Car tires are made of rubber, but do they contain latex?
Since latex is the protein that makes rubber, you would expect to find it in tires.
Do Car Tires Contain Latex?
Car tires are typically made with a mix of natural rubber (latex) and synthetic rubber. The levels of latex in tires is relatively high as 41% of tires typically consist of synthetic and natural rubber (latex).
Latex is a major ingredient in car tires.
According to Continental Tire, 41% of the total materials that go into their tires are a combination of synthetic rubber and natural rubber (latex).
The exact percentage of latex varies according to the manufacturer and the tire, but nearly all include at least some natural latex as a part of their recipe for the perfect rubber for car tires.
According to journalist Peter Montague from the Environmental Research Foundation, “during the last 20 years; the proportion of latex in tires has been increasing.”
Latex is an almost perfect material for tires if you are not sensitive to it.
Latex is durable and resistant to puncture, it is cheap and available, and when mixed with synthetic rubber it can make tires that stand up to a lot of abuse from rough roads.
That’s why car tires contain latex, and it is hard to find a tire of any kind that doesn’t.
What Kind of Rubber is Used in Car Tires?
The rubber in car tires is almost always a mix of natural and synthetic rubber.
Latex is a natural rubber that is produced by more than 200 different plant species, all of which are native to hot and humid climates like Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. It is the basis of rubber, and was used for all of our rubber needs up until synthetic rubber was invented using hydrocarbons to replace it.
Although synthetic rubber is not latex, it is still more expensive and environmentally taxing to produce it than it is to farm latex on tropical plantations.
In addition, there are tradeoffs between the two when it comes to durability and performance, so experts believe that mixing the two leads to the best balance of attributes.
Many tire companies closely guard the exact “recipe” balancing latex and synthetic rubber in their tires, because they believe this is a part of their tires’ performance and durability.
What Types of Tires Contain Latex?
Nearly every type of tire contains latex – from the tires on cars, trucks, and trailers to the tires on airplanes and the small tires on bicycles. Even the tires on children’s toys can contain latex.
The treads and outer belts of nearly all tires are made of a mix of rubbers, including natural latex, mixed with carbon black to increase the tire’s resistance.
Beneath the outer layer, there are underlayers, and beneath that, there is an inflated tube.
A tire’s inner tube is often made of latex because it is resistant to puncture. Latex tends to deform but not puncture, which makes it perfect for the inside of a tire where holding pressure is important and a puncture could cause the tire to deflate.
Tires are made of a mix of natural and synthetic rubbers on the outside, and inner tubes that are also often made of latex.
Can Tire Paint Contain Latex?
Many tire paints use latex as an adhesive and a sealant.
Latex paints are used for a variety of applications so it makes sense that they would be used on tires, which are another latex product.
Latex paint sticks to the tires and provides an extra seal against puncture.
Unless your tire is explicitly latex-free, there is a high chance that the paint used on it also contains latex.
Do Products Made From Recycled Tires Contain Latex?
Since the tires that are being recycled almost certainly contain latex, any products that are made with recycled tires will also contain latex.
Rubber recycling is a safe and environmentally friendly process that uses machines to reduce rubber tires to shreds that can be recycled and recombined into new products.
Many businesses, including hospitals, use recycled rubber products to meet their needs while helping the environment and reducing costs.
There is no part of the recycling process that can remove the latex from tires.
When natural and synthetic rubbers are mixed, like they are when making a tire, it is very difficult, or impossible, to tease them apart afterward.
Any product made from recycled tires will contain the rubber from those tires, which is a mix of natural and synthetic rubbers containing latex.
How Do I Know if Tires Contain Latex?
You should assume that tires contain latex.
Unfortunately, there is no way to see visually whether a tire contains latex and most brands do not include this information anywhere on the tire. There is also no way to test a tire quickly to know whether it contains latex.
However, unless there is a specific reason to believe that a tire is latex-free, it almost certainly contains latex.
The vast majority of tires do.
Are there Latex Free Tires?
In general, no, unless the tire is specifically made to avoid it.
One example of this is the wheelchairs made by Schwalbe North America.
Wheelchairs are meant to be self-propelled by pushing the wheels with your hands. This would mean that anyone with issues around latex would be unable to use them.
The designers of the wheelchair anticipated this and used only synthetic rubber in their tires.
There aren’t many latex-free tires when it comes to bicycle, car, and truck tires.
One reason for this might be that most people don’t need to touch their tires very often, and when they do it is possible to wear nitrile gloves that protect them or get a mechanic to help.
There are some tires out there that are rigid rather than requiring an inner tube. These may have tires with a low latex content in the rubber treads and no latex inner tube.
Some cyclists have sought out these models so that if they need to change a tire they can avoid the latex inner tube, which has a higher latex content than the rest of the tire.
Car tires contain latex, as do almost every other type of tire except specifically designated, latex-free tires.
In a car tire, the outer treads are made with a mix of natural latex rubber and synthetic rubber replacements. Many tires also include an inner tube that is made with latex, so that it is less likely to deflate when punctured. Even the tire paint that is used frequently contains latex as an adhesive and sealant.
There are wheelchair tires and some bike tires that are made to be more manageable for people with latex allergies.
In the future, the natural latex that we use may be eventually replaced by a different natural product that works just as well.
Currently, the majority of global latex comes from plants in the genus Hevea.
Scientists have discovered that latex can also be derived from another plant, the guayule plant (parthenium argentatum).
Not only does the guayule plant make a type of latex that’s better – but it can also be grown in drier environments, like the American southwest. This would mean that car companies could grow their natural rubber crops closer to their factories, rather than importing everything.
Unfortunately for right now, there aren’t many alternatives to latex when it comes to tires.
If you do have problems with latex, consider using nitrile gloves while working with your car or get a mechanic to help you.
US Tire Manufacturer’s Association | What’s in a Tire
Continental Tires | Tire Mixture
Environmental Research Foundation | Tire Dust, by Peter Montague