Tire Facts and Tire Safety Tips

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cooper Tires for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Before we get to the “Tire Facts and Safety Tips” Infographic below as you’ll note above, this post is sponsored by Cooper Tire.  A couple months ago, I ventured out of doors to the Cooper Tires #RideNDrive event in San Antonio, Texas to extensively test out some Cooper Tires and compare them to equivalent (in terms of target utility and price range) BFGoodrich tires. Specifically, they let me race around Mustang GTs and Corvettes on their 1,000 acre vehicle test center, racing the cars on wet and dry tracks at purposefully extreme speeds in order to put the tires through their paces (ultra high performance, all-season Zeon RS3-A and the ultra high performance, summer RS3-S). They also let me test out some tires on Chevy Tahoe SUVs on the wet track and on Jeeps in a variety of extreme off-road conditions.  In both cases, the vehicles were equipped with the Cooper Tire Discoverer A/T3 all terrain / all-season tires, which incidentally was recently rated by Consumer Reports as the “number one ranked all-terrain SUV and pickup tire”.

Both the BFGoodrich tires and the Cooper Tires performed amazingly well.  What was surprising, to me at least, was how much better the Cooper Tires performed over the BFGoodrich tires; I had assumed the difference would only be slight given they’re both high end tires from name brands.  Specifically, on the wet tracks with the Mustangs, Corvettes, and Chevy Tahoes, the BFGoodrich tires really struggled to grip around corners at relatively high speeds, particularly in the Chevy Tahoes which almost felt like driving on ice at times, even though it was just wet pavement. This was particularly troublesome when it came to trying to turn and the front wheels choosing instead just to slip out.  Both the Cooper Zeon’s and Discoverers didn’t have nearly as much of a problem with this as the BFGoodriches and even when they did slip out (at higher speeds), recovering was much quicker and easier.

So needless to say at the end of the event, I was extremely impressed with the Zeon RS3-A, RS3-S, and the Discoverer A/T3 Cooper Tires and was only left wishing they’d sent me a set of the Cooper Tire Zeon RS3-A’s for my car. 😉

If you’d like to read a more comprehensive review (with pictures) of the RS3-A, RS3-S, and A/T3 Cooper Tires and the #RideNDrive event itself, check out my post here. You can also follow Cooper Tires on Twitter here.

And now, without further ado, here is the Tire Facts and Tire Safety Tips Infographic:

Tire facts

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Making Tires Black, Instead of the Old White Style, Makes Them More Durable:

The natural color of rubber is white, not black, as many people think.  Why rubber is made black isn’t just for cosmetic reasons, but because adding carbon black to the rubber drastically increases various desirable qualities of the rubber for tires.  Specifically, adding about 50% by weight of carbon black increases the road-wear abrasion of the produced tire by as much as 100 fold and improves the tensile strength of the tire by as much as 1008%.   Adding carbon black also helps conduct heat away from certain hot spots on the tire, such as in the tread and belt areas, which can get particularly hot at times while driving.  This reduces thermal damage to the tire, which further extends its lifespan.

The use of carbon black in rubber was originally proposed by Binney & Smith, the same company that invented Crayola Crayons.  They began selling their carbon black to the Goodrich Tire Company, which is when white tires started disappearing on cars in favor of the significantly superior black tires.

Carbon black itself is simply nearly pure elemental carbon in colloidal particle form.  It is classically made by charring any organic material.

Around 70% of all carbon black pigment used in the word today is used for making tires.  Another 20% goes into belts, hoses, and other such rubber items.  Most of the remaining 10% go into black coatings for items, as well as inks and toner in printing.

Origin of the Word “Tire”

The leading theory as to where the word “tire” came from is that it came from “tie”.  The earliest tires were simply bands of iron or other metal around a wheel.  The application of the metal band on the wooden wheel was accomplished by heating the metal tire, then placing it over the wheel.  Next, they would douse it in cold water, which would cause the metal to rapidly contract and secure itself to the wheel, with the outer ring “tying” the wheel together, hence the proposed “tie” origin.

The First Practical Pneumatic Tire

The first practical pneumatic tire was developed by John Boyd Dunlop, who was originally a veterinarian.  He created the pneumatic tire to help his son who suffered from headaches when riding his bike.  The rubber tire made for a much smoother ride for him on rough roads than wooden wheels.

Quick Tire Facts

Around 400 tire factories in the world produce about 1 billion tires annually and rising rapidly.

The world’s largest tire was made by Uniroyal as a promotional item in the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  It weighs 12 tons and is 80 feet in diameter. Today it resides in Detroit.  I bet it was a trick getting it from New York to there!

In the United States alone about 280 million used tires are scrapped annually with about 235 million of these being passenger car tires, 42 million being truck tires, and 3 million from equipment and aircraft tires.

In general, tires are made primarily of natural and synthetic rubber, carbon black, and oil, with another 20% of a variety of materials used to reinforce the tire or give it varied capabilities.  If you’re wondering, the oil functions as a plasticizer compound.

Reading a Tire Sidewall:

I could try to explain this in words, but sometimes a picture is better.  Here’s an image from Cooper Tires explaining all the stuff written on the tire’s sidewall.

Common maximum continuous speed ratings for car tires are signified as follows:

Q = 99 mph / 160 kmh

R = 106 mph / 170 kmh

S = 112 mph / 180 kmh

T = 118 mph / 190 kmh

H = 130 mph / 210 kmh

V = 149 mph / 240 kmh

W = 168 mph / 270 kmh

Y = 186 mph / 300 kmh

Tire Terms:

Tread Void:

Gap(s) that allow for a certain amount of flex in the tire, as well as help to channel water, mud, snow, etc. from the tire to help prevent hydroplaning. Tires with less total void area tend to perform much better on very clean, dry pavement, but poorly in “all weather” type situations.  You’ll often see this quality of a tire measured in a tire’s “void ratio”, which is Void Ratio = (Void Area / Total Tread Area)


Tiny void areas cut into the tire which increases flexibility, reduces the heat buildup in the tire as you drive, and reduces sheer stress.  Siped tires perform much better than their non-siped brethren in snow, ice, mud and similar such circumstances.  However, they show worse breaking distances on both dry and wet pavement.


The inner edge of the tire where it comes in contact with the wheel rim.  This part of the tire tends to be made from very rigid, strong rubber reinforced with steel wire to make sure it stays tight against the rims as the tire spins and is subject to the various stresses it is put through as you drive.

Wear Bar:

These are used to tell at a glance if a tire needs replaced due to worn tread.  These generally comprise of raised little “bars” of rubber sitting in the tread grooves.  Once the tread wears down to the wear bar, the remaining tread is usually around 1/16th of an inch or 1.6 mm, at which point you should go get new tires.

Tread Lug:

The part of the tire that contacts the pavement and provides traction.  The combined tread lugs that are in contact with the pavement at any given time are called the “footprint”.


Where the tire tread transitions to the sidewall.


Layers embedded in the rubber that help it hold its shape as the tire is subjected to various stresses.  Depending on how these plies are oriented with one another and their number can change the performance aspects of a tire dramatically.

Tire Care and Safety Tips:

Tire Pressure

When taking tire pressure, in order to get an accurate result you should do it when the tires are “cold”.  In other words, when you haven’t driven the car for a few hours, the tires haven’t been in the sun, and you are measuring the temperature off the outside temperature (so not when your car has been sitting in a garage, unless your garage temperature is approximately the same as the outside temperature).  A handy tip for when you have to drive somewhere to inflate your tires is to check the air pressure when they are cold, then check it when you get to your inflation location.  Add the difference between those two numbers to the recommended inflation level to get the proper PSI for each tire given that they are “hot”.

For every 18 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) ambient temperature change, a car tire’s pressure changes by about 1.5 PSI.

Car tires lose about 1-2 pounds of air pressure per month on average (less in the summer, more in the winter).

Tires that are underinflated by 6 PSI can cause reduction in fuel economy of 3-4%.

Underinflated tires not only cost you fuel economy, but also reduce the life of the tire due to building up more heat than would have otherwise happened.  Excessive buildup of heat is a major factor in tire longevity.

Myth: Deflating a tire somewhat in snowy weather will increase traction.  In fact, it actually reduces traction and increases tire wear and the probability of tire failure.

If possible, don’t use pressure gauges at tire pump stations.  These are quite often faulty. According to the NHTSA, about 20% of gas station tire inflation stations’ gauges are off by over 4 PSI.  Further, only about 50% of these stations have pressure gauges to begin with, so best to keep a tire gauge in your glove box.

Don’t forget to check the tire pressure of your spare tire when you check the rest.  It loses pressure even just sitting there and does you little good when you have a flat if it’s mostly flat.

You can find the recommended tire specifications for your car, including recommended tire pressure and tire size, either on a sticker around the area of the door jamb of the driver’s side door, inside the glovebox, or inside the gas panel.  This information is also generally in the car manual.

Tire Tread

The tire tread should be a minimum of 1/16 inches deep.  If it’s less than this, your tires need replaced.  A good way to check this (and actually have a use for a penny) is to stick the penny, edge first, into a gap in the tread with Lincoln’s head pointed towards the tire.  If Lincoln’s head is fully visible, your tire needs replaced.  If it’s partially or fully covered by tread, then your tire is still good, at least from a tread perspective.

Rotating Tires / Alignment

As a general rule, tires should be rotated once every 8,000 miles to keep the tread on all four tires approximately evenly worn.  If you notice an extreme difference in wearing on one tires vs. the others, you may have an alignment or wheel balance problem.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 10% of cars on the road have at least one tire that is worn beyond the legal limit for tread.

When rotating tires, make sure to check whether your tires are unidirectional tires, meaning they are designed to rotate a specific direction for optimal performance.  You can tell this if there is an arrow on the sidewall.  If so, the arrow points to the rolling direction.  It’s not going to damage the tire running it the wrong way, but will decrease the performance.

Extending Longevity of Tires

When you first get a new set of tires, it’s recommended by some manufacturers that you take it very easy on them for the first 300-500 miles, particularly with studded winter tires.  During this break-in period, you should avoid corning at high speeds, rapid acceleration, and rapid breaking if at all possible.  During this time your tires may not perform as well as they will later, due to there often being residual lubricant on the tires which was used to help it not stick to the tire mold when it was made. By the time the break-in period of the tire is done, any residual lubricant will have worn off.

When running over a pothole is unavoidable, break while approaching, but do not break while going over the pothole.  If you do, this will cause more damage to the tire than free rolling over it.  Preferably avoid potholes and other such major obstacles that can jar your tires.  Besides external damage to the tire, these can also cause alignment and suspension problems in your car, as well as internal damage to a tire that you can’t see.

Avoid overloading your tires.  The more weight you keep on them, the more heat will buildup as you drive, and the faster they’ll degrade.  This is yet another reason besides fuel economy to not keep random junk in your car.

While non-studded winter tires are generally perfectly legal to drive year round, this is a poor way to extend the life of a winter tire.  Winter tires are designed with materials, not too surprisingly, optimized for cold weather.  In hot weather, the rubber compounds that make up the winter tire will wear much faster than an equivalent all-weather or “summer” tires.

Don’t use solvents or pressure washers when washing tires. In both cases, damage to the tire can ensue.  At most, you should just use a mild detergent and a hose, then rinse the tire thoroughly after washing, particularly if your tire has stud holes or is siped, so that the detergent is completely washed out of those crevices.

Keep your tires well balanced.  An unbalanced tire will wear faster and potentially unevenly.  If you start to have a tire go out of balance, first check to see if there is any mud or dirt buildup in the wheel and clean that out.  If there is still a problem, take it in and get it balanced right away.  Many tire sellers will balance your tires for free if you bought the tire through them, so it often won’t cost you anything to do this, but may cost you if you don’t.

Whenever you get gas, make a habit of checking your tires for rocks or bits of various materials stuck in the tread.  When you find these, remove them immediately (and carefully in the case of bits of glass or the like).  Over time, these types of things can cause major problems with your tire as they get worked in more and more.

In general, the best way to extend the longevity of your tires is similar to how to extend the longevity of your engine and certain other components of your car, namely “easy driving”.  Rapid acceleration, breaking, and corning great ways to wear down your tires, particularly if you’re spinning or otherwise skidding. In extreme cases, such as making a habit of “drifting” on paved roads, this can cut tire longevity by even as much as 1/100th of the original rating.  While you’ll generally not see people doing this outside of a race track, peeling out and skidding to a halt is somewhat more common and a great way to help reduce the balance of your bank account.

Storing Tires

Tires should be stored in cool/dry areas away from sunlight, potential heat sources, and any grease or solvents. If still on the rim, tires should also be fully inflated when stored so they don’t become distorted and lose their shape.  If storing them on pavement, put a piece of plywood between the tire and the pavement.

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  • I remember your post on making the tires black, but are some of the other ones original to this infographic? You sure seem like a car nerd, though :p

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Mushyrulez: Yep, most everything in the above graphic is new. I believe everything after and including the “Quick Tire Facts” part.