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Tire Siping 101: All You Need to Know & More

May 21st 2021

Tire Siping 101: All You Need to Know & More

Sipes have been a staple in tread design for a long time. Different brands use this tire detail to improve the traction and durability of their models. To ensure longer usability, excellent handling, improved braking, and better year round traction, small slits and cuts are added to the tires' footprint.

What are Tire Sipes?

Tire sipes, or kerf as they are sometimes called, are a detail added to the tire tread. The siping consists of thin slits cut or molded into the tread blocks, which help to increase the grip in harsher weather conditions.

In other words, they improve the tires' grip on wet, snow, and ice-covered surfaces, optimizing the braking, handling, overall performance, and lifespan.

closeup of tire sipes

Closeup of a tire tread with clearly visible tire sipes.

The tire surface consists of versatile blocks, lugs, grooves, and slits, which work together to increase the tires' performing traction. They prevent the tire from slipping and optimize its performing ability.

Tire siping was invented by John F. Sipe, who patented his invention in 1923. However, his idea was for the soles of shoes and originally his patent did not work so well on tires. Later, Goodyear took over and improved the siping to upgrade the vehicle performance and the tires' grip.

Do Tire Sipes Work?

Yes, the slits along the footprint work up to a certain point on snow and ice, as well as muddy surfaces. The slits cut into the rubber across the tire tread optimize the tires' surface grip and performing ability by providing a higher number of biting edges.

While they have their setbacks, they ensure better traction, heat build-up resistance, optimized wear formations, and optimize performance.

Pros & Cons of Tire Sipes

Like with all things, these footprint slits come with their own sets of positive and negative outcomes. Let's take a look at why these special footprint elements are good, and when can they hinder the performance of your vehicle.

Pros of Tire Sipes

  • Increase traction in harsher conditions
  • Upgraded and shortened braking
  • Improved surface grip and controllability
  • Longer lasting service life

Cons of Tire Sipes

  • Loss of surface grip in high-heat conditions

Winter, Summer, and All Season Tires Siped

There is a good reason why winter, summer and all season tires do not have similar treading. Different weather conditions require versatile footprint elements to ensure the tire's better traction and driving safety.

winter summer and all season tire sipes

Closeup of winter, summer and all season tire sipes.

Winter Tire Siping

Winter tires feature the highest density of the slits. They can be versatile details added to the tread area in order to improve traction on ice and snow-covered surfaces. The extra biting edges provided by these elements improve the tires' surface grip during the vehicle's colder weather application.

Summer Tire Siping

Summer tires do not boast many sipes. That's because, in summer conditions, the tire generates its traction with the rubber to road contact. Additional footprint details would just hinder the vehicle's durability and generate more pressure between the road surface and the tire footprint.

All Season Tire Siping

The in-between are all season tires, which do have siping detail on them but it's less dense than that of winter tires. These models utilize both the additional biting edges and the road-to-rubber ratio of the footprint to generate a better grip and boost the overall controllability.

Mud and All Terrain Tire Sipes

Many might not believe it, but all terrain and mud terrain models also feature small slits. While they are not extremely detailed, they still enhance the off-road terrain grip. Furthermore, some mud and all terrain models are even pinned for studs, to further increase the cold temperature driving safety levels.

Is Aftermarket Tire Siping a Good Idea?

Tire siping is not a good idea in most instances. While it will enhance the traction and the performance in winter weather situations, unfortunately, it comes with too many setbacks. It will cause accelerated wear, elongate the braking distances and hinder the model's performing ability.

mechanic siping tires

Mechanic siping tires.

Aftermarket tire siping is the process of cutting small slits into the footprint in order to shorten its braking distances and boosts traction, and performance. However, it does come with its setbacks. Unfortunately, manufacturers do not accept this service and, in most cases, it will void the tread wear warranty as it causes the tires to have accelerated service lives. Furthermore, adding extra details to the footprint can hinder the tire's summer weather application.

However, if you wish to have your tires siped, be sure you search for a reputable tire shop. The dealer you take your tore to needs to do the siping properly. Otherwise, it could lead to damage to the tread area, which will DEFINITELY cancel any warranty the manufacturers give with the specific models.

Should You Sipe Your Own Tires?

There are tools you can purchase online which you could use to sipe your tires. Buying such a tool will save you a few bucks in the long run, as you will be able to do it for free at home. As long as you know what you are doing, you can manage siping your own tires. Just be sure you know the setbacks aftermarket siping and be careful during the process, as you could hurt yourself too.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is tire siping illegal?

In most states, tire siping is illegal. This process modifies a footprint approved by the Department of Transportation, which will void its highway usability. Added slits will shorten the service life and hinder its performance, even if they increase traction.

How much does siping tires cost?

The cost of siping tires depends on the dealer you choose. Roughly speaking, the prices start at $15 and go up from there, which would be about $60 for the tire set. You can search online for shops near you that provide this service.

Does tire siping increase tire life?

Tire siping will not increase the tires' life. In fact, it will shorten it. The additional slits will cause move tread movement, causing heat build-up. The tread design is already optimized by the manufacturer and siping the footprint will cause the warranty to be voided.

Does siping tires reduce noise?

Siping the tires will not reduce the noise levels heard in the vehicle's cabin. Siped tires are designed by the manufacturer to minimize the road noise heard, which is ensured with the original kerf placement. However, any added details will definitely diminish the driving enjoyment with higher sound levels.

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