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They have improved dramatically over the years, and modern "pneumatic" (air-filled) tires usually do this well, as long as they are in good condition. Careful design of the strengthening cords and webbing keeps the tire the right shape, no matter how it is squashed or pulled. The tread (the pattern of grooves) pushes water out of the way and keeps the tire in contact with the road.
A flat tire once meant a roadside repair.
There was no spare wheel, so the tire had to be levered forcefully off the wheel rim, and the inner tube repaired.
Once cars carried a spare wheel, the wheel could be swapped and the flat repaired later
by a professional.
When early tires went flat, motorists often repaired them by "vulcanizing" with a sulfur mixture.
The first tires were solid rubber. They gave a hard ride, but never punctured and were used on trucks long after cars went pneumatic.
Long used on bicycles, pneumatic tires were first fitted to a car in 1895. They gave a much softer ride and soon replaced solid tires.
Smooth early tires skidded wildly on damp roads. So drivers tried leather wheel covers and different tread patterns.
Early pneumatic tires had an inner tube and were narrow. They were also pumped up to high pressure to help keep them on the rim.
By 1930 cars were using wider "balloon" tyres that ran at much lower pressure than earlier tires and gave a softer, smoother ride.
In the postwar years, strong, broad, airtight wheel rims made an inner tube unnecessary. Now low-pressure, "tubeless" tires are almost universal.
In earlier tires, strengthening cords ran diagonally across the tire ("cross-ply"). Now most cars use "radial-ply" tires with cords running radially out from the wheel's center.
In dry weather, modern racing cars use huge, smooth tires called "slicks" to put as much
rubber as possible in touch with the track for good grip.
Evolution of Tyres
Solid Rubber Tire
Composed of only firm rubber without
the need for air, the solid rubber tire is used mostly
for slow-speed vehicles because of
its poor shock absorption ability.
The Beginning of Tire History
Gasoline Carsand the Pneumatic Tire
In 1888, Benz invented the first gasoline car, equipped with unique metal tires covered with rubber and filled with air, resulting in the pneumatic tire. The public, which was accustomed to hard, metal tires, believed the pneumatic tire to be no less than revolutionary. Popular use of the pneumatic tire began in 1895 and it was featured in an automobile race from Paris to Bordeaux.,
Tread is a part of a tire that comes in direct contact with a road surface. Made out of thick rubber, tread protects carcass and breaker inside a tire. Road surface friction coefficient increased with a development of the tread tire and today it is produced in various patterns.
The Development of Tire Materials
Popularization of Automobiles and the Industrialization of Synthetic Rubber
In late 1913, Henry Ford introduced the first conveyor belt assembly line to the world, marking the start of the first stage of automobile popularization.
In 1931, American company Du Pont successfully industrialized synthetic rubber.This development allowed tire industry,which had been dependent on natural rubber, to increase tire quantity and quality, ushering in a turning point in tire production.
Balloon tire, a type of low-pressure tire is used in various types of automobiles to increase its contact area to road surface with low Internal air pressure.
Tire Structure Development
Structural Development of Automobiles and Tires to Save Fuel
In order to relieve a burden of sky-high oil prices brought on by the oil shock, it became popular to reduce the size and weight of existing car models. Many manufacturers eventually employed the front-wheel drive
method for their cars. With a development of the tubeless tire in 1903, the resulting weight reduction contributed significantly to the saving of fuel.
Firstly invented in the 1950s, the radial tire refers to a type of tire in which the cords, carcass plies are vertically arranged to driving direction. Because of lower deformation of radial tire than bias tire during driving, radial tire has better fuel efficient. Uniform contact of tread in radial tire to road surface offers good driving stability, especially on high-speed.
Increased Tire Safety
The Second Stage of Automobile Popularization and Safety
Run-flat tire was developed in 1979, which is designed to enable the vehicle to continue to be driven up to at 80 km/h without replacing with new tire when punctured.
Even with scratches or holes caused due to obstacles or tire abrasion while driving, and the resulting deflation, the run-flat tire is able to maintain a constant driving speed. It protects the driver from various accidents that can arise in emergency situations.
To meet these demands, wheels have evolved steadily since the pioneering days, when wheels were big simply to give the car sufficient clearance over rutted roads. The first car wheels were adapted either from horse carts and were very heavy, or they came from bicycles and were weak. The car wheels of today are made from pressed steel or light alloys and are small, light, and strong.
Carrying a spare wheel in case of a flat was still such a new idea in 1912 that it was a major selling point for wheel and tire manufacturers like Dunlop.
Horse-cart origins are unmistakable in this World War I truck wheel. The spokes are cast iron, but the rim is wooden. The wheel is immensely heavy, but strong enough to carry heavy guns. Wheels like this, and the bolt-on wheel to the right, were called "artillery" wheels.
Flat tires were common in the early days, so the launch of the Sankey wheel in 1910 was a godsend for drivers. It could be unbolted and replaced with a spare in minutes. made of pressed steel, it was strong and light compared with wooden wheels.
For many years, cars used either Sankey-type steel wheels or wire wheels descended from the bicycle. Early wire wheels were very light and the spokes absorbed some road shocks. But the simple radial pattern of spokes meant they were not very strong. On larger wheels the spokes would bend and "whip" at speed.
Detachable wooden rim pieces, or "felloes"
Wire wheels are costly to make and, since World War II, most mass-produced cars have had pressed-steel disc wheels. These are light, strong, and, above all, cheap to make. The wheel pictured is from a 1949 Morris; modern wheels are very similar.
Long after wire wheels were dropped for cheaper cars, they were used on sports cars for their lightness, strength, and good looks. This is from an early 1960s Jaguar E-type.
In the 1950s, some racing cars had expensive disc wheels made from special alloys. This fits the same Jaguar as the wire wheel on the left, yet is even stronger and lighter.
Tough, ultralight wheels cast from aluminum and magnesium alloys are now widely used, especially for sportier cars, with a broad rim for low-profile performance tires.
Ventilating slots for cooling brakes
Airtight rim to keep tubeless tire inflated
Short, Thick Spokes
Some photos and texts are copied from http://www.hankooktire.com/global/tires-services/tire-guide/history-of-tires.html