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RV Tire Safety: Tires – Dull or dynamic? Part two

Following is Part two of an article I was asked to write for a tire industry trade publication in the U.K., “Tyres International.” I thought you might find it a bit interesting.

To the untrained eye it might seem like the tire industry has not done much to improve John Dunlop’s original. But looks can be deceiving.

A cost/performance comparison on the improvements in wet and snow traction, ride comfort, low noise, rolling resistance (aka fuel economy), and handling response is significantly more difficult, as the tire of 1920 was so poor in many of these areas as to be considered useless when compared to today’s tire.

When one considers high-speed capability it is a little easier. In 1920 most cars were not capable of a sustained 85 mph, yet today that is considered an absolute minimum high-speed capability for a tire to be sold for use on the public highway.

Material world

Some would have us believe that today’s tire engineer is not willing or even encouraged to look at new ideas or materials. Even the use of rubber, both natural and synthetic, is used as an example of the perceived lack of advancement in tire technology.

I know from personal experience that alternate materials for both wheels and tires have been investigated, but either lack of performance or poor reception in the market prevented those ideas from making it into production. I have seen non-metallic wheels that were too flexible to hold air at high temperatures and too stiff so they shattered at low temperatures. New tire sizes with improvements in safety and mobility were not accepted because a non-standard wheel was required. Even well-engineered items such as the mini-spare still meet with resistance and ridicule despite the fact that they can deliver acceptable performance when needed. They even have an impact on vehicle fuel economy when not needed.

Rubber band

The basic material in Mr. Dunlop’s tire, natural rubber, comprises less than 10 percent of today’s modem passenger radial. Today’s tire, with 25-30 different materials and made up of hundreds of different chemicals, is one of the more complex components in a modem automobile. This is especially surprising when you consider that some materials are considered contaminants and are incompatible with other materials in a tire. Yet we have managed to make these incompatible materials work together to deliver improved air retention and blow-out resistance.

It is likely the concept that tire materials have not changed is only held by those with little training in tire design. There are few materials that are capable of 300 percent strain for tens of millions of cycles over an operating range of temperatures from -20°F to +200°F while at the same time having a coefficient of friction of 0.8 or higher. Today’s steel-belted radial could be improved upon, and even have its weight lowered, with increased use of rayon, fiberglass, or other materials as belt material. There are, however, restrictions on pollution or customer resistance to materials other than steel which have so far proven insurmountable obstacles to broad appeal for the average consumer.

Biggest upcoming challenges for tire industry

Some of our biggest challenges will come in the next decade as we are asked to change from making a product that will last indefinitely under extreme conditions, as the tire industry has been asked to do for more than a hundred years. We are now being asked to design a product that will be almost indestructible until the user wants to change it, then the tire should, as if by magic, become easy and inexpensive to deconstruct into its chemical components. Some OEMs are even starting to suggest that old tires should be able to be recycled into new tires with no loss in any performance characteristic.

I have every confidence that the tire industry will rise to this new challenge and methods will be developed to address the disposal and reuse of materials in a tire. It is unlikely the recycled materials will be used 100 percent in another tire, just as the OEM will not be able to recycle the leather car seat into an as-good-as-new leather car seat. But we will incorporate an ever-increasing percentage of recycled materials in tires, and we will find acceptable methods of recycling them into some usable material or product at the end of their useful life as a normal tire.

To the uninitiated, it is easy to look at John Dunlop’s tire of the late 1800s and say that since today’s tire is still made of “rubber’ it is not really any different. Thus, some would consider this sufficient proof to postulate the tire industry is not capable of looking at history, learning from it, and moving on.

It is my belief that this thinking ignores the advancements in both the materials and performance delivered at a very low cost to the often uncaring consumer.

Have a tire question? Ask Roger on his new RV Tires Forum here. It’s hosted by RVtravel.com and moderated by Roger. He’ll be happy to help you.

Read more from Roger Marble on his blog at RVtiresafety.net or on RVtravel.com.

 ##RVT1082

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Larry
1 month ago

I have wondered for some time, if inserting an inner tube into a 22.5 drive tire would help reduce the danger generated by a front tire blowout on a class A MH? (not sure if inner tubes of this size even exist)

Roger Marble
1 month ago
Reply to  Larry

Use of an innertube on a modern radial would most likely increase the running temperature which could lead to a shorter tire life as heat is a killer of tires. I would recommend against using a tube on a tubeless radial of any size.

RallyAce
1 month ago

Recycling spent tires into other products is still ongoing but in some cases it has been considered to not be feasible. Several years ago I was involved with developing a process to include finely ground tire rubber into asphalt paving materials. We successfully developed the process but noted a long term problem that was, at the time, relegated the product and process to be economically unfeasible. That problem occurred when the rubber infused products had reached their useful live and were to be recycled into new paving materials. Our experiments resulted in numerous issues that had a deleterious effect on structural capacities of the recycled materials and safety issues while processing the recycled products. The last I knew, those same issues are still a major stumbling block.

Drew
1 month ago

My Coopers have been on the car for 54,000 miles and look like they’re good for another 10.

Roger Marble
1 month ago
Reply to  Drew

Are you basing your “inspection” on the amount of tread left or have you had the tire dismounted so the interior can also be inspected? Tires have a stated 10-year maximum life no matter what they look like. What does your local Cooper tire dealer say?

Spike
1 month ago

Tires, with their current reliability and endurance, actually amaze me….especially after a recent trip through Eastern, TX and OK. How we came out of there with only one damaged toad tire (at least visible on the outside) is beyond me.

Bob p
1 month ago

I remember all the nay sayers when radial tires were introduced with all the “problems” they would cause. People are usually suspicious of new technology and admittedly I am slow to readily accept new ideas.

Gary Broughton
1 month ago

I’ve found, in over 45 years of RVing, that tires don’t all die but are killed. Never looked at, under or over inflated, hit pot holes, run down curbs scraping side walls, driving over curbs or logs.

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