When it comes to your car, oil isn't the only thing there's a finite supply of. Rubber has its limits too, and it's estimated by 2020, the supply of natural rubber in the world may be outstripped by demand. And of course, tires require a great deal of oil to produce as well. Tire manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to innovate and conserve resources in tire production. Here are some recent advances:
- Dandelions: Yes, those humble yellow flowers you try to eliminate from your yard. Dandelions actually contain a minute amount of latex in their milky oil, and research shows they can actually produce about as much latex, pound-for-pound, as rubber plants. German scientists have cultivated 1-foot-tall dandelions for just this purpose. This isn't a new development, either -- in WWII, Ame ...[more]
Tires all look sort of the same…round and black…and people tend to think tires don’t change much over the years. That’s really not true, though – engineers and designers are constantly working on advances in tire designs for more miles, better fuel economy and better performance.
Here’s a rundown of current trends in tire technology you may not have been aware of:
- Tall, skinny tires are coming back. If you’ve ever ridden a beach cruiser bike vs. a racing bike, you know that skinny tires have lower rolling resistance. Carmakers are going in that direction, too – the BMW i3 electric/plug-in hybrid uses Bridgestone Ecopia tires, with higher inflation pressure and a taller, skinnier profile. Tall, skinny tires also red ...[more]
Driving around on underinflated tires is just a bad idea all the way around. Underinflated tires increase a car’s rolling resistance, meaning a drop in fuel efficiency since it takes more energy to move the vehicle down the road.
A single tire that’s down by ten pounds of air means a 3.3 percent drop in fuel economy…multiply that by all four tires, and you can figure on giving up ten percent of your gas mileage. The added friction and rolling resistance also means more heat is generated, and heat is the enemy of the internal structure of a tire. That heat will damage a tire to the point of failure. Studies show that underinflated tires are a full 25 percent more likely to fail, and at least half of one-car accidents involve a tire problem as a factor. And still, it’s estimated ...[more]
In a perfect world, all four tires would wear out at the same time. In the same perfect world, everyone would be able to afford a whole set of tires all at once. Unfortunately, things often just do not work out that way.
Sometimes you may just have to replace tires as you can afford them, one or two at a time, but there are some important things to bear in mind if you have to do that.
If you can only afford to replace one or two tires, it’s essential that you go with tires that are identical (or at least as close as possible) to the car’s remaining tires. That means that internal construction, size, tread pattern and design should be close to the same. Don’t mix winter tires with all-season tires, don’t mix run-flat tires with ...[more]
- Battery: Extreme heat and extreme cold can both stress your car’s battery. At 5 degrees Fahrenheit, a fully-charged battery can only deliver half its rated cranking power; cold temperatures slow down the chemical reaction in the battery that actually provides power. In addition, motor oil thickens and becomes more viscous at cold temperatures, making it harder to turn the engine over. Remember that your battery is only as good as its connections; chec ...[more]
- Everyone tends to think of tires as being round and black…but black is not the natural color of tires. The zinc oxide in early tire tread compounds resulted in a grayish-white color; it wasn’t until years later that carbon black was added to tread formulations. Carbon black enhances wear and durability, and conducts heat away from the tire’s internal structure. Early tires only had carbon black in the tread area, hence the first whitewall tires. Today, whitewalls and white-letter tir ...[more]
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