Experiments

Spin A Tire So Fast It Bursts Into Flames

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: YouTube Special."
Seth Joel/Getty Images

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: In 2001, NASCAR driver Jack Sprague's epic burnout sent his truck's rear tires up in flames. This isn't unusual in special racing tires that have been worn down after hours of turning the track, but could an everyday driver do the same with ordinary car tires? This myth reaches breakneck speed as the MythBusters test whether a spinning tire could catch fire.

For years, race drivers have been accelerating while holding down the brake — all to heat tire rubber and get better traction. But to find out whether heat generated from a tire's roadway friction could make an amateur's tire go up in flames, the MythBusters gathered three key incendiary ingredients: oxygen, ignition and fuel (in this case, a car tire).

When spun rapidly, the rubber on this tire disintegrated, causing it to pop before it caught fire. Even when a tire was left spinning on gasoline-soaked pavement in a spray of sparks, all that erupted was a lot of smoke. Seems the gases the ordinary tire gives off as it shreds should act as a flame retardant, giving this rubbery sphere its very own fire prevention system.

Usually if there's smoke, there's fire — but not in this case. Even if you peel out of your driveway, the family car won't go up in flames.

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