UK Heatwave: Are your car tyres melting?

Towards the end of June and the beginning of July 2018 and now in July 2019 the weather went from warm to scorching up and down the country in the blink of an eye. This has led to warnings of a possible hosepipe ban, warnings about taking dogs out in the sun and tragic fires starting. Although we all wish for a nice hot summer ever year it feels as though the summer of 2018 was perhaps a little too hot which has caught us all off guard. 

During the heat people's driving experiences also change; we've recently covered how much fuel air con uses, people tend to drive a bit faster, traffic seems to happen more frequently and the brightness can sometimes be blinding. However, in today's blog the subject matter is your tyres and whether or not they can melt when the heat rises?

Are your tyres melting in the heat?

You may have noticed that the roads have started to become noticeably blacker as if tyres are melting on to them. This is especially true on bendy flat roads where the heat can take a hold a bit easier. But are they actually melting onto them? The short answer is that no - neither your tyres or anyone else's tyres aren't melting on to them - so what's making the roads go black?

As vulcanised rubber tyres get warmer they become softer, when they become softer they are more likely to lose bits of rubber when they make contact with the road and it's those bits of loose rubber is what ends up melting on to the roads. As the road accumulates more and more of these stray bits of rubber it increases the chance of siphoning more rubber from other vehicles tyres which makes the roads go from a little bit black to very black quickly if there's a heatwave on... like right now!

Next time you drive around, see if you notice the roads getting blacker and tacky - you may even noticed a distinct noise coming from your tyres as they drive over the molten rubber.

Should I be using summer tyres?

After reading the above you may be thinking that summer tyres may avoid this altogether, this is both true and false. Summer tyres are made of a harder compound making them be able to handle the heat better and soften much later than normal or winter tyres. Summer tyres will last you longer in the heat but are terrible in the snow. Winter tyres right now would be softening much quicker losing inches off their tread day by day.

Although summer tyres will take longer to soften, they still will get softer especially during the current UK heatwave. However, summer tyres will be losing rubber less which means they will keep their tread better. Summer tyres are definitely recommended.

At what point do tyres melt?

A modern vulcanized rubber compound tyre can be thrown into a hot furnace and not melt. The rubber has been processed with other materials such as carbon to ensure that it doesn't oxidise and therefore burn or melt. Think of melting tyres as trying to unbake a loaf of bread - it just can't be done because ingredients have been blended together, heated, and then cooled down to set. Simply put, a tyre has been specifically made so that it can grip and not melt under extreme temperatures. 

So, what is the melting point of a vulcanized tyre? We think at least 200 celsius.

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