How much do you know about tyres?

Posted by: Cal on 29/01/2014

Category: Tyre Information

When it comes to car tyres, many of us may have only a rudimentary knowledge of how they work and what they're made up of. While you're unlikely to be quizzed on the rubber and metal used in these devices any time soon, it doesn't hurt to be clued up on your tyres. You never know when it may come in handy - perhaps when your car breaks down, or at your next pub quiz!

The basics

The car tyre is constantly evolving to suit today's motor cars, as it must not only look great and drive well, but perform a variety of functions. Not only must it carry out the basic task of allowing a car to drive, it must also cushion the car ride, give good directional stability and provide long-lasting durability.

It needs to be able to brake, accelerate and corner effectively to provide optimal reliable road handling quality in every condition, whether the road is wet and slippery or dry with loose gravel.

This means tyre engineers often have to compromise on some of the many demands of a tyre in order to present a functional and affordable product to consumers. This has resulted in many speciality tyres on the market, which perform extremely well in some areas but are less effective in others.

The most important feature of a tyre, no matter how quickly it accelerates or how much traction it gets on the road, remains its safety.

Tyre structure

Modern tyres are made up of many elements, all of which combine to help them perform at their best.

The inner liner is made up of air-tight rubber that is attached to the inside of the tyre. This is used instead of the traditional tube.

The tread is the part of the tyre that comes into contact with the road. It provides grip and stability when turning corners, and is tough and rugged to resist heat, abrasions and impacts. Inside the tread is a channel called the groove. This improves braking and pulling ability along with providing a more stable drive.

A tyre's sidewall adds rigidity and protects the tyre carcass, which is the inner cord of the tyre that absorbs impact and supports weight. This allows the tyre to expand and contract with different terrain it faces, improving ride comfort and quality.

The tyre belt is usually made of steel wire or a textile fabric, reinforcing the tyre and reducing impact from the road. It widens the tread when it comes into contact with the ground, providing a more comfortable ride.

The shoulder of a tyre is its section from the tread's edge to the upper part of the sidewall.


The wheel isn't a modern development. In fact, it has been reinvented many times over the past 5,000 years in order to meet rapidly developing transportation requirements.

Early wooden disc wheels made way for spoked wheels on war and ritual chariots, as they were lighter and more stable. These designs lasted until coaches were developed, and even the first Benz motor car introduced in 1886 had spoked rubber wheels with solid rubber tyres.

The pneumatic tyre wasn't invented until 1888, and even then it was strictly for bicycles. By 1989, Continental was producing tyres designed to give a cushioned ride that enabled automobiles to travel at higher speeds.

Eventually, these tyres were given a tread pattern and a black colour. Cross-ply tyres were popular until the 1970s, when the radial tyre well and truly took over.