What Are Tires Made Of? New & Old Tech Revealed

Shawn
| Last Updated: March 14, 2021

The common car tire you see on many vehicles every day has a long history behind it. Tires came around soon after the invention of cars, which was during the late 1800s.

This gives us less than 200 years of history with tires. There’s a lot to discuss about them, as tires have become such an important part of the world. 

This article will focus on explaining the materials used to make tires. We will also discuss how they’re made, the different types of tires, and more.

Brief History of Tires

The first patent for an older version of a typical pneumatic tire was first seen in 1847. The man responsible for creating it is Robert William Thomson. His invention worked perfectly, but it was too costly to put into production. As a result, the first-ever practical tire was created in 1888 by John Dunlop. However, tires were made a bit differently than they are today, and from different materials as well.

What Are Tires Made Of?

The tire by itself might look like a simple design that is easy to manufacture compared to the process it takes to make an entire car. However, there are a lot of calculations and measurements that go into creating the perfect tire.

Although it may look like an entire tire is made out of rubber, the percentage of natural rubber isn’t at all high compared to other materials being used. Even though there are around 200 different materials that go into the creation of tires, here’s what it all comes down to:

  1. Raw Materials

  2. Synthetic Materials

  3. Cords

  4. Other Compounds

Raw Materials

The term raw materials stand for resources that haven’t been created artificially. These materials come directly from nature and are processed accordingly. The term “raw” also applies only before the processing stage.

Rubber Trees (Ficus Elastica)

In the early days of tire manufacturing, most of the materials used to make them were natural rubber, processed from rubber trees. There is nothing wrong with this, aside from the fact that creating tires contributed more and more to the deforestation of our planet.

Because of this, tire manufacturers had to develop synthetic rubber. This allowed huge tire demands to be met, the process to get more cost-efficient, and for the preservation of rubber trees as much as possible. Today, raw materials such as these trees make up approximately 19% of the entire tire.

Black Carbon

At first, black carbon may sound like a synthetic compound. However, this is a completely natural and raw material made from crude oil or natural gas. This material is a soft powder that is produced when either of these two materials is burned with a limited and calculated amount of oxygen.

Other

There are a few other natural resources that go into tire manufacturing. This includes sulfur, silica, and a few more. This greatly contributes to tire safety, design, quality, durability, and more.

Synthetic Materials

Synthetic rubber is just as important as natural. We’ve seen where natural rubber comes from, but how is the synthetic version made? First of all, this type of rubber makes up more of the tire’s composition than natural rubber. To be exact, around 24% of synthetic rubber goes into the production of tires. So, how is a synthetic rubber made?

The most commonly used chemical compound to create synthetic rubber today is a styrene-butadiene copolymer. This is a mix of styrene and butadiene monomers, which have amazing features for making synthetic rubber. This type of rubber has almost no difference from the natural one. However, it’s still not the same, which is why natural rubber is still an important part of the process.

Cords

The cords are the part of the tire that gives it its strength. They make sure that it’s sturdy enough to handle various situations and that the tire doesn’t lose its shape. Cords can be made from a variety of materials. This list includes the following:

  • Steel
  • Cotton
  • Silk
  • Nylon
  • Kevlar

It may seem that the rubber part of the tire is what matters most, but they would never be allowed for use on the road without the cords. This is what gives the tire much of its strength, making sure to also increase its quality and durability.

Other Compounds

Natural rubber, synthetic rubber, and cords are the three main parts included in tire manufacturing. But that’s far from being everything. Some many more chemicals and compounds go into the process but in smaller amounts. This doesn’t mean they aren’t important.

Almost 45% of the tire is made from natural and synthetic rubbers. Fillers make up nearly 30%. The rest is a unique mixture of various compounds. This list can include polyester, rayon, oils, resins, zinc oxide, anti-aging agents, and many more chemicals.

The Different Types of Tires

What goes into the production of tires is often similar. Different manufacturers use various and unique formulas. Yet it’s never too far from the main components mentioned here. Having said that, the ingredients might not change but the process, formulas, and mixtures will when different types of tires are made.

When it comes to the type of tire, this is usually based on the type of vehicle it’s designed for. Here is a list of the different tire types you can expect to find:

Light-Medium/Passenger Vehicles

  • Snow Tires
  • Summer Tires
  • All-Season
  • All-Terrain
  • Mud-Terrain
  • High-Performance

Heavy-Duty Vehicles

  • All-Terrain
  • Mud-Terrain
  • Highway Tires
  • All-Purpose or Trail
  • Ribbed
  • Sport

  • Other

    • Motorcycle Tires
    • Bicycle
    • Lawn & Garden
    • Trailer
    • ATV
    • Industrial Tires

    Conclusion

    Tire production isn’t a straightforward process. It takes large amounts of certain materials and chemicals to make them. It takes precise formula mixtures and a delicate and accurate process. Manufacturers must also test the tires in between production stages and at the end. This will ensure their safety and performance. Once they’re approved, they will be ready to hit the road.

    Shawn

    An ex-salesman of industrial equipment, Shawn used to drive nearly 60K miles a year just commuting to clients. He also has a little project Miata build going on the side. Safe to say, Shawn has slain a few tires in his days. He knows all about horrid road-noise, hydroplaning risks, and how much damage a bad alignment can do to your wallet. He enjoys helping us out and Chris always values his opinion when designing something new for the website.