Should I get my tires siped
November 27, 2007 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Should I get my tires siped?

My teen daughters are taking a trip across the mountain pass this week. There is forecasted compact snow in places. Would getting my tires siped make a significant difference? Or should we just stick with chains. They are not new tires. They are about a year old.
posted by doppler68 to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
I vote for spending an hour or two with the girls making sure they understand how to put on the chains and take them off and possibly get cables if they aren't familiar with standard chains. As long as you teach them how to put them on and what the limits are driving with them I think they'll be fine and they'll have learned something in the process.
posted by iamabot at 5:44 PM on November 27, 2007

I've lived in mountainous, snowy regions all my life and had never heard of tire siping until this question.

Use chains. The cable ones are pretty easy to put on and take off, and they'll probably give you better traction than siped tires would anyway.
posted by ook at 5:51 PM on November 27, 2007

Another +1 for cables. Just make sure that the girls are strong enough to put them on (The elastic that holds them taut to the tire is sometimes difficult, especially with cold wet hands, that you provide durable gloves so that they don't hurt their hands, etc.
posted by SpecialK at 5:52 PM on November 27, 2007

When I thought about this for my wife what we did was make a kit and stick it all in a milk crate, kit has basically this:

Cables that fit the car - ;)
Photocopied instructions for install/removal. The originals always go missing.
2 Pairs of leather gloves
Spare links or elastics
LED flashlight
3 plastic garbage bags
Old beach towel
Two 20 and one 10 dollar bill to pay chain monkeys to do it.
posted by iamabot at 6:00 PM on November 27, 2007

It's really hard to answer this without seeing pictures of your tires and their current tread configuration. Although I don't do much off-roading any more, the folks I knew who were into it generally only siped tires that had very blocky tread configurations.

As I understand it, siping does several things:

1) It makes your tires more flexible, especially at lower operating pressures. This is great if you are running 8 psi in your bead-locked 36" Super Swampers and want the contact area to conform to every bump on the granite boulder you are crawling over.

2) It adds more grooves to the tread for better grip and better water dispersal in loose and wet conditions, even at full pressure.

In general, for your average tire siping itself is not as good as chains for traction in snow, however, it is a tire prep technique that does have a place if your tires meet certain conditions, such as being large, with a rigid, blocky tread design.

Here are some good links:

Hope this helps!
posted by mosk at 6:04 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and when putting on tire chains in the dark, it's usually more helpful to have a forehead-mounted flashlight, one of the ones on a headband, than it is to have a normal handheld one.
posted by SpecialK at 6:09 PM on November 27, 2007

I haven't driven in snowy weather much, but I've had much better luck with cables than chains. Cables are dead simple to put on, but chains seem more prone to slip off, which can be disastrous.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 7:03 PM on November 27, 2007

With regards to siping, Consumer Reports says that siped tires show "...modest but measurable improvements in snow traction and ice braking. But braking distances on wet or dry pavement were a few feet longer... We don't think the modest gains are worth the extra costs." (Nov. '06 issue)
Here's more.
posted by Floydd at 9:06 PM on November 27, 2007

I've had it done twice on 1 ton trucks that came with big chunky off road tires that were essentially useless in winter. Siping isn't going to make much difference unless you have that kind of massive solid tread blocks. Practically no passenger car tires are good candidates. However if you do have a tire that is a good candidate it makes a huge difference on ice and compact snow; the trade off being reduced tire life because the tread blocks can squirm more and can chunk. If you look at the tread blocks on a good snow tire you'll see they come siped.
posted by Mitheral at 10:32 PM on November 27, 2007

Oh, and when putting on tire chains in the darkdoing just about anything you care to name, it's usually more helpful to have a forehead-mounted stunningly bright and battery-thrifty LED flashlight, one of the ones on a headband, than it is to have a normal handheld one, and they only cost like ten bucks.
posted by eritain at 11:06 PM on November 27, 2007

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