How to do your own white wall tyres

How to do your own white wall tyres

How to do your own white wall tyres

White wall tyres

How to do your own white wall tyres

White Wall tyres are a must have when driving an oldtimer or can be a great eye-catcher on any other car or motorcycle to get the feeling of the past on the street today.  “Whitewall rubber can be found as far back as the early 1900s when a small tire [sic!] company in Chicago produced one of the first versions for their horse and chauffeur drawn carriages in 1914” [1]. However, in the 1930s white wall tyres began to get popular and this trend persevered till the 1950s.

White wall tyres in their beginning were not produced due to a matter of style. It was a lack of possibilities. The first tyres were made out of natural rubber. A mix of chemicals made the tread more durable. Zinc oxide produced the best results, a chemical that colored the tyre white. As time passed by, the process of manufacturing tyres developed. “Compounders now discovered a much better reinforcer than the old zinc oxide - carbon black. Mixed into rubber by masticating machines, carbon black greatly increased tread life.” [2] At first, carbon black was only added to the tread, the sides remained white - the white wall tyre was born. Although then all components of tyres were produced containing carbon black and white wall tyres vanished from the streets, today they still are a symbol of luxury and class.

The great thing is: You can do them yourself at home. There are two ways how to get your tyres from boring black rubber to the most stylish thing to adorn a car: Get rubber off the tyre or add paint to it. Since it is safer, quicker and easier, we strongly recommend using one of the shown below options to paint your tyres. Still, if you for whatever reason want to remove rubber from your tyres we show you both ways to get to the final result - white wall tyres.

Removing rubber from your tyres

Removing the rubber from your tyres using angle grinder

Before you begin, there needs to be a security warning. Never try to handle dangerous tools without protection and previous introduction. Also, doing this could damage your tyres. If you are unsure about it, please ask someone to help you or try this on tyres you do not need anymore first.

Under most tyres there is a layer of white rubber on the walls beneath the black one. What you need to do is to remove the the outer layer in order to make the white wall visible. The tool you need to archive that is an angle grinder. Use a 36 grit disc. There are discs containing a hole. Due to the fast rotation, they make it possible to see what is happening on the surface while you are working. It is recommended to strip of the tyre completely from the rim to not damage other parts unnecessarily. However, there are people who do the following steps while leaving the tyre on the car.

Make sure the outer side is on top since this is the layer you want to work on. Start grinding the top layer till you can see the white rubber. If you went all around, use 80 grit sand paper to clean up the result. Just use very light pressure. You do not want to damage the layers in order to drive safely with your white wall tyres. Also, you do not want to tear too much rubber off, because under the white layer there is black rubber again. Also, pay attention to the bead. If you damage this part of the tyre you could end up sealing problems.

These steps cause release a lot of dust. For your own healthy you should wear a face mask.

Adding color for your white wall tyres

This is the easier and safer way to get do it yourself white wall tyres. All the materials you need are tape and white paint that is suitable to be applied to rubber. “Tyre wall paints” are designed especially for this purpose. There are also other alternatives to choose from. For example, you can try tyre marker pens. These are normally used to color fine areas like filling the outlines of brands but also they are suitable for that reason. Also, you can find people that paint the tyres using shoe color change spray.

Whatever option you chose, the process is similar for all of them. First, get the tyre off the wheel and lay it down where you want to apply the paint. Don’t forget to use an underlayment to not damage any area irreversibly.

1. Heat the tyre to open the pores. That helps the paint to be more long-lasting on the tyres

Heat the tyre to open the pores

2. Do not paint the parts of the tyre you’d like to stay black, first cover those with tape. Depending on the width of the white parts, you probably want to cover the parts on the outside and on the inside

Cover with tape

3. Apply the color of your choice to the tyre. Probably you need to paint multiple layers to get satisfying results

Adding color to your white wall tyres

4. Let the color dry and remove the tape afterwards. Now you can get the tyres back to your car.

Apply the color of your choice to the tyre

If you are just searching for an opportunity to just get a small colored stripe on your wheels you could try rim wheel bands. Those can be applied within a minute and put a slight 50s flair to your car. 

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[2] Kameron, David: Top Dead Center 2: Racing and Wrenching with Cycle World's, p. 169.