Barbed wire is an easy and inexpensive way to construct fences that will stop anything from dogs to cattle. Though the cutting and piercing barbs can be constructed to stop someone from crossing your property, they won’t have as much success against tires.
Except in rare cases, barbed wire cannot puncture a car tire. The thickness of tire treads combined with the relatively shallow barbs of most barbed wire fences means that most cars can drive over it without a problem. However, a well-built barbed wire fence has the potential to stop a vehicle if the wires wrap around the wheels of the car.
Overall, barbed wire isn’t a major threat to your car tires, but you still probably shouldn’t try to drive over it! Understanding the composition and dangers of barbed wire will help you (and your vehicle) avoid harm in the future.
Barbed wire, barb wire, and razor wire are all names used to describe a similar sort of metal wire used for security. It came into use during the late 1800s, where it was used to divide grazing areas in the American West, allowing cattle owners to better control their herds. Barbed wire made a huge impact on the lives of cowboys and ranchers because it allowed larger herds of animals to be controlled and managed with less manpower.
Fences made out of barbed wire became extremely popular in the years that followed because they were cheap, relatively easy to set up, and extremely effective. Barbed wire fences are also extremely durable; they don’t break or wear out very easily. The posts are driven deep into the ground and can hold an enormous amount of tensile pressure, with each segment of the fence being strong enough to stop a rampaging animal.
Though they were (and still are) useful tools for people trying to secure their property, they remain a hazard to anyone driving or hiking offroad. Abandoned fences are a particularly big danger because they may have fallen over and rusted.
Thankfully, barbed wire was never designed to puncture car tires. It is mainly used today for the same purposes as it was when it was invented- to contain animals. It is also used in prisons against poorly equipped inmates and sometimes against infantry soldiers during times of war.
“The likelihood of barbed wire puncturing a car tire is low enough that some people use barbed wire to stud their wheels during the winter. Rather than buying chains or snow tires, they simply wrap barbed wire around each of a car’s wheels.”
Potential Damage to Vehicles from Barbed Wire
The barbs on a barbed wire fence are meant to discourage animals from bothering the fence, not to deflate tires. The fact is that most of the barbs are less than an inch long, and will not get past a tire’s tread and into the tube. Razor wire (a cousin to the old barbed wire fence) does even less damage to tires, as it uses cutting edges rather than points to discourage trespassers. Because of the thickness of tire treads, razor wire will do next to no damage to the tires themselves.
If you wish to stop cars or other vehicles from being able to cross your property, barbed wire can still be an effective tool- just not against the tires. Apart from being used in a solid fence, it can also slow or disable vehicles if it is spread intentionally across the ground. Though it isn’t the most effective strategy, barbed wire could entangle and damage a car’s axle badly enough for the car to stop.
Cars are built to prevent this sort of damage, but there is only so much you can do against the entangled wires. The most damage would probably be done if the wire is spread in long, overlapping strips so that if any barb gets stuck in a tire’s treads, it will wrap one of the ends around the wheel’s axle.
The likelihood of barbed wire puncturing a car tire is low enough that some people use barbed wire to stud their wheels during the winter. Rather than buying chains or snow tires, they simply wrap barbed wire around each of a car’s wheels. The barbs stick in the tire treads deeply enough that they won’t fall out, but not deeply enough to breach the tube. The wire and barbs give the vehicle more traction, and even some defense against hazards (like more barbed wire!). When doing this, however, car owners must take care to avoid damaging their vehicle.
That being said, a well-built barbed wire fence is capable of stopping just about everything. Whatever they are built to stop, they will probably do so, whether it’s an escaping prisoner or a vehicle.
Unlike your common chain-link fence, which is segmented and connected only by small pieces of metal, barbed wire fence posts are usually tightened with up to a half-ton of tension, and they are linked together to support one another.
Security Applications of Barbed Wire
Though barbed wire isn’t very effective against tire treads, it is still a powerful tool for security purposes. The military has been using barbed wire for many years against enemy infantry. Most famously, barbed wire was erected between enemy trenches during World War 1, where it effectively defended both sides from the infantry charges.
However, the war showed that while barbed wire will stop a man, it will not stop a machine. Tanks destroyed fortifications made out of barbed wire during the latter parts of World War 1, and though it is still used today, it is only meant to stop infantry.
If someone intends to cross through a spot that is defended by barbed wire, their best option (apart from thick gloves) would be wire cutters. A pair of wire cutters can quickly make any barbed wire fortification easily traversable, which is why barbed wire is mostly used to contain animals, soldiers under fire, and prisoners.
All in all, while driving over any barbed wire is certainly not recommended because of the risk that it could tangle around your axle, you probably won’t suffer a flat tire. Tire treads are thick and tough and would be capable of crossing terrain that a human or an animal could not.
Don’t try to drive through barbed wire fences, but don’t expect a fence to do much against a determined individual who brought the tools for the job. Still, a tall barbed wire fence will do a lot to discourage trespassers, whether they are driving or not.