What part on the automobile hasn't changed its design in over 100 years? Sounds like a good trivia question, doesn't it? The answer: it's the tire valve. Whether they're tubeless or have a tube, there's a tire valve on very wheel—a design patented in 1898.
The Duryea brothers may have been the first car manufacturers in North America to put pneumatic tires on their horseless carriage.
But if it hadn't been for the invention of the tire valve by August Schrader and his son, George, there wouldn't be an air-tight seal to keep tires from going flat over time.
The Schrader valve has been an American standard for 102 consecutive years and a world standard for more than 76 years.
George Schrader is credited with the pioneering effort and experimental work that resulted in the improved patents issued in l898 for the current housing design with its removable and interchangeable core and cap.
The late David Beecroft, former president of the Society of Automotive Engineers, called tire valve development ``deservedly the ace of automotive standardization.
``The valve interior, or core of today, fits the valve housing of 1898 with equal facility and the removable valve core and the cap with the tire valve housing comprise the only standard in world-wide use in the automotive industry,''Mr. Beecroft said.
Charles Goodyear patented rubber vulcanizing in l839 and August Schrader arrived in New York from Hanover, Germany, a year later. Four years after Mr. Schrader's arrival in America, the industrious German started his own company.
With over 30 rubber outlets and warehouses in Manhattan, Mr. Schrader found himself immersed in the new growth industry.
To accommodate the needs of manufacturers, the company machined the molds and brass fittings necessary for turning out rubber products.
In l890—after some English cyclists outclassed all competition with their cushioned pneumatic tires at a race in Niagara Falls—the company was asked to develop an air-tight seal for pneumatic tires.
Two years later, the Schraders applied for their first tire valve patent.
Improvements on the original design were patented six years later in 1898, which ultimately made their valve the accepted standard for the world and became the nucleus for their company's success.
Today, the company is known as Schrader-Bridgeport International Inc., with headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., and world-wide manufacturing plants in Brazil, India, France and Japan.
The tiny valve cores are machined from brass rod and chrome plated.
Mike Doster, a design engineer at Schrader's Monroe, N.C., plant, said the company makes seven sizes of valve inserts for today's tubeless tires and a couple of dozen different lengths.
``But, they're all basically the same design, which hasn't changed in over 100 years,'' Mr. Doster said.
Mr. Campbell is a freelance writer living in Brookfield, Wis.