So, a tire is a device to keep alloy wheels from being scraped on the ground? Guess again, because tires are by far the most important thing on a car. The four hand sized contact patches of rubber are the only things between a car and a crash, so it is advisable to always purchase the best tires that can be afforded.

Unfortunately the usual route taken by people wanting to dress up a car is to buy the best alloy wheels and then opt for the cheapest possible tires.

Construction of a Car Tire

A tire isn’t just a big hoop of rubber that keeps the air in. Each tire is constructed from many layers, and it is a laborious process to make a tire. First there is the basic carcass, which is the underlying structure of the tyre and the sidewalls. Over that is laid a sequence of belts, usually made of steel, to give the tyre strength and allow it to withstand punctures without blowing out.

It is the number and layout of these layers that gives the tire most of its flexing qualities. On top of these belts is laid the outer rubber of the tire, which is then stamped in a huge press with the tread pattern.

Why are There Patterns in Car Tires?

The best gripping tire is a racing slick, with no tread at all, but when the road gets wet the rubber will not grip anymore. The primary reason for the tread is to allow the water to run onto the grooves so it doesn’t get trapped between the tyre and the road, which can lead to aquaplaning.

What is Aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning is just like taking a boogie board to the beach and sliding along in the wash between waves. It slides along on a thin layer of water and while it’s fun on a boogie board it is to be avoided in a car.

When the front tires are aquaplaning the driver cannot steer at all, even to the point of spinning the steering wheel to full lock either side – the car will continue in a straight line. That’s why tires have grooves, most of which actively pump the water out from between them.

Directional Car Tires

Many tires these days are directional, which means they have to rotate in one direction in order to effectively work. This is largely due to the water clearing ability, because the curved tread patterns channel water away from the centre of the tyre to the outside. Directional tires usually have big arrows on the side, so ensure that the tires on a car are always turning in the correct direction.

Making Car Tires Less Noisy

Tread design goes further than that. As air is trapped between the grooves and the tread blocks, it makes noise as it compresses and then expands. This is tyre roar, and all tyres do it.

Most designs these days apart from very high performance applications are designed to be quieter than older generation tires, all through the shaping and pattern of the grooves and tread blocks. Staggered tread blocks help by breaking up the frequencies of the air passing between the tyre and the road.

Car Tire Pressure is Very Important

And finally, tire pressure is important. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on what pressure to run the tires at. Not only will grip be maximized, fuel efficiency will increase as one of the largest causes of excessive fuel consumption are underinflated tires.