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Why Are Tires Black? – [History & Interesting Facts]

Why are tires black

In today’s time, everything is customizable and available in multiple color options. Have you ever thought, why the tires of every car are still black?

You might think that the rubber is black, that’s why the car tires are black in color.

But that’s completely not true.

The actual rubber is slightly off-white in appearance. Then, how do these rubber tires become black?

During the manufacturing of tires, a substance called carbon black is added which gives the tires a plain black color. The purpose of carbon black is not just the color, it serves a lot of purposes like durability, heat-absorption, etc, which are explained in detail in this article.

Do you know, the tires weren’t black in the beginning, they were white in color?

So, let’s explore the history of tires, and see how white tires ended up in black.

History of Tires

Initially, the tires were made of solid rubber. Since those tires were purely made of natural rubber, they were slightly off-white in appearance.

Then, in 1888, when Carl Benz invented the first gasoline engine, he introduced air-filled rubber tires. Since pure rubber is very soft in nature, it doesn’t have a long life. It wears down very fast.

So, at the beginning of the 19th century, the manufacturers started adding zinc-oxide to it, which strengthens the rubber and gives it a whitish look.

To improve the grip and traction of tires, treads were introduced in the tires. So, the circumference of the tires was covered with it and the sides were plain white.

These tires were known as whitewall tires. Many luxurious US cars had these whitewall tires. But during World War I, the world faced a shortage of zinc-oxide, since it is used for ammunition purposes.

Then, the tire manufacturers used carbon black as an alternative, which actually proved to be a great strengthening material.

Why Carbon Black is added to tires?

Carbon Black is a crystalline form of carbon, formed by the incomplete combustion of carbon products such as coal.

It is used in industries as a color pigment and strengthening filler in tires. Some people think that carbon black is added to rubber tires just to give them a darker look.

But carbon black is not added merely for cosmetic purposes.

The raw rubber is soft, elastic, and cannot withstand sudden temperatures changes for a long time.

Though it provides a good grip on the road but wears out quite quickly.

To make tires more durable and long-lasting, carbon black is added to them. As a result, tires gain multiple desired characteristics, they become heat and abrasion-resistant, more resilient, and last longer.

The introduction of carbon black also increases the tensile strength and reduces road wear abrasion.

 A study showed that tires without carbon black are replaced after 5000 miles. The addition of carbon as the filler, helped them to last more than 50,000 miles. 

In addition, carbon black is the main reason, why tires look black.

UV rays are very dangerous for tires. Since our cars stay outdoor for a long time, UV rays can dry out our tires. The addition of carbon black in tires protects them from the harmful effects of UV rays, and they last longer.

Black Tires also offer a range of benefits. If white tires are used, they would get dirtier very earlier and would need cleaning often. The black doesn’t get dirtier compared to other colors. Their cleaning is also quite easy.

What type of colored tires are available in the market?

Apart from black tires, some types of colored tires are available in the market.

Whitewall Tires

In the beginning, tires in the market were completely white, but carbon black addition made them black. Then, for quite a long time, luxury vintage cars had whitewall tires. These tires had black treads and white sidewalls. Still, some manufacturers sell whitewall tires.

Figure 1- Classic Whitewall tire ©Coker Tires

Colored Treads

Around 2000, a tire manufacturer, BFGoodrich, made tires that had embedded color rings. Initially, they came in three colors, yellow, red, and blue. But some incidents resulted in their ban by the local government. The burnout of the tires could leave a colored stripe on the road. These controversies lead to their lower sales and they couldn’t remain in the market for a long time.

Figure 2- BFGoodFrich Scrocher Tire ©TireBuyer.com

Color Sidewall

Some Formula One racing cars have colored tires with different colored sidewalls. A top tire manufacturer, Pirelli makes these tires. The sidewalls are colored in red, yellow, or white and have some lettering on them. The targeted audience for these tires is McLaren, Pagani, or Lamborghini owners.

Fully Colored Tires

As per our information, on-road automobiles do not have colored tires. The bicycles for children have been seen with full-colored tires. An Australian manufacturer reuses old tires to make colored tires. But not for vehicles, they are for burnout competition.

What colors of tires are not common in the market?

Color tires cost more than normal tires. Additionally, at high speeds or skidding, resulting in burnout of these tires, could leave a colored pattern on the road. So, manufacturers and car owners do not prefer buying colored tires, and they are not common for heavy vehicles in the market. The colored tires are common for children’s bicycles.

Future Work on Tires

Black rubber tires, which we use today, are the result of decades of research and development to help them last longer, wear more slowly, and keep passengers safe in bad weather. There is no doubt that the tire industry will continue to improve technologically in the future.

The current technology on which many tire manufacturers are moving on is airless tires. Dunlop and Bridgestone are currently working on this venture.

Additionally, rubber and carbon black are not environmentally friendly. Another problem is the recycling process, each year about 200 million tires are thrown away. So, scientists are looking for alternatives to rubber.

Another futuristic concept is magnetic levitation; suspensions of tires above the vehicles using magnetic fields.

In this article, we have covered the reason behind the color of tires, how this color evolution from white to black has taken place over the years and what are some of the benefits of using carbon black in tires.

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