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Wheels of Revolution-Revolutionary Changes in Automobile Tires

February 16, 2011 by - Automotive Editor

Wheels of Revolution

Most men of great intellect are of the opinion that the wheel has been the most revolutionary invention of human history. Well literally speaking, revolution defines exactly what a wheel does. Yet, it is also apparent how far they have come throughout centuries.

The need to develop automobile tires emerged a long time after the first wheel was carved from stone. The earlier cars used to have pretty much the same wheels as the horse-wagons of that time. These were made of iron or wood. The automobiles had quite a heavy body and machine for these tires. Something was to be invented, and eventually many were invented.

Let’s take a look at the history of different types of tires that were invented in order to maximize the performance and safety of auto rides.

Early Tires and Vulcanization

Goodyear is currently the most popular brand name in the automobile tire Industry. The name pays homage to Charles Goodyear who doesn’t have anything to do with the tires or automobile mini bouncy castle industry. In 1839, Charles actually invented the process of vulcanization through which sticky rubber is transformed into pliable form. The smart but unfortunate man never got to own a car and instead he died bankrupt. The hard new form of solid rubber however, was used as a tire covering to improve shock absorption soon after its invention.

Pneumatic Tires

Almost a decade after the vulcanization process was invented; the research on rubber paid off and pneumatic air-filled tires were developed. However, at that time the invention wasn’t considered very important and therefore, the original inventor Robert William Thomson is not really credited for this invention.

Later, in 1888, when bicycles were becoming a popular mean of transportation, John Boyd Dunlop developed pneumatic tires for bicycles. Since, they were more shock absorbing, lighter and perfect for bicycles, they became an instant hit with the masses this time.

In 1985, Michelin brothers introduced the removable pneumatic tires in their car during the Paris Road Race. Although they couldn’t win the trophy, their tires became popular and they started manufacturing these tires for European market.

Bias Ply Tires

During the next few decades, pneumatic tires kept running hot on the roads and many manufacturers such as Michelin, Firestone, Goodyear and Dunlop kept experimenting on them. During this time, the ply biased tires were invented. These tires had tubes with rubber casing having layers of fabric cords embedded in them. Most of the ‘hot rods’ of early 1900s have the same kind of bias ply tires.

In 1967, Goodyear also introduced Polyglas tires. They were simply the fiberglass version of ply bias tires. These couldn’t keep up with the rising radial market.

Radial Tires

Radial tires have the longest and most disputed history among all tires. The very first kind of radial tires were made by Michelin during 1948. They were known as steel belted radial tires. They were called radial because the ply cords radiate at a 90 degree angle to the rim instead of running diagonally 55 degrees. Also, a belt of steel fabric ran over the tire in order to provide strength and durability.

Tubeless radial tires became popular in Europe but not in the US. Michelin’s radials were expensive and harder on the road. Also, they required a different kind of suspension system. Therefore, they never made it to the roads of US.

It wasn’t until the gas crisis of 1967, that Americans realized how radial tires could increase fuel efficiency. Also, the rate of imported cars in America was quickly rising. Almost all European cars were equipped with radial tires. And finally in the eighties, radials were rolling all over America.

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