rating: +1+x

JOHN, who rode his Dunlop tire
O'er the head of sweet Maria,
When she writhed in frightful pain,
Had to blow it out again.

(from) Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes Col. D. Streamer (Harry Graham)

Basic Information.

A tire is a band of flexible material which wraps around a wheel to adsorb shock and mediate friction between the vehicle and the ground surface.

The majority of tires are and have been made of rubber - initially solid bands and later and currently hollow and inflated with compressed air. The materials of construction have also evolved from natural rubber to petrochemical rubber, with the structural strength improved by vulcanisation with sulphur and the insertion of metal meshes into the body of the tire. The primary weakness of a pneumatic tire - as per the flavour text - is having the air let out of it, either from a puncture or from the shock of an impact. Such damage usually self compounds as as soon as the tire is partially deflated the wheel rim starts to cut into the rubber under the weight of the vehicle. Small punctures can be patched, but this rarely works for anything but the smallest penetrations. Where penetration is a significant risk - for example in military tires - the tire can be filled with foams instead. These initially defaulted back to essentially solid tires, but have since evolved into technology which is essentially equivalent to a pneumatic tire in terms of performance, but typically a lot more expensive.

Modern tires are extremely robust, but unfortunately this makes them very hard to dispose of when no longer wanted. They are essentially immune to decay, have a strange ability to dig their way out of landfills and burn with difficulty and a great deal of pollution. Civil engineering applications are common, where they can be used as - essentially - gabions to reinforce the sides of cuttings and the banks of watercourses, as well as impact adsorbing barriers against vehicle impacts. Some "earthship" house designs feature external walls made of upcycled tires packed with dirt. More fringe applications include grinding them, removing the metal and using the rubber crumb to make shock adsorbent surfaces. Less aggressive cutting up leads to the developing world habit of using chunks of tire to make sandals, or the post-apocalyptic one of using them to make armour. They can also be used as raised planters or hung from trees to provide swings for the amusement of dogs and children.

Less amusing applications involve killing people - either necklacing (placing a tire full of petrol around the victim's neck and lighting it) or the Mexican Oven (where the victim is placed inside a stack of tires, provided with an airhose and then the tires lit to burn them alive). A tire fire can be a very dangerous hazard. Depending on the conditions they can either be a fast-burning blaze that grows quickly, or they can be an extremely slow-burning fire that can actually burn for decades. They release especially toxic smoke as they burn, including some amounts of cyanide gas in the mix. Tire fires are hard to very hard to extinguish, and raging tire fires are often fought by dumping lots of sand on the fire to smother the flames. Water can't penetrate the tires, so water is less effective at putting them out than it might be on more porous materials. It usually takes several minutes of prolonged exposure to very high temperature to start tires burning, but once they do light up, they significantly complicate the fire. The rubber may melt and seep into the ground, and between that and the gases emitted during the burn, they can significantly contaminate an area.



Game and Story Use

  • The most obvious applications are post-apocalyptic. For example, in the mid 1990s there were vast stockpiles of unwanted tires piled up in remote parts of most developed nations, waiting for someone to figure out a use for them - after the end, these could prove to be a resource, and even a cyberpunk adventure in an RPG magazine column once featured and entire shanty-town built almost completely from a tire dump.
  • The post apocalypse trend of tyre-armour is probably not entirely ludicrous. It would certainly have potential against melee weapons and most muscle-powered ranged weapons might be significantly impaired as well. Most firearms would probably blow right through, but firearms could well be scarce after the end, and it might still be better than no protection at all…
  • Conversely, getting useable tires after the end - and being able to fit them to a vehicle - might become quite a challenge.
  • See our Post Apocalyptic Decay page for discussion of how long after the end of civilization tires will still exist in more-or-less intact shape. They are one of the more resilient pieces of an abandoned car, at least in terms how long it takes for the elements to break them down. Many decades after the end, when long-dead cars are largely overgrown piles of rusted metal and broken hunks of glass and plastic, the tires are likely to still be tire-shaped.
  • A tire fire arson could be a plot point. Either for a duplicitous civilian insurance money situation, or possibly to destroy/deny a supply depot being used by an enemy military.
  • Tire fires are often a complicating feature of fires at auto-repair workshops - which often accumulate a stack of used tires as part of their business. This sort of thing can leave the neighbourhood blanketed in black, greasy smoke for days.
  • Rioters seem to love setting tires on fire, both those attached to other people's cars and any others they can find, meaning that stacks of burning tires become a regular nuisance. One application of this annoying habit is to use the burning tires as roadblocks as such a mass of burning rubber is harder to dismantle and remove than one made from random debris.
  • Again, after the end, burning tires might be an interesting form of incendiary round for a catapult. Handled carefully it could allow you to fire a chunk of sticky, hard to extinguish, burning crap into someone else's stronghold.
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