The white snow, the yellow sun… and the black tires. There are objects that are always paired with a color and tires are no exception. However, what is the cause of this relationship? Could we have colored tires?
If we look at the cars, vans and other vehicles that we have around us, we will see how these vehicles have one thing in common: their tires are black. A decision that is not accidental, although it is not something that has been determined in this way, but is derived from the manufacturing process of these products itself. Anyway, since the story is a bit more complex, we are going to travel a bit in time to find out why the tires are black.
In the beginning they were white
The tire manufacturing process uses different components, among which is natural rubber. An ingredient whose white color is the one that predominates in the first tires that were manufactured in the world. Something to be expected, given that this component was barely complemented with some binders and resins of this color, which were the basic ingredients of the first tires that began to roll in the world.
Obviously, this color was nice but aesthetically it had a problem: it got very dirty. Even more so considering the first roads on which these tires rolled about 150 years ago. Anyway, it would not be these aesthetic reasons that would lead to change the color of the tires, but a deeper look.
Carbon black arrives
The definitive change in the color of the tires is due to one of its components. We are talking about carbon black. This ingredient is obtained, like many others, directly from oil and has the advantage of considerably increasing both the resistance of the tires and their useful life, so that wear is reduced and they could be used for longer.
Something that began to be tested back in 1917, when this powder began to be added to the mixture with which the tires were manufactured, immediately perceiving the referred improvements in performance. Something that, as its name suggests, had the side effect of dyeing the tires black, which is the color they retain to this day. By the way, carbon black is not only present in tires but also in more domestic products like printer ink, for example.
Currently, the amount of carbon black used in tires is variable, hovering around 25% or so. However, it varies between manufacturers and types of tire. The good news is that this ingredient, along with the rest of the elements present in the tire, is recyclable and is used in the manufacture of sports tracks, fences and even roads, due to the resistance and durability properties already mentioned.
The resurgence of white
At this point it is possible that some of those typical cars of the 20s and 30s, typical of mafia movies, in which the cars had those white strip tires that are now classics come to mind. Tires that are still on the market today, in different formats and sizes, suitable for traditional cars.
How you get that nice white tire strip is diverse. In some cases it is a strip painted or printed directly on the tires during their manufacturing process, although it is the least common … among other things because we are not talking about cheap tires. In other cases, the tires are simply black, although they have a kind of overrim placed on the rim and the original tire and that simulates that white strip. A somewhat simpler and cheaper solution, although not to the taste of the most purists.
As a last option, some companies sell liquids with which to paint those elements of our tires white, such as the letters on the sidewalls. Something that, on the other hand, does not quite have the best of finishes, according to users.
A touch of color
At this point, someone may wonder if it is possible to find tires in colors other than the black we are used to. Well, it is possible to find colored tires, although in such a scarce and reduced supply that it will surely not be possible for you to change the ones on your vehicle for one of this type.
This idea emerged strongly back in the first decade of this 21st century. At this time, several tire manufacturers, including top-of-the-line ones, began to consider the possibility of modifying this carbon black to achieve tires of colors other than black. To do this, they began to work with different pigments and other chemical compounds, which allowed them to give a different color to those wheels. Something that, in addition, was in line with the fever of tuning and customization of the vehicle to its last elements.
However, despite the initial excitement and some color launches from manufacturers, it didn’t take long for them to realize that if something has been this way for many years, consumers may not feel like changing it. And it is that when drivers are looking for the best tires for their car they do not worry about the color. They care about the drawing, the resistance, the durability and the security that they offer them. So as they arrived, these colored wheels left.
However, today there is still the possibility of getting these wheels, mainly from second-line Chinese manufacturers, which is not very quiet either. Of higher quality are some Toyo and Kumho products, manufactured using colored smoke, which add an interesting touch of color to the usual black and which, depending on the models, can even generate colored smoke when skidding. Something already tremendously exaggerated and designed for very specific users.