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Assorted new automotive road tires, showing a variety of tread patterns. Assorted stacked automotive tires.jpg
Assorted new automotive road tires, showing a variety of tread patterns.
Tractor tires have substantial ribs and voids for traction in soft terrain. A stack of tractor tyres - geograph.org.uk - 1409842.jpg
Tractor tires have substantial ribs and voids for traction in soft terrain.

A tire (American English) or tyre (Commonwealth English) is a ring-shaped component that surrounds a wheel's rim to transfer a vehicle's load from the axle through the wheel to the ground and to provide traction on the surface over which the wheel travels. Most tires, such as those for automobiles and bicycles, are pneumatically inflated structures, which also provide a flexible cushion that absorbs shock as the tire rolls over rough features on the surface. Tires provide a footprint, called a contact patch, that is designed to match the weight of the vehicle with the bearing strength of the surface that it rolls over by providing a bearing pressure that will not deform the surface excessively.


The materials of modern pneumatic tires are synthetic rubber, natural rubber, fabric, and wire, along with carbon black and other chemical compounds. They consist of a tread and a body. The tread provides traction while the body provides containment for a quantity of compressed air. Before rubber was developed, tires were metal bands, fitted around wooden wheels to hold the wheel together under load and to prevent wear and tear. Early rubber tires were solid (not pneumatic). Pneumatic tires are used on many types of vehicles, including cars, bicycles, motorcycles, buses, trucks, heavy equipment, and aircraft. Metal tires are still used on locomotives and railcars, and solid rubber (or other polymers) tires are still used in various non-automotive applications, such as some casters, carts, lawnmowers, and wheelbarrows.

Unmaintained tires can lead to serious hazards for vehicle and vehicle operators, ranging from flat tires which can lead to damage to the vehicle, to blowouts, where tires explode during operation. The manufacture of tires is often highly regulated for this reason. Because of the widespread use of tires for motor vehicles, tire waste is an extremely large portion of global waste leading to widespread need for tire recycling, through both mechanical recycling and reuse , such as for crumb rubber and other tire-derived aggregate, and pyrolysis for chemical reuse, such as for tire-derived fuel. Waste tires, if not recycled properly or burned, can release toxic chemicals into the environment. Moreover, normal use of tires produces micro-plastic particles that contain these chemicals that both enter the environment and affect human health. [1]

Etymology and spelling

The word tire is a short form of attire, from the idea that a wheel with a tire is a dressed wheel. [2] [3]

The spelling tyre does not appear until the 1840s when the English began shrink-fitting railway car wheels with malleable iron. Nevertheless, traditional publishers continued using tire. The Times newspaper in London was still using tire as late as 1905. [4] The spelling tyre began to be commonly used in the 19th century for pneumatic tires in the UK. The 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica states that "The spelling 'tyre' is not now accepted by the best English authorities, and is unrecognized in the US", [5] while Fowler's Modern English Usage of 1926 says that "there is nothing to be said for 'tyre', which is etymologically wrong, as well as needlessly divergent from our own [sc. British] older & the present American usage". [6] However, over the course of the 20th century, tyre became established as the standard British spelling. [3]


John Boyd Dunlop on a bicycle, c. 1915 John Boyd Dunlop (c1915).jpg
John Boyd Dunlop on a bicycle, c.1915

The earliest tires were bands of leather, [7] then iron (later steel) placed on wooden wheels used on carts and wagons. A skilled worker, known as a wheelwright, would cause the tire to expand by heating it in a forge fire, placing it over the wheel and quenching it, causing the metal to contract back to its original size so that it would fit tightly on the wheel.

The first patent for what appears to be a standard pneumatic tire appeared in 1847 [8] lodged by Scottish inventor Robert William Thomson. However, this never went into production. The first practical pneumatic tire was made in 1888 on May Street, Belfast, by Scots-born John Boyd Dunlop, owner of one of Ireland's most prosperous veterinary practices. It was an effort to prevent the headaches of his 10-year-old son Johnnie while riding his tricycle on rough pavements. His doctor, John, later Sir John Fagan, had prescribed cycling as an exercise for the boy and was a regular visitor. Fagan participated in designing the first pneumatic tires. Cyclist Willie Hume demonstrated the supremacy of Dunlop's tires in 1889, winning the tire's first-ever races in Ireland and then England. [9] [10] In Dunlop's tire patent specification dated 31 October 1888, his interest is only in its use in cycles and light vehicles. In September 1890, he was made aware of an earlier development but the company kept the information to itself. [11]

In 1892, Dunlop's patent was declared invalid because of the prior art by forgotten fellow Scot Robert William Thomson of London (patents London 1845, France 1846, USA 1847), although Dunlop is credited with "realizing rubber could withstand the wear and tear of being a tire while retaining its resilience". [12] John Boyd Dunlop and Harvey du Cros together worked through the ensuing considerable difficulties. They employed inventor Charles Kingston Welch and also acquired other rights and patents which allowed them some limited protection of their Pneumatic Tyre business's position. Pneumatic Tyre would become Dunlop Rubber and Dunlop Tyres. The development of this technology hinged on myriad engineering advances, including the vulcanization of natural rubber using sulfur, as well as by the development of the "clincher" rim for holding the tire in place laterally on the wheel rim.

Synthetic rubbers were invented in the laboratories of Bayer in the 1920s. [13] Rubber shortages in the United Kingdom during WWII prompted research on alternatives to rubber tires with suggestions including leather, compressed asbestos, rayon, felt, bristles and paper. [14]

In 1946, Michelin developed the radial tire method of construction. Michelin had bought the bankrupt Citroën automobile company in 1934, so it was able to fit this new technology immediately. Because of its superiority in handling and fuel economy, [15] use of this technology quickly spread throughout Europe and Asia. [16] In the US, the outdated bias-ply tire construction persisted, until the Ford Motor Company adopted radial tires in the early 1970s, [17] following a 1968 article in an influential American magazine, Consumer Reports , highlighting the superiority of radial construction. [18] [19] The US tire industry lost its market share to Japanese and European manufacturers, [20] which bought out US companies. [21]


Tires may be classified according to the type of vehicle they serve. They may be distinguished by the load they carry and by their application, e.g. to a motor vehicle, aircraft, or bicycle.


Light–medium duty

A winter tire without studs, showing tread pattern designed to compact snow in the gaps. Studless tire 2.jpg
A winter tire without studs, showing tread pattern designed to compact snow in the gaps.
High-performance rally tires Rali Portugal (168).JPG
High-performance rally tires

Light-duty tires for passenger vehicles carry loads in the range of 550 to 1,100 pounds (250 to 500 kg) on the drive wheel. Light-to-medium duty trucks and vans carry loads in the range of 1,100 to 3,300 pounds (500 to 1,500 kg) on the drive wheel. [23] They are differentiated by speed rating for different vehicles, including (starting from the lowest speed to the highest): winter tires, light truck tires, entry-level car tires, sedans and vans, sport sedans, and high-performance cars. [24] Apart from road tires, there are special categories:

  • Snow tires are designed for use on snow and ice. They have a tread design with larger gaps than those on summer tires, increasing traction on snow and ice. Such tires that have passed a specific winter traction performance test are entitled to display a "Three-Peak Mountain Snow Flake" symbol on their sidewalls. Tires designed for winter conditions are optimized to drive at temperatures below 7 °C (45 °F). Some snow tires have metal or ceramic studs that protrude from the tire to increase traction on hard-packed snow or ice. Studs abrade dry pavement, causing dust and creating wear in the wheel path. [25] Regulations that require the use of snow tires or permit the use of studs vary by country in Asia and Europe, and by state or province in North America.
  • All-season tires are typically rated for mud and snow (M+S). These tires have tread gaps that are smaller than snow tires and larger than conventional tires. They are quieter than snow tires on clear roads, but less capable on snow or ice. [26]
  • All-terrain tires are designed to have adequate traction off-road, yet have benign handling and noise characteristics for highway driving. [27] Such tires are rated better on snow and rain than street tires and "good" on ice, rock, and sand. [28]
  • Mud-terrain tires have a deeper, more open tread for good grip in mud, than all-terrain tires, but perform less well on pavement. [29]
  • High-performance tires are rated for speeds up to 168 miles per hour (270 km/h) and ultra-high-performance tires are rated for speeds up to 186 miles per hour (299 km/h), but have harsher ride characteristics and durability. [30]
  • Electric vehicles have unique demands on tires due to the combination of weight (resulting in new load index), higher torque, and requirements for lower rolling resistance. [31]

Other types of light-duty automotive tires include run-flat tires and race car tires:

  • Run-flat tires eliminates the need for a spare tire because they can be traveled on at a reduced speed in the event of a puncture, using a stiff sidewall to prevent damage to the tire rim. [32] Vehicles without run-flat tires rely on a spare tire, which may be a compact tire, to replace a damaged tire. [32]
  • Race car tires come in three main categories, DOT (street-legal), slick, and rain. Race car tires are designed to maximize cornering and acceleration friction at the expense of longevity. Racing slicks have no tread to maximize contact with the pavement and rain tires have channels to eject water to avoid hydroplaning. [33]

Heavy duty

Off-road tires under transport Gianttires ontruck.jpg
Off-road tires under transport

Heavy-duty tires for large trucks and buses come in a variety of profiles and carry loads in the range of 4,000 to 5,500 pounds (1,800 to 2,500 kg) on the drive wheel. [23] These are typically mounted in tandem on the drive axle. [32]

  • Truck tires come in a variety of profiles that include "low profile" with a section height that is 70 to 45% of the tread width, "wide-base" for heavy vehicles, and a "super-single" tire that has the same total contact pressure as a dual-mounted tire combination. [32]
  • Off-road tires are used on construction vehicles, agricultural and forestry equipment, and other applications that take place on soft terrain. The category also includes machinery that travels over hardened surfaces at industrial sites, ports, and airports. [34] Tires designed for soft terrain have a deep, wide tread to provide traction in loose dirt, mud, sand, or gravel. [35]


Aircraft, bicycles, and a variety of industrial applications have distinct design requirements.

Tires on the wheels of a bogie on a Boeing 777 Boeing-777-300 chassis .jpg
Tires on the wheels of a bogie on a Boeing 777

Construction types

A cross-section of a tire showing ply orientations Tire plies.png
A cross-section of a tire showing ply orientations

Tire construction spans pneumatic tires used on cars, trucks, and aircraft, but also includes non-automotive applications with slow-moving, light-duty, or railroad applications, which may have non-pneumatic tires.


Following the 1968 Consumer Reports announcement of the superiority of the radial design, radial tires began an inexorable climb in market share, reaching 100% of the North American market in the 1980s. [18] Radial tire technology is now the standard design for essentially all automotive tires, but other methods have been used. [24]

Radial tire construction utilizes body ply cords extending from the beads and across the tread so that the cords are laid at approximately right angles to the centerline of the tread, and parallel to each other, as well as stabilizer belts directly beneath the tread. The belts may be cord or steel. The advantages of this construction include longer tread life, better steering control, fewer blowouts, improved fuel economy, and lower rolling resistance. Disadvantages of the radial tire are a harder ride at low speeds on rough roads and in the context of off-roading, decreased "self-cleaning" ability, and lower grip ability at low speeds. [24]

Bias tire (or cross ply) construction utilizes body ply cords that extend diagonally from bead to bead, usually at angles in the range of 30 to 40 degrees. Successive plies are laid at opposing angles forming a crisscross pattern to which the tread is applied. The design allows the entire tire body to flex easily, providing the main advantage of this construction, a smooth ride on rough surfaces. This cushioning characteristic also causes the major disadvantages of a bias tire: increased rolling resistance and less control and traction at higher speeds. [24]

A belted bias tire starts with two or more bias-plies to which stabilizer belts are bonded directly beneath the tread. This construction provides a smoother ride that is similar to the bias tire, while lessening rolling resistance because the belts increase tread stiffness. The design was introduced by Armstrong, while Goodyear made it popular with the "Polyglas" trademark tire featuring a polyester carcass with belts of fiberglass. [44] The "belted" tire starts two main plies of polyester, rayon, or nylon annealed as in conventional tires, and then placed on top are circumferential belts at different angles that improve performance compared to non-belted bias tires. The belts may be fiberglass or steel. [44]


Airless tire 2005 091112-28rim0051 compressed.JPG
Airless tire

Tubeless tires are pneumatic tires that do not require a separate inner tube.

Semi-pneumatic tires have a hollow center, but they are not pressurized. They are lightweight, low-cost, puncture-proof, and provide cushioning. [45] These tires often come as a complete assembly with the wheel and even integral ball bearings. They are used on lawn mowers, wheelchairs, and wheelbarrows. They can also be rugged, typically used in industrial applications, [46] and are designed to not pull off their rim under use.

An airless tire is a non-pneumatic tire that is not supported by air pressure. They are most commonly used on small vehicles, such as golf carts, and on utility vehicles in situations where the risk of puncture is high, such as on construction equipment. Many tires used in industrial and commercial applications are non-pneumatic, and are manufactured from solid rubber and plastic compounds via molding operations. Solid tires include those used for lawnmowers, skateboards, golf carts, scooters, and many types of light industrial vehicles, carts, and trailers. One of the most common applications for solid tires is for material handling equipment (forklifts). Such tires are installed by means of a hydraulic tire press.

Wooden wheels for horse-drawn vehicles usually have a wrought iron tire. This construction was extended to wagons on horse-drawn tramways, rolling on granite setts or cast iron rails.

The wheels of some railway engines and older types of rolling stock are fitted with railway tires in order to prevent the need to replace the entirety of a wheel. The tire, usually made of steel, surrounds the wheel and is primarily held in place by interference fit.

Aircraft tires may operate at pressures that exceed 200 pounds per square inch (14  bar ; 1,400  kPa ). [47] Some aircraft tires are inflated with nitrogen to "eliminate the possibility of a chemical reaction between atmospheric oxygen and volatile gases from the tire inner liner producing a tire explosion". [48]


Pneumatic tires are manufactured in about 450 tire factories around the world. Tire production starts with bulk raw materials such as rubber, carbon black, and chemicals and produces numerous specialized components that are assembled and cured. Many kinds of rubber are used, the most common being styrene-butadiene copolymer. [49]

In 2004, $80 billion of tires were sold worldwide, [50] in 2010 it was $140 billion [51] (approximately 34% growth adjusting for inflation), and is expected to grow to $258 billion per year by 2019. [52] In 2015, the US manufactured almost 170 million tires. [53] Over 2.5 billion tires are manufactured annually, making the tire industry a major consumer of natural rubber. It is estimated that by 2019, 3 billion tires will be to be sold globally every year. [52]

As of 2011, the top three tire manufacturing companies by revenue were Bridgestone (manufacturing 190 million tires), Michelin (184 million), Goodyear (181 million); they were followed by Continental, and Pirelli. [54] [55] The Lego group produced over 318 million toy tires in 2011 and was recognized by Guinness World Records as having the highest annual production of tires by any manufacturer. [56] [57]


Components of a radial tire Tire components -- NHTSA The Pneumatic Tire.png
Components of a radial tire
Mountain bicycle tires with an open-lug pattern for grip in soft soil Mountain bike tires.JPG
Mountain bicycle tires with an open-lug pattern for grip in soft soil
Absence of grooves maximizes dry-pavement friction on a set of slick Formula One tires F1 Slick Tires.jpg
Absence of grooves maximizes dry-pavement friction on a set of slick Formula One tires

A tire comprises several components: the tread, bead, sidewall, shoulder, and ply.


The tread is the part of the tire that comes in contact with the road surface. The portion that is in contact with the road at a given instant in time is the contact patch. The tread is a thick rubber, or rubber/composite compound formulated to provide an appropriate level of traction that does not wear away too quickly. [58]

The tread pattern is characterized by a system of circumferential grooves, lateral sipes, and slots for road tires [24] or a system of lugs and voids for tires designed for soft terrain or snow. Grooves run circumferentially around the tire and are needed to channel away water. Lugs are that portion of the tread design that contacts the road surface. Grooves, sipes, and slots allow tires to evacuate water.

The design of treads and the interaction of specific tire types with the roadway surface affects roadway noise, a source of noise pollution emanating from moving vehicles. These sound intensities increase with higher vehicle speeds. [59] Tires treads may incorporate a variety of distances between slots (pitch lengths) to minimize noise levels at discrete frequencies. Sipes are slits cut across the tire, usually perpendicular to the grooves, which allow the water from the grooves to escape sideways and mitigate hydroplaning. [24]

Different tread designs address a variety of driving conditions. As the ratio of tire tread area to groove area increases, so does tire friction on dry pavement, as seen on Formula One tires, some of which have no grooves. High-performance tires often have smaller void areas to provide more rubber in contact with the road for higher traction, but may be compounded with softer rubber that provides better traction, but wears quickly. [60] Mud and snow (M&S) tires employ larger and deeper slots to engage mud and snow. [24] Snow tires have still larger and deeper slots that compact snow and create shear strength within the compacted snow to improve braking and cornering performance. [61]

Wear bars (or wear indicators) are raised features located at the bottom of the tread grooves that indicate the tire has reached its wear limit. When the tread lugs are worn to the point that the wear bars connect across the lugs, the tires are fully worn and should be taken out of service, typically at a remaining tread depth of 1.6 millimetres (0.063 in). [62]


The tire bead is the part of the tire that contacts the rim on the wheel. The bead is typically reinforced with steel wire and compounded of high-strength, low-flexibility rubber. The bead seats tightly against the two rims on the wheel to ensure that a tubeless tire holds air without leakage. The bead fit is tight to ensure the tire does not shift circumferentially as the wheel rotates. The width of the rim in relationship to the tire is a factor in the handling characteristics of an automobile because the rim supports the tire's profile.[ citation needed ]

The sidewall is that part of the tire, or bicycle tire, that bridges between the tread and bead. The sidewall is largely rubber but reinforced with fabric or steel cords that provide for tensile strength and flexibility. The sidewall contains air pressure and transmits the torque applied by the drive axle to the tread to create traction but supports little of the weight of the vehicle, as is clear from the total collapse of the tire when punctured. Sidewalls are molded with manufacturer-specific detail, government-mandated warning labels, and other consumer information, and sometimes decorative ornamentation, like whitewalls or tire lettering.[ citation needed ]

The shoulder is that part of the tire at the edge of the tread as it makes the transition to the sidewall. [63]

Plies are layers of relatively inextensible cords embedded in the rubber [64] to hold its shape by preventing the rubber from stretching in response to the internal pressure. The orientations of the plies play a large role in the performance of the tire and are one of the main ways that tires are categorized. [65]


Blem (short for "blemished") is a term used for a tire that failed inspection during manufacturing - but only for superficial/cosmetic/aesthetic reasons. For example, a tire with white painted lettering which is smudged or incomplete might be classified as a "blem". Blem tires are fully functional and generally carry the same warranty as flawless tires - but are sold at a discount. [66]


The materials of modern pneumatic tires can be divided into two groups, the cords that make up the ply and the elastomer which encases them.


The cords, which form the ply and bead and provide the tensile strength necessary to contain the inflation pressure, can be composed of steel, natural fibers such as cotton or silk, or synthetic fibers such as nylon or kevlar. Good adhesion between the cords and the rubber is important. To achieve this the steel cords are coated in a thin layer of brass, [67] various additives will also be added to the rubber to improve binding, such as resorcinol/HMMM mixtures.


About 50% of tires use the Styrene-butadiene copolymer as a primary ingredient. ESBR.png
About 50% of tires use the Styrene-butadiene copolymer as a primary ingredient.

The elastomer, which forms the tread and encases the cords to protect them from abrasion and hold them in place, is a key component of pneumatic tire design. It can be composed of various composites of rubber material – the most common being styrene-butadiene copolymer – with other chemical compounds such as silica and carbon black.

Optimizing rolling resistance in the elastomer material is a key challenge for reducing fuel consumption in the transportation sector. It is estimated that passenger vehicles consume approximately 5~15% of their fuel to overcome rolling resistance, while the estimate is understood to be higher for heavy trucks. [68] However, there is a trade-off between rolling resistance and wet traction and grip: while low rolling resistance can be achieved by reducing the viscoelastic properties of the rubber compound (low tangent (δ)), it comes at the cost of wet traction and grip, which requires hysteresis and energy dissipation (high tangent (δ)). A low tangent (δ) value at 60 °C is used as an indicator of low rolling resistance, while a high tangent (δ) value at 0 °C is used as an indicator of high wet traction. [29] Designing an elastomer material that can achieve both high wet traction and low rolling resistance is key in achieving safety and fuel efficiency in the transportation sector.

The most common elastomer material used today is a styrene-butadiene copolymer. It combines the properties of polybutadiene, which is a highly rubbery polymer ( Tg = -100 °C) having high hysteresis and thus offering good wet grip properties, with the properties of polystyrene, which is a glassy polymer (Tg = 100 °C) having low hysteresis and thus offering low rolling resistance in addition to wear resistance. Therefore, the ratio of the two monomers in the styrene-butadiene copolymer is considered key in determining the glass transition temperature of the material, which is correlated to its grip and resistance properties. [69]

Non-exhaust emissions of particulate matter, generated by the wearing down of brakes, clutches, tires, and road surfaces, as well as by the suspension of road dust, constitute a little-known but rising share of emissions from road traffic and significantly harm public health. [70]

On the wheel

A bicycle inner tube with valve stem Fietband lek zoeken.jpg
A bicycle inner tube with valve stem

Associated components of tires include the wheel on which it is mounted, the valve stem through which air is introduced, and, for some tires, an inner tube that provides the airtight means for maintaining tire pressure.

Performance characteristics

Tire performance envelope by Goodyear Tire performance envelope.svg
Tire performance envelope by Goodyear

The interactions of a tire with the pavement are complex. A commonly used (empirical) model of tire properties is Pacejka's "Magic Formula". [76] Some are explained below, alphabetically, by section.





Tire wear is a major source of rubber pollution. A concern hereby is that vehicle tire wear pollution is unregulated, unlike exhaust emissions. [85]

Tire showing uneven tread wear to the point of exposing the casing Tire Severe Under Inflation Wear.jpg
Tire showing uneven tread wear to the point of exposing the casing
Tread wear
This occurs through normal contact with roads or terrain; there are several types of abnormal tread wear. Poor wheel alignment can cause excessive wear of the innermost or outermost ribs. Gravel roads, rocky terrain, and other rough terrain cause accelerated wear. Over-inflation above the sidewall maximum can cause excessive wear to the center of the tread. Modern tires have steel belts built in to prevent this. Under-inflation causes excessive wear to the outer ribs. Unbalanced wheels can cause uneven tire wear, as the rotation may not be perfectly circular. Tire manufacturers and car companies have mutually established standards for tread wear testing that include measurement parameters for tread loss profile, lug count, and heel-toe wear. [24]
Wear bar and tread wear indicator on the snow tire tread Tread Wear Indicators of Studless Tire.jpg
Wear bar and tread wear indicator on the snow tire tread
Tread wear indicators (T.W.I.)
Raised bars in the tread channels, which indicate that the tread is becoming worn and therefore unsafe. Indicators have been required on all new tires since 1968 in the US. [86] In many countries the Highway Code forbids driving on public roads when the contact surface is flush with any of these bars - this is often defined when the groove depth is approximately 1.5 or 1.6 mm (2/32 inch). TWI can also be used to refer to small arrows or icons on the tire sidewall, indicating the location of the raised wear bars.
Damage by aging
Tire aging or "thermo-oxidative degradation" can be caused by time, ambient and operating temperatures, partial pressure of O2 in a tire, flex fatigue, or construction and compounding characteristics. For example, prolonged UV exposure leads to rubber's chemicals warping, potentially causing dry rot. Various storage methods may slow the aging process, but will not eliminate tire degradation. [87]

Sizes, codes, standards, and regulatory agencies

Tire identification diagram with tire codes Tire code - en.svg
Tire identification diagram with tire codes

Automotive tires have a variety of identifying markings molded onto the sidewall as a tire code. They denote size, rating, and other information pertinent to that individual tire.


The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a U.S. government body within the Department of Transportation (DOT) tasked with regulating automotive safety in the United States. [88] NHTSA established the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System (UTQG), is a system for comparing the performance of tires according to the Code of Federal Regulations 49 CFR 575.104; it requires labeling of tires for tread wear, traction, and temperature. The DOT Code is an alphanumeric character sequence molded into the sidewall of the tire and allows the identification of the tire and its age. The code is mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation [88] but is used worldwide. [89] The DOT Code is also useful in identifying tires subject to product recall [90] or at end of life due to age. The Tire and Rim Association (T&RA) is a voluntary U.S. standards organization that promotes the interchangeability of tires, rims, and allied parts. Of particular interest, they publish key tire dimensions, rim contour dimensions, tire valve dimension standards, and load/inflation standards.

The National Institute of Metrology Standardization and Industrial Quality (INMETRO) is the Brazilian federal body responsible for automotive wheel and tire certification. [91]


The European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) is the European standards organization "to establish engineering dimensions, load/pressure characteristics and operating guidelines". [92] All tires sold for road use in Europe after July 1997 must carry an E-mark. The mark itself is either an upper case "E" or lower case "e" – followed by a number in a circle or rectangle, followed by a further number. An (upper case) "E" indicates that the tire is certified to comply with the dimensional, performance, and marking requirements of ECE regulation 30. A (lowercase) "e" indicates that the tire is certified to comply with the dimensional, performance, and marking requirements of Directive 92/23/EEC. The number in the circle or rectangle denotes the country code of the government that granted the type approval. The last number outside the circle or rectangle is the number of the type approval certificate issued for that particular tire size and type. [93]

The British Rubber Manufacturers Association (BRMA) recommended practice, issued June 2001, states, "BRMA members strongly recommend that unused tires should not be put into service if they are over six years old and that all tires should be replaced ten years from the date of their manufacture." [94]


The Japanese Automobile Tire Manufacturers Association (JATMA) is the Japanese standards organization for tires, rims, and valves. [95] It performs similar functions as the T&RA and ETRTO.

The China Compulsory Certification (CCC) is a mandatory certification system concerning product safety in China that went into effect in August 2002. The CCC certification system is operated by the State General Administration for Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China (AQSIQ) and the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People's Republic of China (CNCA). [96]


A tire repair shop in Niger Niger, Kodo (8), tire repair shop.jpg
A tire repair shop in Niger

To maintain tire health, several actions are appropriate, tire rotation, wheel alignment, and, sometimes, retreading the tire.


Rolling resistance as a function of tire inflation Rolling resistance vs inflation -- NHTSA The Pneumatic Tire.png
Rolling resistance as a function of tire inflation

Inflation is key to proper wear and rolling resistance of pneumatic tires. Many vehicles have monitoring systems to assure proper inflation. Most passenger cars are recommended to have a tire pressure of 32 to 35 pounds per square inch (220 to 240  kPa ) when not warmed by driving. [99]


Tire bubble Tire bubble.jpg
Tire bubble
Tire showing weather-cracking over long-term exposure to the weather Weather-cracked Tire.JPG
Tire showing weather-cracking over long-term exposure to the weather
A flat tire on a passenger car Flat tire 2.jpg
A flat tire on a passenger car

Tire hazards may occur from failure of the tire, itself, or from loss of traction on the surface over which it is rolling. Structural failures of a tire can result in flat tires or more dangerous blowouts. Some of these failures can be cause by manufacture error and may lead to recalls, such as the widespread Firestone tire failures on Ford vehicles that lead to the Firestone and Ford tire controversy in the 1990s.

Tire failure

Tires may fail for any of a variety of reasons, including: [104]

Vehicle operation failures

Health impacts

Tires contain a number of trace toxic chemicals including heavy metals and chemical agents used to increase the durability of the tires. [1] These typically include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, benzothiazoles, isoprene and heavy metals such as zinc and lead. [1]

As tires are used for vehicle operations, the natural wear of the tire leaves microfine particles equivalent to PM0.1, PM2.5, and PM10 as tire residue. [1] This residue accumulates near roadways and vehicle use areas, but also will travel into the environment through surface runoff. [1] Both humans and animals are exposed to these chemicals at the site of accumulation (i.e. walking on the road surface) and through the accumulation in natural environments and foodchains. [1] A 2023 literature review from Imperial College London, warned of both the toxic chemicals and microplastics produced from tire wear as having potential widespread serious environmental and health consequences. [1]

Moreover, burning of tires releases these chemicals as air pollutants as well as leaving toxic residues, that can have significant effects on local communities and first responders. [109]

End of use

Tires recycled into water tanks on the roof in Cherchen, Xinjiang Tires recycled into water tanks on roof. Cherchen, Xinjiang.jpg
Tires recycled into water tanks on the roof in Cherchen, Xinjiang

Once tires are discarded, they are considered scrap tires. Scrap tires are often re-used for things from bumper car barriers to weights to hold down tarps. Tires are not desired at landfills, due to their large volumes and 75% void space, which quickly consumes valuable space. Rubber tires are likely to contain some traces of heavy metals or other serious pollutants, but these are tightly bonded within the actual rubber compound so they are unlikely to be hazardous unless the tire structure is seriously damaged by fire or strong chemicals. [110] Some facilities are permitted to recycle scrap tires by chipping and processing them into new products or selling the material to licensed power plants for fuel. Some tires may also be retreaded for re-use.

Environmental issues

Americans generate about 285 million scrap tires per year. [111] Many states have regulations as to the number of scrap tires that can be held on-site, due to concerns with dumping, fire hazards, and mosquitoes. In the past, millions of tires have been discarded into open fields. This creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes, since the tires often hold water inside and remain warm enough for mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes create a nuisance and may increase the likelihood of spreading disease. It also creates a fire danger, since such a large tire pile is a lot of fuel. Some tire fires have burned for months, since water does not adequately penetrate or cool the burning tires. Tires have been known to liquefy, releasing hydrocarbons and other contaminants to the ground and even groundwater, under extreme heat and temperatures from a fire. The black smoke from a tire fire causes air pollution and is a hazard to downwind properties.[ citation needed ]

Tires gathered in large outdoor deposits can be challenging to manage, resulting in microplastics and other toxic chemicals entering the environment. They are also susceptible to Tire fire, where either accidental ignition or spontaneous ignition can lead to a highly toxic emissions and hard to manage fires. Tyre fire.jpg
Tires gathered in large outdoor deposits can be challenging to manage, resulting in microplastics and other toxic chemicals entering the environment. They are also susceptible to Tire fire, where either accidental ignition or spontaneous ignition can lead to a highly toxic emissions and hard to manage fires.

The use of scrap tire chips for landscaping has become controversial, due to the leaching of metals and other contaminants from the tire pieces. Zinc is concentrated (up to 2% by weight) to levels high enough to be highly toxic to aquatic life and plants. [112] Of particular concern is evidence that some of the compounds that leach from tires into the water contain hormone disruptors and cause liver lesions. [113]

Tires are a major source of microplastic pollution. [114]


Tires that are fully worn can be retreaded, re-manufactured to replace the worn tread. [115] This is known as retreading or recapping, a process of buffing away the worn tread and applying a new tread. [116] There are two main processes used for retreading tires, called mold-cure and pre-cure methods. Both processes start with the inspection of the tire, followed by non-destructive inspection method such as shearography [117] to locate non-visible damage and embedded debris and nails. Some casings are repaired and some are discarded. Tires can be retreaded multiple times if the casing is in usable condition. Tires used for short delivery vehicles are retreaded more than long haul tires over the life of the tire body. Casings fit for retreading have the old tread buffed away to prepare for retreading. [118]

A Portuguese language news video showing the retreading process on tires. Retreading allows tires to remain out of landfills, and reuse a large percentage of the material.

During the retreading process, retread technicians must ensure the casing is in the best condition possible to minimize the possibility of a casing failure. Casings with problems such as capped tread, tread separation, irreparable cuts, corroded belts or sidewall damage, or any run-flat or skidded tires, will be rejected. The mold cure method involves the application of raw rubber on the previously buffed and prepared casing, which is later cured in matrices. During the curing period, vulcanization takes place, and the raw rubber bonds to the casing, taking the tread shape of the matrix. On the other hand, the pre-cure method involves the application of a ready-made tread band on the buffed and prepared casing, which later is cured in an autoclave so that vulcanization can occur. [118]


Tires can be recycled into, among other things, the hot melt asphalt, typically as crumb rubber modifier—recycled asphalt pavement (CRM—RAP), [119] [120] and as an aggregate in portland cement concrete. [121] Shredded tires can create rubber mulch on playgrounds to diminish fall injuries. [122] There are some "green" buildings that are being made both private and public buildings that are made from old tires. [123]

The tire pyrolysis method for recycling used tires is a technique that heats whole or shredded tires in a reactor vessel containing an oxygen-free atmosphere and a heat source. In the reactor, the rubber is softened after which the rubber polymers continuously break down into smaller molecules.

Other uses

Children on a tire swing Three Boys on a Tire Swing.JPG
Children on a tire swing

Other downstream uses have been developed for worn-out tires, including:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Racing slick</span> Type of tire used in auto racing

A racing slick or slick tyre is a type of tyre that has a smooth tread used mostly in auto racing. The first production slick tyre was developed by M&H Tires in the early 1950s for use in drag racing. By eliminating any grooves cut into the tread, such tyres provide the largest possible contact patch to the road, and maximize dry traction for any given tyre dimension; see Performance. Slick tyres are used on race tracks and in road racing, where acceleration, steering and braking require maximum traction from each wheel. Slick tyres are typically used on only the driven (powered) wheels in drag racing, where the only concern is maximum traction to put power to the ground, and are not used in rallying.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tire tread</span> Rubber on the circumference of a tire that contacts the ground

The tread of a tire or track refers to the rubber on its circumference that makes contact with the road or the ground. As tires are used, the tread is worn off, limiting its effectiveness in providing traction. A worn tire can often be retreaded.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Radial tire</span> Particular design of vehicular tire

A radial tire is a particular design of vehicular tire. In this design, the cord plies are arranged at 90 degrees to the direction of travel, or radially. Radial tire construction climbed to 100% market share in North America following Consumer Reports finding the superiority of the radial design in 1968, and were standard by 1976.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rolling resistance</span> Force resisting the motion when a body rolls on a surface

Rolling resistance, sometimes called rolling friction or rolling drag, is the force resisting the motion when a body rolls on a surface. It is mainly caused by non-elastic effects; that is, not all the energy needed for deformation of the wheel, roadbed, etc., is recovered when the pressure is removed. Two forms of this are hysteresis losses, and permanent (plastic) deformation of the object or the surface. Note that the slippage between the wheel and the surface also results in energy dissipation. Although some researchers have included this term in rolling resistance, some suggest that this dissipation term should be treated separately from rolling resistance because it is due to the applied torque to the wheel and the resultant slip between the wheel and ground, which is called slip loss or slip resistance. In addition, only the so-called slip resistance involves friction, therefore the name "rolling friction" is to an extent a misnomer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Snow chains</span> Devices fitted to the tires of vehicles to improve traction on snow and ice

Snow chains, or tire chains, are devices fitted to the tires of vehicles to provide increased traction when driving through snow and ice.

Traction, traction force or tractive force is a force used to generate motion between a body and a tangential surface, through the use of either dry friction or shear force.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siping (rubber)</span> Process to improve rubbers traction

Siping is a process of cutting thin slits across a rubber surface to improve traction in wet or icy conditions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rim (wheel)</span> Outer part of a wheel on which the tire is mounted

The rim is the "outer edge of a wheel, holding the tire". It makes up the outer circular design of the wheel on which the inside edge of the tire is mounted on vehicles such as automobiles. For example, on a bicycle wheel the rim is a large hoop attached to the outer ends of the spokes of the wheel that holds the tire and tube. In cross-section, the rim is deep in the center and shallow at the outer edges, thus forming a "U" shape that supports the bead of the tire casing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tire code</span> Alphanumeric code specifying tire sizes and limits

Automotive tires are described by an alphanumeric tire code or tyre code, which is generally molded into the sidewall of the tire. This code specifies the dimensions of the tire, and some of its key limitations, such as load-bearing ability, and maximum speed. Sometimes the inner sidewall contains information not included on the outer sidewall, and vice versa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tire manufacturing</span> Process of tire fabrication

Pneumatic tires are manufactured according to relatively standardized processes and machinery, in around 455 tire factories in the world. With over 1 billion tires manufactured worldwide annually, the tire industry is a major consumer of natural rubber. Tire factories start with bulk raw materials such as synthetic rubber, carbon black, and chemicals and produce numerous specialized components that are assembled and cured.

Plus sizing is the practice of replacing an automotive wheel with one of a larger diameter fitted with a new tire of lower aspect ratio so that the new tire has close to the same diameter and circumference as the original tire to minimize any changes in speedometer accuracy, torque and traction control, while reducing sidewall flex and (generally) increasing cornering ability.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Snow tire</span> Tires designed for use on snow and ice

Snow tires, also known as winter tires, are tires designed for use on snow and ice. Snow tires have a tread design with larger gaps than those on conventional tires, increasing traction on snow and ice. Such tires that have passed a specific winter traction performance test are entitled to display a 3PMSF symbol on their sidewalls. Tires designed for winter conditions are optimized to drive at temperatures below 7 °C (45 °F). Studded tires are a type of snow tires which have metal or ceramic studs that protrude from the tire to increase traction on hard-packed snow or ice. Studs abrade dry pavement, causing dust and creating wear in the wheel path. Regulations that require the use of snow tires or permit the use of studs vary by country in Asia and Europe, and by state or province in North America.

Tire uniformity refers to the dynamic mechanical properties of pneumatic tires as strictly defined by a set of measurement standards and test conditions accepted by global tire and car makers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bead breaker</span>

A bead breaker is a tool used for separating tires from rims. The innermost diameter of the tire that interfaces with the rim of a wheel is called the tire bead. The bead is a thicker section of rubber, and is reinforced with braided steel cables, called the bead bundle. The surface of the bead creates a seal between the tire and rim on radial and bias-ply tires.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tire maintenance</span>

Inspection and maintenance of tires is about inspecting for wear and damage on tires so that adjustments or measures can be made to take better care of the tires so that they last longer, or to detect or predict if repairs or replacement of the tires becomes necessary. Tire maintenance for motor vehicles is based on several factors. The chief reason for tire replacement is friction from moving contact with road surfaces, causing the tread on the outer perimeter of tires to eventually wear away. When the tread depth becomes too shallow, like for example below 3.2 mm, the tire is worn out and should be replaced. The same rims can usually be used throughout the lifetime of the car. Other problems encountered in tire maintenance include:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bicycle tire</span> Tire that fits on the wheel of a bicycle

A bicycle tire is a tire that fits on the wheel of a bicycle or similar vehicle. These tires may also be used on tricycles, wheelchairs, and handcycles, frequently for racing. Bicycle tires provide an important source of suspension, generate the lateral forces necessary for balancing and turning, and generate the longitudinal forces necessary for propulsion and braking. Although the use of a pneumatic tire greatly reduces rolling resistance compared to the use of a rigid wheel or solid tire, the tires are still typically, the second largest source, after wind resistance, of power consumption on a level road. The modern detachable pneumatic bicycle tire contributed to the popularity and eventual dominance of the safety bicycle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Motorcycle tyre</span> Tyres of a motorcycle

A motorcycle tyre is the outer part of motorcycle wheel, attached to the rim, providing traction, resisting wear, absorbing surface irregularities, and allowing the motorcycle to turn via countersteering. The two tyres' contact patches are the motorcycle's connection to the ground, and so are fundamental to the motorcycle's suspension behaviour, and critically affect safety, braking, fuel economy, noise, and rider comfort.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Off-road tire</span>

Off-road tires are a category of vehicle tires that use deep tread to provide more traction on unpaved surfaces such as loose dirt, mud, sand, or gravel. Compared to ice or snow tires, they lack studs but contain deeper and wider grooves meant to help the tread sink into mud or gravel surfaces.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of tires</span> Overview of and topical guide to tires

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to tires:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bar grip</span>

Bar grip tyres, or 'NDT' in US military parlance, are an early tyre tread pattern developed for off-road use.


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