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Car Tyres: What are they Made of?

All sorts of vehicles today need tyres - including cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks, aircraft, farm equipment such as tractors, and industrial vehicles like forklifts. Other non-motorised conveyances, such as baby pushchairs, shopping trolleys, wheelchairs and cycles also need tyres.

A tyre must be made of a strong, flexible material to cushion the moving vehicle's wheels and to act as a gripping surface for traction. A rubber casing attached to the rim of the wheel has been found to be the most suitable material for the tyres.

Large factories all over the world produce more than 2.5 billion new tyres annually, making it a massive business. Skilled workers are required to assemble the tyres' components, although much of the manufacturing process is done through automated machines.

tyre

© industrieblick / Adobe Stock

 

Is rubber the best car tyre material?

The material for a car tyre must be durable and strong because of the amount of wear and tear it goes through. Rubber is recognised as the best material. It's normally the case that a rubber tyre can be stored for up to five years without compromising its safety, although there are no hard and fast rules on this.

The lifespan of a tyre depends on how many miles you drive each year, weather conditions, the road conditions, temperature and even your driving style. These can all influence how long your tyres remain in a safe condition and how often you'll need to change them.

 

When were rubber tyres invented?

Robert Thomson, a Scottish inventor, first developed pneumatic tyres with an inner tube back in 1845, before the days of motor vehicles, when the main mode of travel was horse-drawn carriages and cycles. There was little interest from the public and his invention was ahead of its time. It pretty much sank without a trace.

Four decades later, the pneumatic tyre was "reinvented" by another Scot, John Boyd Dunlop, in the 1880s. It was immediately a big hit with cyclists and Dunlop's name is most associated with the invention of the tyre.

 

Natural or synthetic rubber?

There are two different types of rubber used for tyre manufacture: natural and synthetic. Natural rubber is gathered as a milky liquid from the bark of rubber trees, known as Hevea Brasiliensis. To manufacture tyres, the natural rubber must be mixed with chemicals.

Liquid latex is mixed with acids that make it solidify. Excess water is squeezed out using presses to form rubber sheets. These are dried out, pressed into bales and sent to tyre factories across the world.

Synthetic rubber is manufactured from crude oil polymers. The main raw material used for tyre manufacture is natural rubber. American inventor, Charles Goodyear, invented the process of vulcanisation to stabilise and strengthen rubber in 1839, making it suitable for tyre manufacture. Treating the rubber with chemicals and heating it makes it develop the required characteristics of strength, wear-resistance and resiliency.

According to tyre manufacturer Michelin, natural rubber can reduce internal heat generation in tyres and offers high resistance. It is commonly used for truck and earth-mover tyres. Synthetic rubber can provide greater longevity and rolling resistance, and can be used for car and motorcycle tyres to give them better grip.

 

What does tyre tread do?

Tyres for most of today's vehicles are pneumatic, meaning that the air is held inside the tyre under pressure. At one time, all pneumatic tyres contained an inner tube to keep the air pressure intact, but the modern way of producing pneumatic tyres is by forming a pressure seal with the wheel's rim.

The tread of the tyre is an important aspect of its safety features, as it can help prevent loss of grip on the road's surface. In today's world of advanced technology, computer software plays a large role in tyre design, as it enables tyre engineers to simulate the performance of different tread patterns. Software can create a three-dimensional image of a potential tyre design to calculate the suitability of the proposed design before production goes ahead.

The tread design and tyre body construction are tested via the 3D simulation, as is the exact compound of the rubber to be used. In a modern car, up to 20 different types of rubber can be used in different parts of the tyre. The computer software can work out which is the best combination for safety and durability.

A particular rubber compound may be used for the tread, for example, to provide good traction in cold weather, while a different compound may be used to create the appropriate rigidity in the tyre's sidewalls.

Once the engineers are satisfied that the 3D computer studies have created a suitable new tyre, manufacturing engineers and skilled assembly workers will liaise with designers to produce a prototype of the planned new tyre.

Following rigorous testing, once the engineers are 100% happy with the new design, it will go into mass production at the tyre factories, keeping the ‘wheels’ turning and ensuring our safety on the roads, whatever the weather.

As a leading UK manufacturer of standard and bespoke rubber products, Coruba supplies a full range of industrial, commercial and residential rubber products.

We provide top-quality vehicle rubber matting to help prevent wear and tear and keep the interior of your vehicle clean.

Please contact us for details of our full range of rubber products.



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