A car’s tires are absolutely essential to its performance. Their role ranges from the obvious, such as gripping the road, to the seemingly impossible, such as improving fuel consumption. They’ve come a long way since they were first created in the late 19th century to give a boy’s bicycle a smoother ride.
Auto tires have a complex construction, but are essentially an inflated tube of rubber, reinforced with metal wires or various fabrics. The construction can extend the life of an auto tire’s tread, as well as improving the car’s responsiveness. Of course, the tread and the type of rubber also greatly affect the tire’s behavior. In fact, the tread and the body of auto tires are responsible for different tasks. The tread provides the grip and changes the way the tire interacts with water, which we’ll come to shortly, while the body provides support, absorbing shocks and vibrations caused by uneven driving surfaces.
One thing that modern auto tires must do is effectively disperse water between them and the road. If this process fails, the car can end up essentially floating on a thin layer of water (known as “hydroplaning”). Once the tire begins hydroplaning, the wheel will no longer respond to the driver’s commands; this is clearly an extremely dangerous scenario. Auto tires therefore have sophisticated patterns of grooves designed to channel water out of the way of the tread, providing the tire with an effectively dry surface to grip.