Making tyres

How hard can that be?

You'd be surprised. A tyre may look like a piece of round rubber that holds your car off the ground, but the reality is that it represents hundreds of thousands of man hours, involves the very latest of high-tech computer-aided design, and benefits - in the case of Avon tyres - from more than 102 years' experience in the tyre making business. Why go to so much trouble? To ensure that the Avon tyres you fit to your car are the very best in terms of quality and performance.

Before any Avon tyre even makes it onto the drawing board its designers have a long think about what it'll be used for. Is it going to have to run for hours at a time at 150mph? Or is it going to have to carry heavy loads and be able to resist getting scraped against kerbs when fitted to a delivery van?

The answers to these questions dictate how the tyre is designed, first maybe as a sketch, then as a computer-aided three-dimensional model. Every tyre is different, and every tyre needs extensive testing to ensure that it performs as intended and lasts as long as an Avon tyre is expected to do.

Rigorous testing regime over, it's time to get building tyres. High quality raw materials are brought into Avon's one million square-foot factory from all around the world. Rubber is obviously a pretty key ingredient, but it has to be mixed with special chemicals, including carbon black and silica, to give it different behavioural properties. Up to 10 different types of rubber compound can be used in one tyre; the 'grippy' rubber of the tread, for instance, needs different qualities from the protective rubber that covers the sidewall, which in turn differs from the rubber that creates an air-tight seal inside the tyre, which is different again to the tough-grade rubber that butts up against the wheel rim and needs to resist chafing.

A pair of hoops formed from bundles of ultra-strong steel is used to create the 'beads', the parts of the tyre that slip over the wheel and hold the tyre to it when it's inflated. To the beads is attached the tyre carcass, the core structure of the tyre that is made from a sophisticated material of polyester or rayon. Underneath what will ultimately become the tyre tread is laid a reinforcement belt constructed from 'sheets' of brass-coated wire. Over this belt goes nylon over-wrap (for speed rated tyres) then the rubber of the tread compound, after which the sidewalls are attached to help bind the whole package together.

Looking like black UFOs, the nearly completed tyres are then placed in moulds that create the tread pattern and all the writing on the sidewalls. The mould is pressurised and heated up, and the tyre inside it subjected to a timed curing process, during which time the mould pressure and temperature are constantly altered and monitored.

At the end of this process, out pops a finished tyre. Once it's cooled down, it's neatly trimmed off, subjected to various quality inspections, then shipped off to a lucky customer - you.