Understanding How Car Tires Are Made
Of the myriad components and systems that comprise your vehicle, the wheels are the only car part that touch the ground (hopefully). Besides keeping an eye on the air pressure and the wear of the treads, most drivers don’t give the rubber that meets the road much thought. They can be forgiven for thinking that their car’s tires are constructed solely of hardened rubber. But, there’s much more to them than that.
I realize that very few of you will find as much interest in tire construction as I do. Not everyone is an enthusiast. However, think about it from this perspective: the more you know about your car and its parts, the more educated you’ll be when taking it to a repair garage. And that can translate into a lower bill. Because you’ll be replacing your vehicle’s tires periodically, you should understand how they’re made. So, let get dig in.
In the old days, wheels were built from simple materials (including rubber). The problem was that early designs delivered a rough ride. To be fair, the technology behind their construction was limited and we know much more today. Modern designs now employ hundreds of materials to improve traction, preserve the treads, and improve the handling and responsiveness of the wheels. Plus, they deliver a far more comfortable riding experience.
How They’re Made
You’ve probably heard the term “steel belted radials.” I’m going to describe how they’re built. First, each wheel has 2 steel threads (they’re actually called “beads”). Polyester cords form a network of layers (similar to collagen fibers underneath the skin) that connect to the beads. Then, an air-sealed liner is added to complete the casing.
Once the casing is built, a mesh of steel strands are used to cover it. This network of steel strands has three main jobs: to add durability to the frame of the wheel, protect the underlying casing from damage, and to ensure the treads have traction. Next, the treads are installed over the network of steel strands.
The Advance Of Tire Technology
Tires have already come a long way from the designs that were used over a century ago. And it’s likely that the technology behind them will continue to improve. Scientists are not only interested in making the treads last longer, but also to increase the level of safety, traction, responsiveness, and comfort.
High-performance vehicles already employ designs that are more heat-resistant than conventional models. Over the next few years, it’s likely that such formulas will be made available on sedans and other “traditional” vehicles. In the meantime, you can now impress (or try to, anyway) your mechanic with your newfound knowledge about how tires are made.