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What Is a Pneumatic Tire?

A tire pressure gauge is used to test the pneumatic pressure in a tire.
Tires should be routinely inspected for thread wear.
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  • Written By: Jessica Reed
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
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A pneumatic tire is a round, rubber tire that is inflated with air. The most common example of pneumatic tires in everyday life is the tires on an automobile. The pneumatic tire can also be found on bicycles, wheelchairs and forklifts. The pneumatic tire is popular because it absorbs the impact between the vehicle and the road, reducing the bumps and jolts felt by passengers inside a vehicle.

Before the pneumatic tire was invented, a tire was simply a band of metal that was molded to a specific size and wrapped around the wooden wheels of wagons. These tires did not absorb shocks and were primarily for protecting the wooden wheel so it would last longer. Today most tires are pneumatic tires, though typically still referred to as just tires. The word pneumatic simply means an item that uses air.

Tires work because they have tread on them. Tread is the raised patterns that appear on the top of a new tire, which often appear to zigzag around the tire. The tread helps the tire gain traction on the road to prevent it from sliding. This is especially important when driving in the rain or snow. Once the tread on a tire begins to wear out, it becomes slick and the driver should have the tires replaced.

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While the pneumatic tire is an improvement over older versions of the tire, it still has its own problems. The biggest problem with pneumatic tires is leaking or a flat tire. The tire can be punctured if a sharp object is run over while driving. This may cause a slow leak that eventually flattens the tire and makes it useless. A tire can also have a blowout while driving, often due to a hard impact or overloading the vehicle, which results in the tire popping and becoming useless.

Driver safety is important and maintaining a car's tires is part of this. Tires should be rotated with each oil change made on the car, they should be routinely inspected at home for leaks or worn tread, and a spare tire should be carried in the trunk. A driver should also be alert while driving and prepared in case a blowout or other event occurs. A tire pressure gauge is inexpensive and should be purchased and kept in the car. If the car is driving oddly, stop at the next convenient location and check the tire pressure.

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