What Are Tire Sipes? (All You Need To Know)

Tire manufacturers and vehicle owners are always on the lookout for ways to improve the traction and performance of their tires.

So, if you’ve come across the term ‘tire siping’ in a discussion about improving tire performance, you may be wondering – what are tire sipes? Keep reading for everything you need to know about this subject!

What Are Tire Sipes?

Tire sipes are razor-thin cuts made across the tread surface to improve the traction, handling, and braking performance of tires. Siping improves the grip of tires on snowy and wet surfaces, and increases the traction and safety. However, vehicle owners should ensure siping is legal in their state before getting this treatment on their tires.

If you want to learn more about how tire sipes work, whether tire siping is illegal, where you can get your tires siped and more, keep reading for more useful facts!

How Do Tire Sipes Work?

Sipes primarily work by increasing the area of tread surface exposed to the road by creating more ‘biting edges’ in the tread.

With more area coming into contact with the road, traction goes up and tires are able to achieve a stronger grip on the surface.

Who Invented Sipes?

Who Invented Sipes?

The idea of ‘siping’ was first conceived by John Sipe, who realized that he could avoid slipping on wet surfaces by making thin cuts across the bottom of his shoes.

Realizing the potential of this idea, John’s son, Harry Sipe, began to popularise the siping process for low-pressure balloon tires in the late 1930s.

Eventually, this idea was picked up by tire manufacturing giant Goodyear, who improved the process further and applied it to the tires it produced for commercial vehicles.

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What Are The Advantages Of Tire Siping?

Tire siping offers several advantages, those of which are described below:

Improved Traction

As described earlier, siping improves the traction of your vehicle’s tires, providing more grip on all kinds of surfaces.

This is particularly useful if you’re driving in snowy or wet conditions since the siped tires will increase safety by making it easier for you to handle the vehicle and keep it under your control.

Stronger Braking

By increasing the surface area of tread exposed to the road and improving traction, siping also increases the braking power of your vehicle, allowing you to come to a stop faster.

More Comfort

The thin cuts in sipes increase the ‘micro-flexibility’ of your tires near the tread surface, providing you with more comfort while driving over rough and uneven terrains.

Increased Service Life

Preventing your tires from getting too hot is important to extend the service life of your tires, and sipes help in this regard by creating ‘mini-chambers’ on the tread that can trap heat and allow the air to disperse it, thus cooling your tires faster.

In the long run, this reduces the rate of wear experienced by your tires and extends their lifespan.

What Are The Downsides Of Tire Siping?

What Are The Downsides Of Tire Siping?

Even though tires are already minimally siped during the manufacturing process, some vehicle owners prefer to do some more after-market siping to increase the performance of their tires.

If you’re looking to get your tires siped after purchasing them, you should keep in mind some potential drawbacks of getting this done.

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First, tire siping, depending on how it’s done, may void your treadwear warranty since it changes the structure and performance characteristics of your tire.

Therefore, it’s best to contact your tire manufacturer to make sure they are okay with tire siping before you get it done.

As well, if the siping is not done properly (using the right machines), you may end up degrading and deteriorating the performance, traction, and handling of your tires.

Is Tire Siping Illegal?

In several U.S. states, tire siping is illegal because it changes the footprint of tires approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Keep in mind that siped tires that are no longer DOT-approved cannot be used on highways, so you should only consider siping if you are planning to use your tires for off-road driving.

How Is Tire Siping Done?

Siping is done by special machines which rotate your tires slowly and make small, 90-degree cuts on the tread surface (which are barely visible).

Additionally, these machines use a patented spiral cutting method which allows the tread to retain its toughness by keeping the tie bars intact.

Where Can You Get Tires Siped?

Where Can You Get Tires Siped?

You can get your tires siped from any professional tire mechanic near you, but you should make sure they use the specialized machine for the process instead of doing it manually.

As well,  you can also visit nearby locations of popular chains such as Les Schwabb and Discount Tire to get your tires siped properly, which typically costs around $15 or more for each tire at most dealerships and service centers.

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Can You Sipe Tires Yourself?

Although it’s recommended that you get your tires siped by a professional, you can do the siping yourself if you need extra traction for some heavy snow or live far away from a workshop.

To perform the siping, you will need a sharp tool to make cuts. Ideally, you should get a heated tire grooving knife from a store like Amazon, but if that isn’t possible, you can make do with any sharp utility knife.

Make sure you make the cuts across the surface of the tread (perpendicular to the direction of travel) to make the sipes work effectively.

Additionally, avoid making cuts deeper than 2-3mm on normal passenger vehicle tires and deeper than 5-6mm on large truck tires, as this will weaken your tread significantly.

If you want to know more, you can also see our posts on what are bald tires, if plugging a tire is safe, and what are cupped tires.

Conclusion

Tire sipes are thin cuts made into the tread of a tire to improve its traction, and when done properly, improves the grip of your tires, increases braking power, and makes your tires last longer.

Overall, tire siping is useful to achieve better handling and traction in snowy and wet conditions. However, note that siping is not legal in all states for vehicles used on the highway, and may also void the treadwear warranty of your tires if not done properly.

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