Have you ever wondered what happens to all the hundreds of thousands of used tires that Americans produce? Tires are not biodegradable, so when used tires are discarded, they just sit in a landfill for all of eternity. Used tires can be repurposed for other uses, such as a planter, or a tire swing; but let’s be realistic, how many tire swings do we really need? There are some opportunities to recycle used tires to create gardening mulch, but the demand for old tires in mulch is far less than the amount of used tires we produce.
However, there is one way that old tires can be recycled that we always have a demand for, and keep thousands of tires out of landfills: retread tires. When the tread wears off of a tire, new treading is applied to it, giving the old tires another life.
If this is the first time you’re hearing of retread tires, you might feel skeptical. How safe are retread tires? Are retread tires the outcome of the scraps of tires that we see all over the side of the highway? Let’s consider a few concerns people have about retread tires:
Six Reasons You Might be Nervous to Use Retread Tires, Explained
- CONCERN: Retread litter our roadways with shredded tires.
When you see the ripped up tires on the side of the road, it’s easy to assume that those are retreaded tires that have lost their new tread. However, if you examine them closely, these tire scraps have wire through them. The tread that is applied to retreaded tires do not have wire in them. If the shredded tires on the side of the road have wire in them, they are blowouts to the casing of the tire, not lost tread. This is almost always the case.
- CONCERN: Retreaded tires compromises safety while driving.
It’s understandable to worry about safety on the roadways, especially tire failure is the most common reason for failed equipment-led car wrecks. However, retreaded tires are just as safe as tires that have their first tread on them. In fact, almost all commercial airlines use retreaded tires on their planes, and as you can imagine, plane tires go through substantial stress at takeoff and landing. On top of that, a majority of school buses use them. School buses are designed to be the safest vehicle on the roadway.
- CONCERN: Retreaded tires are visually unsightly.
True and False.
We listed this concern as both true and false, because the appearance of the retreaded tire depends on the skill and quality of the retreader. If a retreader cuts corners, you might be able to see the bind. However, when a good quality retread is compared to brand new tires in a blind test, most truckers are unable to distinguish which was new and which was retread.
When you consider how many tires are spared from landfills through the retreading process, it’s actually beautiful.
- CONCERN: New tires last longer than retreaded tires.
Good quality retread tires last just as long as good quality tires, but at a cost of one-third to one-half less than the cost of the new tires. In fact, when you compare the price and longevity of good quality retread tires to that of cheap new tires, the retread tires are both cheaper and last longer!
- CONCERN: Retread tires make your fuel economy worse.
True and false.
The factors that impact fuel economy with tires are complicated: the weight of the tread, the mix of the compound used to attach it to the casing, the design of the tread, and the structure of the casing. With this many factors, it’s difficult to say across the board that retreaded tires have fuel economy that is better or worse than their new counterparts. At most, it’s not the retread itself that impacts the fuel economy, but the type of retread on the tire.
- CONCERN: Retread tires don’t perform as well as new tires.
You might be surprised to hear that retreaded tires are commonly used on race cars, for both on track and off road racing. The precision required for tires on vehicles like this is far more acute than standard vehicles, and retread tires hold up to the task!
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