Using a Tire Pyrometer
Tire temperatures are the heart of everything on a race car, so without further ado…
When you think of tires, you probably think of one big piece of rubber that wraps around each of the four wheels on your car. Rather than thinking of it as one big piece, we typically talk about tires in thirds: the outside, middle and inner portions. In order to measure each of them, we are going to need a tool that is called a tire pyrometer.
Infrared vs. Probe Type
If you’ve ever been to a race, you might have seen a fellow driver buzzing around their car with an infrared pyrometer. These should be avoided at all costs. Seriously, logging tire temperature begins with selecting the correct equipment which means using a “probe type” pyrometer. These specialty tools get their name from a tip that is literally designed to be pressed into the surface of the rubber. What this translates to is more accurate data that stays more consistent when compared to a laser type gun that most enthusiasts use. However, buying the correct tool is only part of logging good data. Now you need to know how to use it.
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How it’s Done
Driving off of the track and into the pits, tire temperatures need to be recorded quickly to ensure the proper values are noted. Remember that everything begins to cool the moment you slow down, so you don’t want to waste any time getting held up by traffic. Have someone in the pits ready to get these numbers the second you stop. Also, remember that it will help if you turn the steering wheel for them to get better access to the inside of the tires. Fender to tire clearances can easily cut up your hands if you’re not careful, so use caution.
Repeat it Exactly
Whatever order you took temperatures in the first time is the way you need to take them every time. Because the tires are cooling, it’s going to give you inaccurate numbers if you suddenly switch which tire you started on. If you start on the driver’s side and work your way around clockwise you will want to do this each time. Similarly, if you recorded outside edge to inside edge on each tire you will want to repeat this process as well. Have a clearly defined system of doing things and it will become an easy routine check. The last thing you want to do is screw things up and end up chasing ghosts. Be consistent and repeat things exactly the same way each time.
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There are a lot of different brands out there with many features available. From simple units that only display one read out to complex and expensive ones that record multiple numbers, you can spend a lot or a little on the right setup. What is right for you will depend on how you go to the track. For example, if you are a one-man army who does everything himself and you don’t have time to write down numbers between sessions you might opt for something that records numbers for you to look at later on. If, however, you have some friends who are willing to help out then a simple notebook and a basic pyrometer is more than enough—just make sure you buy a probe type. Longacre is a trusted brand with prices that vary from $200 to $500 dollars. Expect to spend in this bracket in order to get good quality and avoid cheap ones like the plague.
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What They Can Teach You
Knowing your tire temperatures can be used to determine everything from the optimum alignment to what spring rates are doing to the carcass of your race rubber. Precise numbers will help you hone in on camber settings specifically which can be the difference between using all of your tires’ grip and using only a fraction of it. Any tire—race or road—is designed to operate in a specific window of temperature. These numbers are generally available from the manufacturer which helps you zero in on your settings even further. Get a tire pyrometer today and make your car even faster than it already is. Cheers.