Tires are something that almost every driver takes for granted and typically does not think about until something goes wrong. Flats, failed inspections, and other issues that come up without warning, or creep up on you can be expensive and inconvenient. When faced with having to suddenly and unexpectedly buy a tire, most people are not really equipped to make a good decision. Others who have taken the time to study, learn, and research are much better prepared. That said, we at Moon Township Automotive, find that more people are in category #1 than category #2, so this is largely addressed to that group.
A Brief History of The Tire
As the point where the rubber meets the road, tires these days are complexly engineered parts – but they have not always been that. There was a time in history when they were pretty simply just rubber wheels. As Hankook points out, there is a fascinating and complex history associated with them. The earliest tires were simply hard rubber and were put on the earliest motorized vehicles in the 1880s.
Tread is a part of a tire that comes in direct contact with a road surface. Made out of thick rubber, tread protects carcass and breaker inside a tire. Road surface friction coefficient increased with the development of the tread tire and today it is produced in various patterns. [Then] in late 1913, Henry Ford introduced the first conveyor belt assembly line to the world, marking the start of the first stage of automobile popularization. In 1931, American company Du Pont successfully industrialized synthetic rubber. This development allowed tire industry, which had been dependent on natural rubber, to increase tire quantity and quality, ushering in a turning point in tire production.
[1923 brought the] balloon tire, a type of low-pressure tire is used in various types of automobiles to increase its contact area to road surface with low Internal air pressure.
In the 1940s and 50s there were further advances in tire manufacturing, largely focused on making production of the tires more efficient and less costly. In the 1970s this changed toward a focus on safety and then the technology really took off. Today tires are incredibly complex and highly engineered to be eco-friendly and driver safe. They are also expensive and can cost a consumer upwards of $300 per tire on some popular vehicles, so they should be considered an investment. Some of these tires are airless, some still run even after they encounter a road hazard.
What Is In A Tire
Aside from the advanced engineering, there are various materials that make up the tire. No longer just rubber (which is a petroleum-based material), today’s tires are as complex to make as they are to engineer. They contain:
- Natural rubber provides specific performance characteristics to tires. It is especially good for tear and fatigue crack resistance.
- Two main synthetic rubber polymers used in tire manufacturing are butadiene rubber and styrene butadiene rubber. These rubber polymers are used in combination with natural rubber. Physical and chemical properties of these rubber polymers determine the performance of each component in the tire as well as the overall tire performance (rolling resistance, wear and traction).
- Another important synthetic rubber is halogenated polyisobutylene rubber (XIIR) commonly known as halobutyl rubber. This material causes the inner liner to be impermeable, which helps to keep the tire inflated.
- Steel wire is used in the tire belts and beads, and the plies for truck tires. The belts under the tread serve to stiffen the tire casing and improve wear performance and tire handling. The bead wire anchors the tire and locks it onto the wheel.
- Textiles in tires are various types of fabric cords that reinforce the tire. Tire fabric cords provide dimensional stability and help support the vehicle weight.
These are all put together into a series of components that form what is today’s modern tire.
Maintaining Your Tires
The biggest expert on road safety out there is AAA, and we take their advice at every turn. They highly recommend that you take the following steps. Inspect your tires for inflation and for tread and for any road hazards prior to any long trips. This is how they say to do that:
Poor tire maintenance can lead to premature tire wear, a flat tire or even a blowout. Factors other than tires themselves also can affect tire wear. Worn suspension parts and wheel alignment both play a direct role in tire wear and performance. Tire Problems to Look For During a Visual Inspection:
- Over inflation: Too much air pressure causes the tire’s middle section to contact the road. This creates wear primarily in the center of the tread, with less wear at the tire’s edges.
- Under inflation: Too little air pressure causes the tire’s outer edges to contact the road. This creates wear primarily on both edges of the tire tread, with less wear in the center.
- Tread wear on one edge of the tire: This typically occurs when the wheels are out of alignment.
- Erratic tread wear: This is often called cupping, and may mean the wheel is out of balance, or that the shock absorbers or other suspension components need to be replaced.
- Raised portion of the tread or sidewall: May indicate that one of the belts in the tire carcass has separated from those next to it.
Tire Problems to Look for While Driving
- Unusual vibration or thumping noise: Vibration or thumping noises can indicate an out-of-balance tire, one with tread that has a flat spot due to locking the wheels in a panic stop, or a tire with a separated belt.
- A pull to one side: While driving at a steady speed, pulling to one side may indicate an underinflated or damaged tire on the side of the car to which the vehicle pulls. If this is not the case, a brake problem or poor wheel alignment may be causing the pull.
Taking these steps will help to assure that your trip is a safe one.