Plenty of times when referring to a spare tire, you’ll listen to it often called a donut. This is most likely because spare tires actually look like donuts, plain donuts. They lack defining features & don’t have any advanced tread patterns. They are much a circular piece of vulcanized rubber, designed to get your automobile where it needs to go — far less effectively than the modern tires you usually depend on. Ever since pre-history, the wheel has been making a major difference in the way they do things. But the wheel has come a long way since then. So if you are going to refer to your average automobile tire as a donut today, you better make it a sprinkled & frosted jelly donut or a Boston Cream.
Still, automobiles stay a comparatively new invention when you give it some thought. Because of that, tires are still undergoing a great deal of innovation, even today. In the early days of the automobile, such as when the model T began rolling out of the Ford factory, automobile tires were tiny over glorified bicycle tires that lasted extended use. Compared to today’s tires that can withstand high speed, heat, & chilled — the know-how used back then had a seriously long way to go. The first large development for modern tires came around 1844, when Charles Goodyear introduced “vulcanized” rubber. Vulcanized rubber is made more long lasting by a chemical process where the rubber is cured (usually with sulfar) & heated under pressure. This makes the rubber tougher, more stable, & resistant to heat. This radically changed the tire industry, making tires (& automobiles) a viable device for transportation. Because of vulcanization, the heat & friction generated by a tires constant high speed contact with the road could break an older tire down faster than you can say hevea brasiliensis, the scientific name for a rubber tree — the natural (& inferior) source of rubber.
While they will focus primarily on tire design, & not how the tire was attached to the automobile or the way it was filled with air — the genesis of the metal tire rim in 1890 & the pneumatic tire in 1895 set the stage for tire design to move forward at an even more accelerated pace. However, up until the early 1900’s, tires remained slick & ungrooved. There was no such thing as “siping” or water evacuation. However, in 1908, Frank Seiberling invented a tire with actual traction, which caused chain reaction of innovation in tire know-how & tire materials (with the advent of the synthetic tire). As tire know-how advanced, cars became more practical, & the industry continued to grow. Naturally, this called for more tires & the tire industry continued to keep pace with demand, improving traction, durability, & fuel efficiency.
So next time you take tires for advantage, think about all of the know-how, science, & innovation that is gone in to what keeps you moving on the road.