Outside San Antonio, Texas, Discount Tire has created a testing facility specifically designed to test thousands of tire variations available today from tire manufacturers. But what are the benefits of a tire retailer – who doesn’t manufacture any tires themselves – of maintaining such a facility?

Why Would a Tire Retailer Own Their Own Testing Track
Discount Tire uses a testing track to get in-depth tire data; Photo: Discount Tire

According to Discount Tire, in 2010, approximately 5,000 tire options were available for everyday drivers. In 2024, that number has risen to a whopping 20,000 options.

With four times the options available to consumers in a decade, it’s crucial that the company can navigate the complex set of choices and continue to make it easy to recommend the best, high-quality tires to drivers based on a variety of factors. For the people at Discount Tire, knowing what vehicle a customer drives is only the beginning – what type of terrain a consumer regularly drives on, the weather conditions where they drive, and driving preferences are all part of determining what tire is best for a specific customer.

Thus, Discount Tire purchased and now operates a facility called Treadwell Research Park outside of San Antonio, Texas, dedicated to testing a wide range of tires on multiple terrains, tracks, and driving conditions. On average, the site receives tire models from tire manufacturers and tests seven different sets of tires a day.

The location was chosen because of the optimal weather conditions that lead to better-controlled conditions to test tires year-round. Discount Tire has customers nationwide, so testing tires for various weather and road conditions is important to make informed, personalized recommendations.

To ensure they’re accounting for this in their testing, tests conducted at Treadwell Research Park mimic those conditions. For example, they use wet pads to imitate a wet road, a water truck to make a mud pit, and test during the day and night. A different facility tests for snow handling and wintery conditions.

Creating various conditions allows Discount Tire to test for various things like wet handling, wet braking, dry handling, on-center feel or turn-in, and to note any noise or harshness. Third-party professional drivers conduct all tests.

Before testing at Treadwell Research Park, the conditions of each test vehicle and conditions on the track are ensured to be consistent so that the only variable between tests is the tires themselves.

Discount Tire will also use traction rigs, which hook up two tires to a machine that attaches them to the back of a vehicle. This allows them to test how two tires will handle in wet conditions and compare the performance of two different kinds of tires simultaneously.

Treadwell System Helps Users Pick From Tire Options
Track tests tires in different terrains and weather conditions; Photo: Discount Tire

Another test at Treadwell Research Park shows the effects of a brand-new and worn tire by shaving tires down with a tire buffer. This test helps see the performance of the same make and model of tire as the tire progresses from brand new to worn.

Test data and ratings are then inputted into Treadwell, Discount Tire’s tire recommendation tool, which helps generate the best tire options for customers’ specific driving needs. It is available online and with the company’s experts at more than 1,200 retail stores.

Treadwell uses data from the testing facility and millions of tire safety checks conducted by Discount Tire stores across the country to generate a list of recommendations for a customer based on their specific vehicle type, location, how they like to drive, and personal driving preferences.

So, at the end of the day owning a test track is twofold: a level of quality assurance in the tires Discount Tire recommends to consumers and powering the Treadwell tool to allow consumers to more accurately find the tire model that would work best for their lifestyle.

Tune in to the Science Channel to watch Road Rubber at 10 AM ET on Saturday, May 18!