At the dawn of automotive history, cars didn’t have tires. They had wheels…wheels that were made of iron or wood. But as the car evolved, so did the wheels and tires were added after Charles Goodyear invented the vulcanization of rubber in 1844. (Vulcanized rubber was later used to make automobile tires).
It wasn’t until 1904 that mountable rims were introduced, allowing drivers
to repair their own flats; and then in 1908, grooved tires for better traction were invented by Frank Seiberling. Up until then, automobile tires had been smooth.
There is a little controversy about who actually invented the first inflatable tire. A Scotsman, John Boyd Dunlop (1840-1921), acquired a patent in 1888, but it was for a bicycle tire. Robert William Thomson (1822-1873) invented the first inflatable tire for a car, but his invention was too costly and it never caught on. Dunlop’s tire caught on, so he is the man usually given the credit for inventing the inflatable automobile tire.
Since those early days, tires have come a long, long way. Today we have automobile tires that actually mend themselves when they are punctured. We have highly specialized tires available, as well. Most people who live in the northern climes own a set of mud and snow tires. Many of us opt for high-performance tires. There are all-season tires and all-terrain tires.
There are off-road, agricultural, and racing tires. There are tires for almost any climate or driving condition that anyone could ever imagine.
And inflatable tires are not limited just to use on automobiles and light trucks, either. There are similar tires that are used on airplanes, motorcycles, and 18-wheelers. Yes, tires have come a long way, and no one knows what the future holds.