Retreaded car tyres (or remoulds as they are sometimes better known) have been a part of the tyre market for many years. It is not that long ago that every tyre dealer in the country sold retreaded car tyres as a budget line. These days, the increased influx of cheap new tyres from China has meant that retreads are now available only through selected dealers. However, with environmental issues becoming more important to the general public, it is the retread’s status as a recycled product that is now becoming more important.
How is a Retread Made?
Firstly, the retreader takes a worn tyre casing and inspects it to check it is suitable for retreading. The remaining old tread rubber is then removed during a process called “buffing”. This provides a profile and surface texture in preparation for the application of a new tread.
The tyre is then inspected for a second time and any correction work is then carried out before the next stage of the manufacturing process, which is the application of a new tread and sidewall veneer. In car tyre retreading this is done by applying uncured tread and sidewall rubber, usually by using a strip-winding machine.
The built tyre then moves on to the curing or vulcanisation process. In car tyre retreading this is carried out in individual curing moulds (similar to those used in new tyre manufacturing).
After curing, a final inspection process is carried out identify any potential defect. Unacceptable tyres are rejected and scrapped.
What is the Quality of Retreads Like?
Despite the historical image, the quality of retreaded tyres today is very good. Since 2004 all retreaded car tyres in the UK have been subject to an ECE Regulation (Reg 108), which stipulates that all retreads have to meet the same load and speed test criteria as new tyres. Each retreader has to subject a proportion of his production for testing and, if his tyres fail, he runs the risk of being closed down. Retreaded tyres not produced to ECE 108 are illegal.
One erroneously held belief is the idea that retreads cannot be used on motorways or above 50 mph. Absolute Rubbish! Most retreads sold in the UK market are rated to either T (118 mph), H (130 mph) or V (149 mph). The exception is some retreaded winter tyres which may be Q rated (99 mph) but these are mostly sold overseas.
Another myth is the belief that the discarded tread rubber from truck tyres that you see on the side of motorways is from retreads. Not true. Truck tyre failures occur primarily as a result of poor tyre maintenance, for example by running a tyre underinflated or when the tyre has suffered some kind of damage. In this case the tyre will fail regardless of whether a tyre is a retread or a new tyre.
Incidentally retreads make up about 40% of all truck tyres on the road and in many applications they routinely outperform new tyres.
How Green Are Retreads?
Retreads are extremely environmentally friendly.
Firstly, the production of a retread saves substantial amounts of fossil fuels. In fact, the manufacture of a passenger retread requires 4. 5 gallons less oil than a new tyre.
Secondly, retreaded car tyres sold in the UK are almost exclusively manufactured in the UK, which means they don’t have to be shipped from the other side of the world, unlike many budget new tyres, a high proportion of which are manufactured in China and other Far East countries.
Retreading is also the best practical environmental option for tyre recycling. Every retread used means one less new tyre saving in natural resources. It also means that less tyres ultimately have to be burned (the most common form of disposal in the UK) thereby reducing pollution. In fact, a recent study by the Environmental Association found that out of all the various options for tyre recycling, retreading has the least environmental impact. So retreads really are green.