For car owners, wheels and tires are essential components that help you get from place to place. Flat tires can disrupt plans, while bad tires or damaged wheels can impact how your vehicle handles. While the average person may not think about their car’s wheels and tires unless something goes wrong, they can be a fascinating topic of discussion, especially for car enthusiasts. Here are 10 fun facts about tires and wheels that you can use to impress your car-savvy friends:
- Tire is spelled tyre if you live in the UK — If you’ve seen the word “tyre” in any English or foreign texts, it’s probably not a typo. “Tyre” is a variant spelling of tire and is used in British English, as well as by any country or person who adheres to British spelling rules rather than American.
- Air-filled tires were patented in 1847 — Scottish inventor Robert William Thomson patented the pneumatic tire 171 years ago. However, the first usable pneumatic tire, or air-filled tire, was created by Scotsman John Boyd Dunlop in 1888 in Belfast, Ireland. While originally created for bicycles, billions, if not trillions, of tires grace roads around the world today on a variety of vehicles.
- LEGO is the world’s largest tire manufacturer — Toy manufacturing company, LEGO, holds the distinction of being the world’s largest tire manufacturer. The company produces nearly 320 million tiny tires each year, which is over 50 percent more than any other tire company in the world. However, don’t try to purchase LEGO’s tires for your vehicle as they probably won’t fit.
- Car manufacturers don’t make wheels — While you may think that a car manufacturer would make all the important components of your vehicle, most manufacturers don’t make the wheels for their products. Instead, they rely on a wheel manufacturer. Maxion Wheels is a major original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that supplies wheels for companies like Audi, BMW, General Motors, and more. Additionally, many other companies specialize in making custom wheels, replica wheels, and aftermarket wheels.
- Winter tires were invented in Finland — Nokian Tyres, headquartered in Nokia, Finland, created the first winter tire in the mid-1930s. The brand is considered one of the top tire brands in the world and specializes in creating tires to handle weather conditions in Nordic countries.
- Continental AG is the most popular tire brand in Europe — German-based automotive manufacturing company Continental AG has a stronghold on the tire market in Europe. Of all cars delivered in Europe, around 30 percent are fitted with Continental tires. The company is the fourth-largest tire manufacturer in the world and was originally founded in 1871 as a rubber manufacturer.
- Most airplanes and space shuttle tires are filled with nitrogen — Anyone who has ridden in an airplane has experienced pressure changes, resulting in the need to “pop” your ears. Those types of pressure changes due to high altitudes can impact the air pressure in tires, especially if the tire is filled with oxygen, which can react with the rubber of the tires at certain temperatures. Instead of regular air, airplane tires are filled with nitrogen because it’s an inert gas, which makes it less likely to react with other substances.
- American Racing Equipment is the oldest manufacturer of aftermarket wheels — American Racing emerged during the American muscle car era and was founded in 1956. Aftermarket wheels are not created by manufacturers that are affiliated with or approved by the car manufacturer. American Racing’s wheels are mostly used by sports car owners or street racers.
- BMW outfits most of its cars with run-flat tires— Run-flat tires are tires you can still drive on after they are punctured. The purpose of these tires is to make sure that drivers can make it to a shop or a safe place to replace the tire with a spare. Of the major car manufacturers in the world, BMW outfits the most vehicles with this type of tire, which is significant because the tires are twice as expensive as regular tires.
- Space shuttle tires are really expensive — If you are planning to build your own space shuttle anytime soon, you better have a lot of money in your savings account. Space shuttle tires cost over $5,000 each. If that doesn’t make you cringe, those tires are only good for one or two landings depending on where they are located on the shuttle.
We rely on our cars to get us from point A to point B every day. While tires and wheels only make up a part of that whole, they are vital components that have their own interesting histories and facts. So, next time you’re rolling down the street in your favorite ride, feel free to spout off these fun facts. You’re sure to up your street credibility with your passengers.