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The History of Auto Tires

While automobiles are a relatively new invention, dating back to early models in the late 1800’s, the tires used on automobiles have seen vast improvements. The early auto had very small tires, similar to bicycle tires, and were very fragile. This is a far cry from today’s auto tires that can withstand all temperatures and all driving conditions. In addition, today’s auto tires are built to withstand high speeds of highway driving and others are built for off road conditions. The path that the auto tire has taken from the early days of autos to today has been a long journey.

When talking about automobile tires, the first big development occurred in 1844, when Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber, which was the compounded needed to create a tire. The next step was by Robert Thompson, who in 1846 invented and filed a patent for the pneumatic tire. These two inventions gave other inventors ideas to create and refine the tire.

In 1888, John Dunlop produces the first pneumatic tire that is used on a bicycle. Dunlop files his patent for the tire in the United Kingdom, which sets the stage for rapid developments in the tire industry. In 1890, rims are introduced so that the tires can be placed on the rims instead of being taped to the auto, which was a big improvement.

In 1895, Michelin introduced the first pneumatic tire for an auto. This tire was used in the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris road rally. This tire began to be the standard for auto racing tires beginning two years later. As the turn of the century approached, many tire companies began to appear and all began to work on improving the basic design of the auto tire.

Frank Seiberling in 1908 invented a grooved tire that was created to improve the traction that autos had on the road. Improvements to the tires continued in the early 1900’s and other improvements to the tires began to appear. Such as the invention of the totally synthetic tire introduced by BF Goodrich in 1937, the Goodyear rayon cord tire in 1938 and the first radial tire introduced by Michelin in 1946.

As the number of automobiles continued to increase in the 1900’s, the development of the auto tires kept pace. The tire manufacturers continued to improve the tires to make them sturdier, have better traction and also be more efficient on the road. Plus, with increased cost of gasoline, tires were starting to be more fuel efficient in their designs.

These are just a few of the highlights in the history of the automobile tire. For more information on the past, present and future of auto tires, we have assembled a collection of resources:

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