Nokian Tyres fights potholes with the same material used in bulletproof vests. An expert explains how.

Potholes are awfully hungry this time of year. The culprit: water freezes beneath the road surface, then expands to create cracks that love to eat tires. The average U.S. driver spends as much as $600 each year on maintenance costs tied to poor road quality.

Nokian Tyres uses a surprising material to help protect against damage from potholes and other road hazards: Aramid, the same fiber found in bulletproof vests.

"Freeze-thaw definitely causes potholes – we’ve all seen it out on the road. And it’s more than just potholes, it’s also some curb-bashing that can happen…I know that happened recently to my wife," says Nokian Tyres North America Director of Products Steve Bourassa. "Those are some real dangers out on the road that cause major inconvenience for drivers out there. Anything we can do to help prevent those are certainly a benefit to the consumer. One of the great ways we’ve found is by using Aramid fibers in the tires."

Let's be clear: We don't recommend trying to shoot holes in your tires -- that's not how this version of Aramid works. Instead, we blend Aramid fibers into the sidewalls of our latest-generation tires to reinforce them with puncture-resistant strength.

"Aramid provides mechanical strength to the tires," Bourassa says. "It’s one of the additives we include as filler to our rubber compounds. By meshing together with the rubber, it kind of acts like fiberglass would. It’s a lightweight material that adds mechanical strength and helps prevent damage that would cut your sidewalls or create road hazard bubbles you sometimes see on your tires."

Those punctures often lead to blowouts and flats. Many tiremakers work hard to instill their tires with enough strength to resist those fates. But unlike many solutions, Aramid comes with very few drawbacks. 

"One way a tire manufacturer can reinforce a tire is by adding more rubber to the sidewall that would make it stronger, but that would create a heavier tire and change the dynamics of the tire and the handling properties," says Bourassa. "By making the tire heavier, it would also detract from the rolling resistance. Nokian Tyres is developing ways of reinforcing the tires without adding significant weight. Aramid fibers are a great way to do that."

Nokian Tyres first added Aramid to our SUV tires several years ago. Since then, we've been incorporating it throughout our product portfolio, most recently in the Nokian Tyres One (for passenger cars) and Nokian Tyres One HT (for SUVs and light trucks). In fact, some versions of the Nokian Tyres One HT are even embedded with Aramid Tough Armor beneath the tread, too.

"Anything we can do to help prevent those are certainly a benefit to the consumer," Bourassa says. "By including Aramid fibers in all our products, there really isn’t much adverse effect. It doesn’t have a big impact on handling properties or anything like that. Really, it’s all benefit by having Aramid fibers included in our products."