When Black & Round Isn’t Enough
This is part 2 of our 3-part series Under The Hood: Dodge Thrill Rides. Today, we’re looking at the most important piece of equipment in any performance driving situation: tires.
Let’s look at the 800-pound gorilla in the room: How many tires do we use in a year? It’s a bit complicated, so I consulted our Fleet Manager, who’s in charge of keeping everything running right. We’ll get to his numbers in a moment.
I pointed out in the last segment that the cars we use are not modified from the factory. That’s a key point to make when you see our Dodge Thrill Ride show, because we don’t always do the same thing. Depending on the facility we run at, you’ll see us give rides on traditional road racing tracks, or drifting in large parking lots or our Drag & Drift ride, which combines a standing start with a slalom hanging the tail out. Regardless of the show, the tires give us the grip to make it happen and the longevity to keep the show running.
First off, we do not use special racing or drifting tires, just regular street tires. The Pirelli P Zeros that come on the Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT® Hellcat are outstanding tires that give great performance. Now, it’s no secret that they won’t last as long as the tires on your minivan; remember, like brake pads, they’re consumables. The higher the performance, the fewer the miles, but those miles are going to be a lot of fun.
“How often do you have to change them?”
Often! On the street, these tires will last you about 20,000 miles, a couple years for the average driver. We don’t track actual miles per tire, although each car does about 400 laps per day. Ready for this? We will burn through a set of rear tires in about two hours!
“How many tires does each car use?”
A bunch! On a typical day, we will swap rears 4 to 6 times. The fronts will last a full day, but add that up and it could be as many as 14 tires PER CAR PER DAY!
“Ever blow up a tire?”
We try not to, but it does occasionally happen. Interestingly, it’s not from the tire wearing out as much as it is the heat building up in the tire. We start with relatively low pressures, but the G-forces we put on the tire can easily double those pressures over the course of the tire’s life. Pro Tip: Watch our team as the cars come down Pit Road, you’ll see us constantly looking at the tires and consulting with the drivers to let them know how much they have left.
“How long does it take you to change a tire?”
We aren’t a NASCAR team making 12-second pit stops. Instead, we have spare wheels and tires mounted up and ready to go. Our tire technicians can dismount a used tire and replace it with a brand-new one on a wheel in about 3 minutes.
“Can you tell when a tire is used up?”
Absolutely! From a driver’s perspective, this job is a lot of fun because of the challenges to us. Our goal is to give you the same ride whether you come first thing in the morning when the track is cool or in the heat of the day. Whether we have a full tank of fuel or are on empty. And certainly whether the tires are brand new or right on the edge of being worn out. All of those factors change the way the car drives, so no two rides are exactly alike.
“New tires are the best, right?”
Actually, not at all. When a tire is brand new, the rubber tread blocks wiggle and squirm and we can feel that as the tire slides across the track. When it wears off the first 20%, it gets really good and we can put the car almost anywhere we want it to go until it’s at about 80% used up. Then, the last 20%, it really gets slick, sliding all over the place and making us pay extra attention.
We have six cars in our fleet and to keep things moving constantly, we keep one or two of them off to the side as spares. When tires wear out, we bring that car into our service bay and replace it with a spare car. That spare has a full tank of fuel and new tires on it. Then, while that car runs, the other is serviced. We stagger when we put tires on so they don’t wear out at the same time. And, interesting fact: We don’t bother balancing the tires on our thrill ride cars. Balancing is for comfort and wouldn’t make a difference in how the cars drive, so there’s no point in doing it. The system works really well and allows us to give rides to a couple thousand people a day.
The long and short of it is that we go through a LOT of tires on our Dodge Thrill Ride program. Okay then, how many tires do we use in a season? In 2017, we used up almost 1,300 tires. Keep that in mind the next time you have to replace 4 on your car!
Check out the video and Dodge Thrill Ride schedule below. Stay tuned to Dodge Garage for the next installment of “Under The Hood with Dodge Thrill Rides”.
By John Hammer
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