Ask Fuzzy: How to gauge tyre temperature

Question: How do tyre temperature sensors work?

Answer: Having a tyre blowout while driving at speed can cause serious, sometimes fatal, accidents. Blowouts are often caused by tyres overheating.

While mostly used on racing cars, tyre temperature sensors can give important information about the status of tyres which can improve the performance of a vehicle. In a racing car, the most effective braking, cornering and acceleration is best achieved when the tyres provide maximum grip.

If tyres run too cold, grip is reduced. Run too hot and the rubber can start to melt unevenly and ball up on the surface of the tyre.

The first wheel and tyre sensors were often part of the valve assembly. Temperature data was transmitted to a receiver unit attached to the vehicle. However, these could only record the overall temperature of the tyre, not any variation across the surface.

The latest versions use strips of infrared sensors that allow non-contact measurement of temperature across the width of a tyre. Attached to the vehicle in front of the wheel in order to prevent damage by stones and debris being flicked up by the vehicle, the sensors can monitor whether the tyres are being uniformly heated.

Uneven heating can indicate pressure or alignment problems. A high temperature on the outside edges and colder along the middle of the tread indicates under-inflation. The opposite, with the middle tread hotter than both edges, indicates the tyre is at too high a pressure. Tyres that are hotter on one side than the other indicates the wheels are incorrectly aligned.

Response by Richard Tuft, freelance technology writer

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