How tyres are made

It’s no exaggeration to say that tyres made cars possible. Imagine trying to run cars without them!

 
John Dunlop constructed the first pneumatic rubber tyre in Belfast in 1888. Most of them went onto the newly popular bicycle but in subsequent years, chemical improvements gave them the strength to carry heavier vehicles. Tyres manufactured independently of the wheel were first produced by Édouard Michelin in 1891.
 
Then in the early 20th century, Goodrich improved the vulcanising method and added carbon black. Their tyres went onto the new model A Ford.
 
Today’s tyres often contain 200 ingredients and are reinforced with steel wire and strong fibres. A single modern tyre can now withstand about 1,800 kilograms and four together 14,400 kilograms (almost 16 tons).
 
Chemical formulation is only half the battle in producing modern tyres, the construction method is also critical and tread designs can radically alter how a tyre behaves in different weather conditions.
 

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The building process

Every tyre company - Pirelli, Bridgestone, Michelin or Continental - jealously guards its design and testing centres, but all use similar methods to create their tyres.
 
The “radial” method of building tyres was brought in by the Michelin Company in 1948. By this time they owned the Citroën car plant, so they were fitted onto the new Citroën 2CV. The method is based on a rotating tyre-building drum.
 
First, a smooth layer of rubber compound is fed onto the drum, followed by tougher layers reinforced with continuous fibres of steel, rayon (pioneered by Bridgestone), nylon, polyester, or aramid (Kevlar). Together, these are called the casing. Tough bands of thin material called bondalets, as well as steel hoops and wires, called the beads, are rolled onto either end to bind them together. The ends of the casing ply are rolled back to seal in the beads. Numerous other strips and layers are often added.
 
The final strips added are mostly those which will form the supporting sidewalls. These are turned to seal all the edges. Together these assembled rubber tubes form “the carcass”.
 
At this point, the central region of the drum is inflated, pulling in the edges to create a shape that begins to look like a tyre. Heat and pressure are still required to cure the rubber, bind the layers and form the final shape. A “green tyre” is one that has yet to receive its tread pattern.
 
For this curing process, bladders are inserted inside the carcasses and inflated with superheated water and steam, while it is locked in the final curing mould from the outside. This final process fuses, moulds and chemically changes the tyre, yet only takes about 15 minutes after which the tyre is basically ready to roll.
 

How are tyres made for different weather conditions?

Our tyre professionals are always available for advice about summer, winter and all-season tyres. Usually, there are trade-offs between how tyres perform on dry roads, wet roads, or on snow and ice.
 
These differences depend on the rubber formulation used, the rigidity of the side-walls and, of course, the sipes and grooves of the tread pattern. Nevertheless, some brands create excellent all-round performance while others are definitely specialist tyres.
 

Did you know?

Protyre offer free tyre checks at all of our garages. Click the button below to book your vehicle in and let our technicians advise on the best tyres for you. 

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About the author

David Sholicar

David is the National Retail Operations Manager for Protyre. One of David’s areas of responsibility and ...

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