Tire retreading has evolved tremendously since its inception in the 1900s. While its checkered past may cause skepticism from commercial truckers, retreading has come a long way and is an excellent option for extending the life of your fleet’s tires.
Back when roads were unpaved and riddled with hazards, even perfect tires would only last 1,000 miles before becoming useless. Drivers struggled to avoid penetrating, cutting, or blowing out their tires on the plethora of dangerous materials littering the roads. People began seeking ways to extend their tire life.
The earliest method involved applying layers of uncured rubber. Tires would then be vulcanized in thirds using a one-third mold. Soon people realized that vulcanizing in thirds led to unevenly cured rubber, and limited tire mold sizes left some tires without a solution.
In 1912, Marion Oliver developed a new method, which involved buffing tires down to the fabric and applying pre-cured tread. A hoop and spring were used to secure the casing and the tire was coated in talc and soapstone mud, then wrapped in cotton strips before being placed through a steam-curing pressure chamber.
As transportation boomed, so did the demand for better retreading methods. Extruders were used to apply pre-heated, uncured rubber to buffed, cemented tires, using full-circle molds to replace the one-third method for even curing.
Airbags were used to push tires against the mold rather than using solid iron cores, further improving the method. Buffing equipment also improved as it shifted from hand-held operation to mechanical.
During the Great Depression, tire retreading was especially popular as it allowed people to save money. As a result, more tire companies entered the retread industry. With the invention of synthetic rubber, the industry saw 500% growth over a two-year period (1942 – 1944). The Army even started investing in research for retreading innovation.
In the 1960s and 70s, retreaders faced various challenges: Changes like tubeless technology and use of tire venting disrupted the industry. Retreader consolidation, government regulations, and liability litigation impacted American retreading as well.
Despite a slight upswing in the 90s caused by ultrasound and X-ray retreading technology, equally innovative technologies were used in tire manufacturing, allowing tires to last longer and further lowering the demand for retreaders. Newer and more advanced machinery requires American retreaders invest large capital expenditures to stay competitive and this has caused large scale consolidation in the Americas. Even though the total number of retreaders has declined, total output has continually risen.
While there may not be as many tire retreading companies as there once were, those remaining are truly dedicated to the technique, offering unparalleled skill and service while saving you serious money on your fleet’s expenses. STTC has a team of expert, TIA-certified tire technicians with training in Michelin tire retreading. Save on your fleet’s maintenance by contacting STTC about tire retreading today!
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