on the track, then properly mounting tires is a must.

There are a few ways to mount tires, but as far as I know, they boil down to 1) tape, 2) glue, and 3) tape + glue. In any case, the most important part of mounting a tire is to keep the tire concentric and true such that your wheel doesn't wobble even if the rim is fine. Consistency keeps the tires happy, which gives you better grip and response and just makes your Mini-Z more enjoyable to drive. So some tips:

When wrapping the tire around the rim, go past the retaining ridge on the rim. You'll need to stretch out the tire evenly over the ridge later anyways, so why not start now?

Then start pulling the tire across the rim until the inner side of the tire sits neatly on the retaining ridge. Make sure that side is all even, then turn it around and it might be a bit ugly:

And the quickest way to get this outer edge even is to grab the rubber where it's low, like so:

And flick it! It really works quite well, and spreads the rubber out on the rim with a couple more flicks. With the outer edge approximately even, now squeeze the tire to make sure it's not bunched up anywhere on the rim.

Use both hands, it's better.

After all this methodical squeezing you should have a perfectly even tire, possibly ready to go (if you used tape), and in any case ready to be glued.

There are special CA glue applicator tips that some people use for gluing their tires, but I find them terribly imprecise. I get glue everywhere, including on the sidewalls, where I absolutely do not want it. So instead I drip my CA onto the end of a toothpick and slip that between the tire and the rim. You can wiggle the toothpick around while you're in there to spread out the glue more, just pull back out before the glue dries.

And when your tires are mounted, ideally you shouldn't be able to see anything but the faintest trace of a glue bead.

Reading tires:

As I mentioned before, sometimes your tires may be inappropriate for the racing conditions. In addition to evaluating how the car feels on the track, reading your tires can also give you an idea of what to do with your setup. For example, your tires should never shred:

That is one unhappy Kyosho 20 slick. The rubber's too soft for the front end of the car, so under cornering forces, small bits of rubber are getting squished together and then torn off by the RCP. Not only is this bad for tire life (the above tire was run for about 10 minutes), this is the cause of scrub that makes your car hard to drive AND slow. If you see this in your rubber tire, you need a harder compound.

That said, however, when your tire is working at its maximal capacity, it will form a fine pattern of ripples:

That's a happy Kyosho 20 slick, the surface is consistently worn and the sidewalls show evidence of a little flexing, which means more grip. The more consistent the surface looks, the better a job you did with your tire mounting. But watch out on the sidewalls -- if they're chunking and tearing while the surface is okay, that means that your tire is folding over itself and you need to glue or reglue your tires!

Tire rotation: Obviously, as your tire wears down, its diameter shrinks. Not so obviously, this change in diameter can change the amount of weight your car's putting on each of its four tires. This change of weight per tire is equivalent to changing the preload on each corner of the car, which as you should probably will know, will most certainly change your handling characteristics.

Now front and rear tires you normally can't swap, but it's very important to swap left/right, because the vast majority of tracks don't have equal numbers/magnitudes of left and right turns. On a counterclockwise track, usually the left front tire will wear faster than the right front tire, and eventually the wear may cause a feeling of tweak. It's important to rotate the front tires *before* this happens. With the exception of dedicated single-race tires, I would rotate left/right tires after every run.

Cleaning tires: Simplest thing ever for rubber tires, just wet a piece of paper towel with rubbing alcohol and rub the tires' tread.

Truing tires: this isn't something I do -- I don't have a tire truer -- but it's great for extracting the last bit out of your setup. Truing your tires on a lathe or a dedicated truer will make your wheels absolutely concentric, so the tire will hold to the track more effectively and you'll get more traction as well as precision and response. But tire truers are expensive and so there's the cheap method, as follows....

Shaving tires: Use an Xacto knife or scalpel blade to scrape (NOT cut) the surface of the tire. This roughens it up just a bit to improve the tires' bite temporarily and can definitely make a difference for a couple of minutes -- and for Mini-Z's, most races only last a few minutes so it's all you need.

Grooving tires: If you do have a tire truer, this is where it comes in the most handy. You can use your Xacto blade (fine-tipped, preferrably) to cut grooves in your tires. Although this slightly reduces the amount of rubber touching the ground, it puts more pressure on the remaining rubber and allows the rubber to flex more, which for some tires will lead to huge amounts of traction (think Reflex Racing SSG). Highly recommended for Modified-class racing, although be prepared for shorter tire life (you are taking away rubber, after all). Note that it's possible to groove tires using the rear end of an MR01/015/02 as a lathe, but 1) be careful not to screw up your Mini-Z's motor and 2) use a locked gear diff to do this. I've tried it with a ball diff and it absolutely ruins the diff balls.

So that's all for this week, take good care of your tires! Next week I think I'll put up a drift special, with video if I can manage the time.

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