Tire maintenance & safety

Tire sipes: Overview & maintenance

Last updated 10/17/2022 - Originally published 9/23/2020
Written by SimpleTire

Tire manufacturers use many methods when designing tires in an effort to increase tire performance. One manufacturing procedure is known as siping, or rubber siping. Beyond manufacturing tires that possess a tire sipe, there are also companies that specialize in the tire siping process and developing machinery that can be used on fleets of vehicles. Siped tires have become incredibly popular in many applications and in many geographic areas. If you're wondering what a tire sipe is, you've come to the right place.

What is a Tire Sipe?

A tire sipe is a relatively simple way to increase tire traction by adding narrow grooves, or small slits, into the existing tread lugs. The tread lugs are the part of the tread pattern that is raised up from the body of the tire. The tread lugs make up the vast majority of the contact patch or footprint of a tire. When a lug possesses additional small grooves, these grooves are known as tire sipes. Tire sipes can generally be found in the designs used on winter tires, mud and snow tires, and tires that are manufactured to run smoothly and safely on wet pavements.

Common Implementation of a Tire Sipe

Tire sipes are commonly seen on a variety of tires. Tires that are manufactured to fit a variety of vehicles will contain sipes in order to offer the benefits of added traction, especially during inclement weather. Passenger cars and trucks, as well as big rigs and cargo vehicles, enjoy many tire options containing siped tread lugs. Goodyear, Continental, Michelin, Bridgestone, Firestone, Pirelli, and many other top brands manufacture tires with sipes on them.

Benefits of Siped Tires

There are many benefits to fitting your vehicle with tires that possess tire sipes. Because tire sipes appear hundreds of times throughout the entire tread of a tire, they're able to provide a tire with better traction through wet and inclement weather. Instead of a solid surface pressing moisture out of the way and toward the grooves in a tire, a tire sipe is able to take in small amounts of moisture as the tire rolls. Tire sipes then push that moisture out from underneath the tire.

As the tire sipes take in moisture, whether snow, slush, or rain, more of the tread lug and contact patch are able to grip the roadway beneath. Horizontal tire sipe patterns generally create better traction on ice surfaces by offering extra edges that can bite into the ice.

Maintaining Tire Sipes and Seasonal Siped Tires

For drivers who want to optimize their vehicle's performance all year long, it's quite common (and recommended) to possess two sets of tires. Drivers may choose a set of high performance or touring tires for the dry months and a set of siped winter tires or mud and snow tires for the months that experience the most precipitation. This allows for ideal and optimal driving scenarios for both safety and performance. Such habits also allow for prolonged life of winter tires, which possess softer rubber compounds that suffer in terms of tread life on warm paved roads.

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