Tire compounds are a blend of materials that make up the tire itself. These come in the form of hard or soft compounds depending on the type of tire being used. Harder compounds typically more durable and are used on most vehicles so that they can get better fuel economy due to lower rolling resistance. These compounds can also be applied to commercial vehicles as they also help support vehicles in carrying weight. Softer compounds, on the other hand, are used for more performance-oriented vehicles that require a little more grip. The materials used in tires will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but will typically include the same basic components, such as rubber, fabric, wire, carbon black, and chemical compounds.
Parts of a tire
As a quick backgrounder, a tire will have two basic parts, the body, and the tread. The body is the part of the tire that keeps in the air, while the tread is what gives the tire traction of the road. This can be further broken down into more specific parts which are as follows:
This is the structure of the tire itself which provides the strength necessary to keep in the air and support the structure of your vehicle as well. Aside from strength it also offers flexibility as it can also absorb the imperfections of the road before the suspension has to step in.
These are what give the tire its strength and stability. Aside from this it also helps support the structure of the tire itself.
This is the part of the tire that holds it to the wheel. These are made from a harder composite material so that they can handle the forces of cornering as well as the forces of the vehicle on the tire itself.
The inner liner keeps is what allows the tire to inflate with air and helps keep the air inside it as well. Some tires may have this separate and may come in the form of an inner tube similar to those found in bike tires.
This is the rubber compound that covers the body plies of a tire and serves as a layer of protection from the elements.
The basic compound recipe
A typical tire will have the following components baked into it, however, the actual recipe will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. These ingredients all help give the tire flexibility, give it grip, give it the strength to hold its shape despite the weight of the vehicle, and give it the ability to hold air.
This is the ingredient that helps protect your tire from wear and tear. It also helps protect it from cracking under the pressures of driving, the weight of the vehicle, as well as from the imperfections of the road.
This ingredient combines with natural rubber and often contains butadiene and styrene-butadiene which are rubber polymers. Their properties help determine how each of the components of a tire performs and affect the overall performance of the tire as well.
These typically come in the form of steel wire, beads, and belts and are put in for the structural rigidity of the tire. These steel elements also affect how a tire handles along with its wear performance.
A needed additive for the tires to keep them from breaking down as a result of temperature.
Additives that are typically silica and carbon black that help reinforces the rubber. These help with abrasion, tear, and strength against stress for the tire.
These are additives that help negate the effects of surface exposure.
These are a variety of fabrics that help reinforce the tire. These textiles help give the tire extra stability and help it take on the weight of the vehicle.
Aside from this, the baking of the process of a tire can also affect how it turns out. However, this process varies from brand to brand but usually has a Zinc Oxide mixture in it to help cure the rubber.
Hard vs soft compounds: Why the compounds matter
The mixture and the additives used in a tire’s compound help dictate the durability of a tire. As a general rule the softer the compound a tire has the higher coefficient of friction, it can give you thus giving you more grip, but generally at the cost of its life span. These kinds of tires will typically wear out faster than harder compound brethren.
Speaking of hard compounds, as the name suggests hard compound tires will have a great number of cross-links between the long rubber molecules. This makes them tougher and more durable than their softer counterparts but at the cost of grip. The cross-links restrict the length of the rubber molecule that can interact with the road surface which results in less grip
So which should you go for?
This depends on your vehicle and what you want to do with it. If you have a load-bearing vehicle then a tougher tire with a harder compound is needed so that it can support the weight of your cargo and the vehicle itself. If it’s for a regular vehicle a harder compound is still advisable if you plan to use it for daily use. A harder compound will allow the tires to last longer and withstand the daily wear and tear. However, if you are after more grip and better performance then a softer compound tire is your optimum choice. This gives you better handling as the tires and grips the road better, however, this does come at a cost as softer compound tires tend to wear out much faster. It’s a fine balancing act that will depend on your vehicle and your purpose for it. With many options available on the market, there is a tire compound mixture available for almost anyone.