Tyres – they’re all pretty much the same, aren’t they? We don’t usually put much thought into those four black rubber things which connect our cars to the road. But there’s a lot more to the humble tyre than you think.
The average lifespan of a tyre isn’t measured in years, but in miles. Your average car tyre will last around 45,000 miles before it needs replaced. As the average mileage in the UK is around 15,000 miles, that’s three years. But don’t take this figure as gospel. Driving style, the state of the local roads and the type of tyre can all affect lifespan.
Know your Tread Depth
In the UK, the law states that the tread on your tyres should be at least 1.6mm all around your tyre. This is one of the elements which is checked at the annual MOT test
, and if your tyres are too worn, it’s an instant dangerous fail. Any time the police stop you, they could test the tread depth so it’s a good idea to get into the habit regularly. The 1.6mm law applies across most of Western Europe.
A Victorian Invention
Although the wheel itself was invented about 5,500 years ago, it was only in 1888 that a Belfast inventor came up with the idea of a pneumatic or inflatable tyre. In the 1830s, a solid rubber tyre had been invented, but the pneumatic tyre bears more resemblance to the ones we use today. The two inventors were Dunlop and Goodyear, both of whom went on to found famous tyre-producing companies.
Formula One Tyres
Tyres used in motorsport aren’t designed for durability; in fact they are designed to wear out more quickly to keep the sport interesting with pit stops. An average F1 tyre costs £325, and each driver will get through up to a dozen sets during a race weekend.
What Happens to Old Tyres?
The rubber which tyres are made from is a valuable resource. When you pay to have your tyres replaced, most garages will charge a small amount to make sure the tyres are disposed of properly. Scrap rubber can be shredded into granules and used in road surfaces, playground surfaces, underlay for carpets or mixed into standard tarmac to make roads more “grippy”.
In colder parts of Europe, it’s common practice to change your tyres for a winter set when the weather turns frosty. Winter tyres have deeper grooves cut into them, and help traction. They are not legally required in the UK though and for the few days a year of snow it might be better to fit snow chains to your wheels instead.
Most Expensive Tyres
In 2016 a company in Dubai was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s most expensive tyres, costing £500,000 a set. What was so special about them? The side wall of the tyres were encrusting with gold and precious stones, including diamonds. For standard tyres, the most expensive set are for the Bugatti Veyron, with a set costing £10,000.