In its primitive form, a wheel is a circular block of a hard and durable material at whose center has been bored a circular hole through which is placed an axle bearing about which the wheel rotates when a moment is applied by gravity or torque to the wheel about its axis, thereby making together one of the six simple machines. When placed vertically under a load-bearing platform or case, the wheel turning on the horizontal axle makes it possible to transport heavy loads; when placed horizontally, the wheel turning on its vertical axle makes it possible to control the spinning motion used to shape materials (e.g. a potter's wheel); when mounted on a column connected to a rudder or a chassis mounted on other wheels, one can control the direction of a vessel or vehicle (e.g. a ship's wheel or steering wheel); when connected to a crank or engine, a wheel can store, release, or transmit energy (e.g. the flywheel).
A drive wheel is a wheel of a motor vehicle that transmits force, transforming torque into tractive force from the tires to the road, causing the vehicle to move. The powertrain delivers enough torque to the wheel to overcome stationary forces, resulting in the vehicle moving forwards or backwards.
A two-wheel drive vehicle has two driven wheels, typically both at the front or back, while a four-wheel drive has four.
A steering wheel is a wheel that turns to change the direction of a vehicle. A trailer wheel is one that is neither a drive wheel, nor a steer wheel. Front-wheel drive vehicles typically have the rear wheels as trailer wheels.
For four-wheeled vehicles, two-wheel drive describes vehicles that transmit torque to at most two road wheels, referred to as either front- or rear-wheel drive. The term 4x2 is also used, to indicate four total road-wheels with two being driven.
For vehicles that have partial four-wheel drive, the term two-wheel drive refers to the mode when four-wheel drive is deactivated and torque is applied to only two wheels.
A tire (American English) or tyre (British English; see spelling differences) is a ring-shaped component that surrounds a wheel's rim to transfer a vehicle's load from the axle through the wheel to the ground and to provide traction on the surface traveled over. Most tires, such as those for automobiles and bicycles, are pneumatically inflated structures, which also provide a flexible cushion that absorbs shock as the tire rolls over rough features on the surface. Tires provide a footprint that is designed to match the weight of the vehicle with the bearing strength of the surface that it rolls over by providing a bearing pressure that will not deform the surface excessively.
The materials of modern pneumatic tires are synthetic rubber, natural rubber, fabric and wire, along with carbon black and other chemical compounds. They consist of a tread and a body. The tread provides traction while the body provides containment for a quantity of compressed air. Before rubber was developed, the first versions of tires were simply bands of metal fitted around wooden wheels to prevent wear and tear. Early rubber tires were solid (not pneumatic). Pneumatic tires are used on many types of vehicles, including cars, bicycles, motorcycles, buses, trucks, heavy equipment, and aircraft. Metal tires are still used on locomotives and railcars, and solid rubber (or other polymer) tires are still used in various non-automotive applications, such as some casters, carts, lawnmowers, and wheelbarrows.
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