What Is The Meaning Of “When The Rubber Hits The Road?”

In truth, there are two primary meanings to this common saying. Firstly, “When the rubber hits the road” can be used as a saying to describe when an idea or presumption is put to the test. 

On the other hand, the saying can also be used to describe when a situation becomes serious or has a lot of importance. 

Some synonymous phrases include:

  • Pull out all the stops.”
  • Buckle down.
  • See if it holds water.”

How Did “When The Rubber Hits The Road” Originate?

This phrase seems to have originated from how wheeled vehicles operate. Most modern vehicles have tires made from rubber, which contact the road when driving. Thus, when your car is driving, its rubber hits the road!

One reason we can track down this phrase is due to the invention of rubber wheels in 1888. Because we have such a firm invention date, we can assume that this phrase came sometime after. 

Some of the earliest recording sources using this phrase date back to the mid-1950s. Most of the early records occur in local newspapers. Sometimes in older examples, you may see the word “meets” used instead of “hits,” although they are both technically a part of the same phrase!

Examples Of Using “When The Rubber Hits The Road” 

  • Jonathan practiced playing guitar for many months in preparation for his upcoming performance. He was nervous about messing up, but he sounded great when the rubber hit the road
  • We shouldn’t be slacking off so much in school. It is nice to hang out with friends and have fun, but education is really important when the rubber hits the road
  • We can plan all we want, but the real issues will arise when the rubber meets the road. 

You can find more common expressions explained here

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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