A tire (in American English and Canadian English) or tyre (in Commonwealth Nations such as UK, Australia, and others) is a ring-shaped covering that fits around a wheel rim to protect it and enable better vehicle performance by providing a flexible cushion that absorbs shock while keeping the wheel in close contact with the ground. The word itself may be derived from the word "tie," which refers to the outer steel ring part of a wooden cart wheel that ties the wood segments together. The fundamental materials of modern tires are synthetic rubber, natural rubber, fabric and wire, along with other compound chemicals. They consist of a tread and a body. The tread provides traction while the body ensures support. Before rubber was invented, the first versions of tires were simply bands of metal that fitted around wooden wheels in order to prevent wear and tear. Today, the vast majority of tires are pneumatic inflatable structures, comprising a doughnut-shaped body of cords and wires encased in rubber and generally filled with compressed air to form an inflatable cushion. Pneumatic tires are used on many types of vehicles, such as bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, earthmovers, and aircraft.
Pneumatic tires are manufactured according to relatively standardized processes and machinery, in around 450 tire factories in the world. Over 1 billion tires are manufactured annually, making the tire industry the majority consumer of natural rubber. In 2015 1.72 billion tires are expected to be sold globally.Tire factories start with bulk raw materials such as rubber, carbon black, and chemicals and produce numerous specialized components that are assembled and cured. This article describes the components assembled to make a tire, the various materials used, the manufacturing processes and machinery, and the overall business model. In 2004, $80 billion of tires were sold worldwide, in 2010 it was $140 billion.
Several additional components may be required in addition to just the tire to form a functional wheel.
Tires are mounted to wheels that bolt to the hub. The beads of the tire are held on the wheel's rim largely by the internal tire force from the air pressure. Automotive wheels are typically made from pressed and welded steel, or a composite of lightweight metal alloys, such as aluminum or magnesium. These alloy wheels may be either cast or forged. A decorative hubcap and trim ring may be placed over the wheel.
Almost all bicycle tires, many motorcycle tires, and many tires for large vehicles such as buses, heavy trucks, and tractors are designed for use with inner tubes. Inner tubes are torus-shaped balloons made from an impermeable material, such as soft, elastic synthetic rubber, to prevent air leakage. The inner tubes are inserted into the tire and inflated to retain air pressure. Large inner tubes, which are large inflatable toruses, can be re-used for other purposes, such as swimming and rafting (see swim ring), tubing (recreation), sledding, and skitching. Purpose-built inflatable toruses are also manufactured for these uses, offering choice of colors, fabric covering, handles, decks, and other accessories, and eliminating the protruding valve stem.
The valve stem is a tube made of metal or rubber, through which the tire is inflated, with a check valve, typically a Schrader valve on automobiles and most bicycle tires, or a Presta valve on high-performance bicycles. Valve stems usually protrude through the wheel for easy access. They mount directly to the rim, in the case of tubeless tires, or are an integral part of the inner tube. The rubber in valve stems eventually degrades, and, in the case of tubeless tires, replacement of the valve stem at regular intervals or with tire replacement reduces the chance of failure.