Tire Siping for Better On & Off-Road Performance

Tire siping can greatly improve off road traction on rocks, ice and hard pack snow. Other advantages include a quieter, smoother ride, and longer tire life.

Tire Siping History

Siping was first discovered during the 1920's by John Sipe who worked in a slaughterhouse plagued with slippery floors.

John came up with the idea to make tiny cuts in the smooth soles of his shoes to give better traction on the slippery floor.

His idea worked so well that he applied for and received a patent for the siping process we are discussing today.

Tire Siping Pros and Why It Helps

1. Siping For Better Traction

Most tire surfaces are not smooth, but consist of many smaller surfaces know as Tread Blocks. The Tread Blocks get their gripping power not from the smooth tops of the blocks, but from the sharper edges surrounding the blocks.

The many tiny cuts created through the siping process increase the number of gripping edges on the tire. This provides better traction and braking, especially on wet and icy surfaces.

2. Smoother Ride

Most road surfaces consist of a rough texture that gets worse over time. Consequently your tires have to absorb most of the impact. This causes a lot of stress to the tire.

Siping the tires make the tread more flexible, thus creating less road shock, resulting in a smoother ride, less stress on the tire and longer life.

3. Heat Reduction

Heat can be a tire's worst enemy, causing it to wear faster or even fail. Siping produces results similar to that of a radiator. Sipes allow the tire to warm up to operating temperature faster, but then causes them to run cooler down the road.

Siping doesn’t necessarily reduce friction, the tiny slits allow more airflow over the tire surface resulting in better cooling. A cooler running tire lasts longer!

Types of Tire Siping

1. Machine Siping 

Tire siping involves placing tires (new or used) on a specially designed machine found at many tire shops. The siping machine rotates the tires while making small almost invisible cuts in the tread.

2. Hand Siping 

There are several reasonably priced hand tools on the market that allow individuals to do their own siping while some people even make their own siping tools out of utility knifes.

3. Factory Siping 

Factory Siping has become quite popular for Mud and Snow and All-Terrain tires. Mud-Terrain and specialty tires are usually not siped at the factory.

Factory tire siping is usually quite visible and deep, while aftermarket jobs are shallower and can hardly be seen at first. Actually the factory siping is seen more and more as time goes on.

Who sipes their tires and why?

1. Racecar tires are sometimes siped and grooved to compensate for current track conditions.

2. Rock crawlers sipe their tires for more flexibility and grip on the rocks.

3. Vehicles with Mud-Terrain and Specialty tires, driven on the highway sipe to gain better traction in wet and icy conditions. Siping can also cause the tire to ride smoother and last longer. Siping the outer lugs can cause chunking, so be careful!.

4. Siping can improve the traction of an older tire that has at least 50% tread life remaining. Siping with any less remaining tread could damage the tire body.

Tire Warranty Considerations

There is a lot of talk about aftermarket siping voiding the tire warranty. It’s best to check with your tire provider before siping your tires. BFG and Bridgestone seem to be ok with siping as long as sniping isn’t the cause of your warranty claim!

Tire Grooving

Tire grooving is very similar to tire siping. The main difference being that siping cuts, but removes no rubber, whereas grooving does remove rubber.

Grooving can be used to design custom tread patterns or just to modify existing tread blocks for better grip, quieter ride and to possibly extend tread life.

Some grooving tools can double as siping tools and visa versa by changing blades. Tire siping involves the use of small thin sharp blades that only cut. Grooving tools use half round or horseshoe looking blades that more or less scoop the rubber off.

The better siping and grooving tools use electric heating elements to heat the blades and tire, which enables smooth and easy cutting.

Siping and Grooving Tool Manufacturers

1. Ideal Heated Knives

Manufactures a reasonably priced “heated” tool that excels at both Tire Siping and Grooving.

Ideal Heated Knives
P.O. Box 187
New Hudson, MI 48165-0187
(248) 437-1510

2. Saf-Tee Siping & Grooving

Manufacture a quality line of Tire Siping Machines used in many popular tire shops.

3. Van Alstine Manufacturing Co

The Van Alstine G-1000 Tire Groover is one of the most widely used and respected on the market.

4. Allstar Performance

Manufacturers a simple, inexpensive, hand Siping Tool.

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