A tire or tyre is a device covering the circumference of a wheel. It
is an essential part of most ground vehicles & is used to dampen the
oscillations caused by irregularities in the road surface, to
protect the wheel from wear & tear as well as to provide a
high-friction bond between the vehicle & the ground to improve
acceleration & handling.
Today most tires for cars, bikes, or any vehicle are manufactured
from synthetic rubber, but other materials such as steel may be
For most of history wheels had very little in the
way of shock absorption & journeys were very bumpy & uncomfortable.
The modern tire came about in stages in the 19th century.
In 1844, Charles Goodyear invented vulcanization, the process that
would later be used to produce cured rubber tires.
John Boyd Dunlop, a Scottish veterinary surgeon working in Belfast,
Ireland, is mainly recognized as the father of the modern tire,
although he was not the first to come up with the idea. In 1845 the
first pneumatic (inflatable) tire was patented by fellow Scotsman,
the engineer Robert William Thomson, born in Stonehaven, Scotland,
as the Aerial Wheel. This invention consisted of a canvas inner tube
surrounded by a leather outer tire. The tire gave a good ride, but
there were so many manufacturing & fitting problems that the idea
had to be abandoned. John Dunlop re-invented the tire for his ten
year old son's tricycle in 1887 & was awarded a patent for his tire
in 1888 (rescinded 1890). Dunlop's tire had a modified leather
hosepipe as an inner tube & rubber treads. It wasn't long before
rubber inner tubes were invented.
Because neither bicycles nor automobiles had been invented when
Thomson produced his tire, that tire was only applied to horse drawn
carriages. By Dunlop's time, the bicycle had been fully developed
(see Rover) & it proved a far more suitable application for
pneumatic tires. Pneumatic tires were first installed on aircraft in
Dunlop partnered with William Harvey du Cros to form a company which
later became the Dunlop Rubber Company to produce his invention. The
invention quickly caught on for bicycles & was later adapted for use
on cars. Dunlop is now a subsidiary of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber
The radial tire was invented by Michelin, a French company, in 1946,
but did not see wide use in the United States, the largest market at
that time, until the 1970s. This type of tire uses parallel carcass
plies for the sidewalls & crossed belts for the crown of the tire.
All modern car tires are now radial. In 2005, Michelin was reported
to be attempting to develop a tire & wheel combination, the Tweel,
which does not use air.