Insa Turbo Remould Tyres are becoming increasingly popular. LRO’s John Pearson looks at the reasons and takes a trip around the Spanish company’s production facility.
Take a look through some of the tyre dealer adverts in LRO and you’ll see that Insa Turbo remoulds are much cheaper than comparably sized new tyres.
Our research shows they can cost 35-45 per cent less than the popular BF Goodrich fitments, and are 25-35 percent cheaper than General Grabbers. A set of 235/70 R16 Insa Turbo Ranger all-terrains on steel modular wheels were advertised for £495 by John Craddock in the last issue of LRO, compared with £699 for new BFGs on similar wheels. That’s a significant saving.
The Insa Turbos tick a few boxes, too. Remoulds aren’t affected by European Union tyre legislation on noise and economy that has led to the development of less-aggressive tread patterns for new tyres, including the BF Goodrich mud-terrain. Insa Turbo (IT) tyres are available in the older BFG MT-style tread pattern (called the Dakar), along with BFG all-terrain-style (Ranger). In addition, its Traction tyre has the popular old BFG Track Edge tread, and there’s an extreme tread-patterned Special Track along with the Sahara sand tyre.
Remoulds are also better for the environment. ‘It’s a second life product,’ says Miguel Gandia, operations manager at the IT factory in Aspe near Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. He adds that producing a new tyre uses 45 litres of petrochemicals whereas the remoulding process takes nine litres. And he explains that old tyres are a big problem if disposed of at landfill sites: ‘They tend to work their way to the surface causing problems for future land use and they’re a fire hazard: they can burn for ages underground.’
So, remoulds have a lot going for them. But can we be sure that the quality of the donor carcass and the production process will deliver the quality and reliability that we Land Rover owners demand? The answer was to visit the factory, along with Alan Baldwin. Alan is wholesale sales director of Micheldever Southam Tyres, which imports Insa Turbos along with many other tyres into the UK, and sells them to the trade or through the well-known independent 4Site4x4 tyre centres.
Insa Turbo is a part of the giant Grupo Soledad, Spain’s biggest tyre distributor that employs more than 1100 people at various warehouses around the country and elsewhere on the continent. It also has a number of its own tyre dealerships and a factory that produces rubber for the remoulds.
Having its own tyre dealers does mean it has access to used tyre casings for remoulding, but finding suitable donor tyres is becoming more of a problem. The tendency for manufacturers to fit larger wheel rims has reduced the number of popular remouldable sizes, and it has been forced to spread its net to the USA and Australasia. This inevitably increases costs.
And the escalating numbers of cheap tyres produced in the Far East is also limiting availability. ‘We only use top brands for remoulding,’ explains Miguel. ‘Apart from the quality, this also ensures the weight is similar.’ Alan Baldwin adds: ‘Getting uniform size and weight donor casings is the key to a good product.’
Not all the casings they buy are suitable for remoulding. There’s a rigorous examination procedure: first each tyre gets a thorough visual check by experienced operators. After that the good ones go through for shearography (electronic scanning) to make sure everything under the surface, such as steel belts and bead, are in top condition, with no unseen splits, cuts or other damage. About 35 per cent of casings are rejected but not wasted because they are ground up to be recycled for use as fuel for local cement producers or to provide the surfaces for athletics tracks and playgrounds.
Once a tyre casing gets the thumbs-up for remoulding it goes into it’s vast warehouse where it’s stored at the optimum temperature and humidity.
The remoulding process starts at the buffing machine, which is essentially a number of giant wire brushes that remove what’s left of the old tread and some of the sidewall rubber, down to very fine tolerances. The small grains of rubber from this process are extracted and also go off to the cement factory.
Miguel explains the process is bead-to-bead remoulding: ‘Not just top capping, which can result in the bits of tread you see lying at the side of motorways.’
Next, the now rather naked-looking buffed carcass goes on to a machine that applies an extrusion of uncured rubber to its circumference. It reminds me of a giant pasta maker, as the strips of rubber emerge and are built up in thinner and thinner layers on to the spinning tyre. Different rubber compounds are used for the tread and the sidewall.
From here the tyres head into the steamy-hot press department for vulcanisation. Operators put them on to stands and then an automated process positions each of them into one of a long row of presses, which are pre-fitted with tread moulds. The process takes about 30 minutes.
When its time is up the steaming, newly retreaded tyre emerges, ready to go into the warehouse and subsequently off to users around the world. Insa Turbo makes between 900 and 950 4×4 tyres every day, along with car and truck models. Its most popular 4×4 size is 265/75 R16, but 235/70 R16 tyres with aggressive tread patterns are now selling well to Discovery owners.
My look around the facility has impressed me. Some tyre manufacturers are secretive about their processes, but Insa Turbo is proud of what it achieves. ‘We have invested in quality and will maintain it, despite competition from cheap Far Eastern imports,’ says Gandia.
With rapidly increasing oil prices, the cost of new tyres will rise too, making the remould option worth considering. And you’ll be doing your bit to help save the planet too.