Tyred of Black?

Colour Will Be the New Black

There are a great many things I don’t understand. There’s so much that doesn’t make sense.

The unimaginable vastness of the universe. The impossible dimensions of an atom. How Darwin’s theory missed sheep. The dark and bewildering contents of a woman’s handbag. Daytime TV. Why Americans say “off-of”. Or is it “off-off”? Why 99,000,000 people are following Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook. (To demand their privacy back?)

Small cars with exhaust pipes the size of the Titanic’s funnels, fitted by youths wearing jeans three sizes too big. Towels and soap in your girlfriend’s bathroom you’re not allowed to use. Why anyone would go to John o’ Groats more than once. Why dark-skinned people get tattoos. Why professional footballers say “obviously” so often. Obviously.

Why no one is called Dympna anymore? And where have all the green cars gone?

Lately, too, I realised I didn’t understand why car tyres are always black, and I’ve discovered that things are slowly changing. Chances are that here in the UK you’ll never see coloured tyres, but they are out there and I’m guessing they will become more popular as technology improves and makes them safer to use. In fact, a Chinese manufacturer is producing them right now (see picture below).

My car is as common as chips and it’s painted visible-from-space red (a cheaper option at the time). So if I were 30 years younger I think it would look quite nice with red tyres. I really would. Why not?

But there is one good reason why your car tyres are black and will be for quite some time to come. Carbon black. Simply put, and avoiding the boring history, during the early evolution of the tyre it was discovered that adding the chemical carbon black to rubber made it much more durable—maybe 100 times more. In tyres this greatly increased resistance to wear and made them less likely to fail at those points where the stress was most severe.

Carbon black is magical stuff. It also deflects heat away from more sensitive areas of the tyre, and protects against natural degradation caused by ozone and UV rays.

A long time ago they had a go at making tyres that lit up. Just the job if you want to stand outside in the cold and check for ladders.
A long time ago they had a go at making tyres that lit up. Just the job if you wanted to stand outside in the freezing cold checking for ladders.

So over the next number of years we will probably see the creation of carbon red, or carbon green, or carbon blue. Of course you’d have to spend more time doubled over keeping your tyre walls clean. But I bet there were similar complaints when someone had the nerve to paint car panels anything but black.