In terms of safety, there may not be a more important component on your vehicle than its tires. Tires have evolved significantly since the earliest types, which were designed primarily for utility. Now, tires are made from specially formulated rubber compounds and the tread is engineered to provide specific safety features.
The First Tires
The earliest wheels were simply a solid curved piece of wood. As Continental Tires describes, “… leather was added to soften the ride. As time progressed it became solid rubber which led to today’s tire–the pneumatic, or air inflated, radial tire.”
Charles Goodyear is credited in the 1800’s with the discovery of the vulcanization process used to transform sticky raw rubber to firm pliable material which makes rubber a perfect material for tires. Tires were fabricated from solid vulcanized rubber until later in the century, when John Boyd Dunlop developed the popular pneumatic tire.
From that point, tire design gradually became more and more sophisticated with the development of bias ply tires and radial tires.
The Significance of Tire Tread
Tire tread is another important development in tire evolution. The tire tread is the part of the tire that actually meets the road. The elements of tire tread include tread blocks or tread lugs, tread grooves, tread voids, wear bar, and any extra features such as a rain grooves and siping. Tire tread spans the entire surface of the tire from shoulder to shoulder where the tread approaches the sidewall.
The areas between the tread blocks are referred to as the tread voids or tread grooves. Tread voids provide the tire with traction by enabling the tread blocks to move and flex as the tires to grip the road. They also allow the water to escape when roadways are wet. Tires with a high tread to void ratio provide better wet traction and braking ability.
Just as vehicles are engineered with a particular type of performance in mind, there are specific tread types and patterns that match each kind of intended performance. Tire tread is helps vehicles to corner tighter, accelerate more smoothly, and brake reliably. Tire tread is also capable of helping to maximize fuel economy.
Now that you know a little more about the importance of tire tread, you will understand why proper tire tread maintenance is so critical. In our next post, we will take a closer look at the best ways to maintain your tires and tire tread.