Even though they are one of the most important components of your vehicle, most people don't really know a whole lot about the car tires they are driving on. Thousands of people count on their car tires every day to help get them to where they are going. It makes sense to pay some attention to these amazing pieces of technology. Here are some things you probably didn't know about those little rubber doughnuts you ride on every day.
Just a Little Contact with your Car Tires…
Everyone knows your tires are your only contact with the road surface. But have you ever thought about how much of your tires actually stick to the road? While most vehicles have fairly large tires, in reality the contact patch (the part of your tires that actually are in contact with the road) is only about the size of a sheet of paper!
…Goes a Long Way
Skinnier tires, ones that are taller and narrower than the norm, are starting to make a comeback. Expert auto mechanics point out that even though the contact is smaller, having a narrower tire helps a vehicle reduce its energy loss as the tire itself rolls. The narrower shape also helps to reduce the car's frontal area. This reduction also helps to reduce a car's aerodynamic drag. To compensate for a smaller car tire size and a smaller tire footprint, new tire manufacturers use elevated tire inflation pressure. As an added benefit, skinnier tires mean that a car manufacturer can use less room for the wheel well, and more for the passenger compartment. You'll likely be seeing skinnier tires on more cars as automakers strive to improve fuel efficiency.
Making New Tires Faster, Lighter, and Safer
Like with cars, tire manufacturers are doing everything they can to improve the technology of their products. A heavier tire means that the vehicle will have more inertia overall. On the other hand, a lighter tire means that the car will have a lower rolling resistance, and a shorter stopping distance. Car manufacturers must strike a delicate balance in their new tires to fit the needs of the individual vehicle, and materials they use to create their car tires. For instance, tire manufacturers can use a lighter gauge of cord for their steel belts they can also decrease the depth of the tread surface while using a tougher, high-mileage tread formulation for longer tread wear.
Rubber, Steel, and Lots More!
Most people understand that tires are made of rubber, and steel belted car tires have extra metal inside. However, tires include some compounds you might not have known about, such as cobalt and titanium to bond the rubber to the steel belts. Some car tire manufacturers use special natural and synthetic oils to modify how the stiffness of tire tread changes with temperature. Other companies use silica to help enhance wet and snow traction and reduce rolling resistance. In fact, despite their seemingly simple construction, tires have actually become a highly engineered piece of technology. Tires use an advanced blend of rubber and polymers to maximize traction and minimize road noise in all weather and road conditions. Tires nowadays are a far cry from the rubber doughnuts they were a century ago!
For that Matter, Car Tires Aren't Naturally Black!
Almost all modern car tires are black. However, in the first 25 years of their existence, tires were actually white! The rubber in tires makes them white. The rubber becomes white as a byproduct of adding Zinc Oxide to the rubber to add strength. Nowadays, in addition to the numerous other chemicals added to rubber, tire manufacturers also add carbon black to new tires. This increases the tensile strength of the rubber several times over. It is also what gives your car tires their distinctive black color.
Outside Air Temperature Affects Your Car Tires…
Because air fills most car tires, the outside temperature affects your tire's pressure more than you might expect. On average, auto repair experts say that for every 10 degrees (Celsius) of temperature shift, your tire's pressure can fluctuate by up to 1.5psi. So as the season's change, be sure to check your tire pressure! In fact, most auto mechanics recommend that you check your tire pressure and treads depth at least once per month. You can also check for tire wear or any objects that may have gotten caught in the tire.
…Except if the Tires Are Filled With Nitrogen
High-performance road cars and cars designed for racing will normally fill their car tires with nitrogen instead of regular air. Why is this? Because water vapor which naturally occurs in the air affects tire pressure as it heats or cools. The change in tire pressure affects how the tires handle, and how well they grip the road. The tires on a high performance or racing vehicle fluctuate wildly and rapidly, which can cause not only wear issues but unpredictable handling as well. To minimize these problems with their new tires they use nitrogen instead of air. Nitrogen contains no water vapor and is not as easily affected by changes in temperature. Because of this, the high-performance car tire is not as heavily affected by temperature.
But The Best Car Tires Come from Someone You Can Trust
In the end, car tires are a very important part of our cars. It doesn't matter if the car was made in Germany, Japan, or America, every one of them needs tires. Know how to check them is important, but making sure you get the best set of new tires for your car is important. Trusting expert auto mechanics and tire professionals, such as those at West Coast Tire & Service, will help you rest easy, and think about the road rather than about your car tires!