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the physics of car wheels



in thinking about physics in different aspects of the world around us, I have come to realize that physics is in things that I use everyday, not just in things like sports! I drive my car everyday and an average car has hundreds of aspects of physics involved with its handy means of transportation. One of the most influential aspects of physics in an automobile is friction.

Car tires are made of rubber outfitted with patterns which increase the coefficient of friction and thus create much more reliable traction. Car tires are made so that while going around a turn the wheels are able to grip the road and fight the G forces experienced during even a low speed turn.


This diagram shows the tire preventing the car from slipping to the side around a turn, however I would like to discuss how the tire acts in the foward and backwards directions. As the car accelerates static friction comes into play. This is because the car tire actually has only one point of contact with the road at any given point. So, while the tire is moving, it only has one point of traction on the road, that is as long as you dont step on the gas too hard! There are point where the tire will loose traction during a violent turn or during a quick acceleration. The diagram below represents different traction patterns which varry according to the desired preformace and intended use of the tire:



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I wonder how "ice tires" compare to rain tires... especially after seeing the ads about how certain tired "funnel the water away" in a rain storm.

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