Tires are complex parts of a vehicle. They may all look similar, but each type of tire affects overall vehicle performance and safety differently. Tire traction is one aspect of tire construction and testing that provides information about a tire's ability to perform on the road. For example, researchers, engineers, and designers test tires for traction on both wet and dry surfaces to find balance among a tire's performance, longevity, and overall ride.
What is Tire Traction?
Ultimately, tire traction is a measurement of tire performance. Done in a series of controlled tests, tire manufacturers and third-party testers use consistent test vehicles in order to determine performance capability.
Many people take their tire traction for granted, thinking that all tires provide the same traction. The truth is that not all tires are made to excel in the same conditions. Tire designers make different tires for different driving environments. While some off-road and mud tires are made for excellent all-terrain traction capability, other tires enable drivers to navigate the highways more comfortably. In any case, tread compounds and tread patterns are important factors in wet traction and dry traction.
Tread compounds are the materials that designers put into the portion of tires that touch the road. These materials are important for determining dry traction. The tread compound can affect how flexible the tread pattern is against the road.
Tread patterns are the designs of the portion of the tires that touch the road. The tread of a tire may look like it would provide excellent traction in any terrain. However, engineers gear these designs toward dry traction or wet traction. Tread patterns that are good for wet traction have deep grooves that keep water out from underneath the tires.
There are many other variables that play into tire traction including tire construction. Are the tires bias, belted, or radial? If you drive a passenger vehicle like a sedan or minivan, you probably drive on radial tires. How wide are the tires? What is the ratio of the tire's height to its width? The answers to these questions tell us how well a tire will grip the road, which is the true measure of tire traction. RightTurn.com takes all these variables into account, recommending only the best tires that meet automaker and government regulations.
What is Dry Traction?
There are different ways in which tire traction is tested, measured, and recorded. One series of tests determines dry traction. Dry traction is a measure of a tire's traction ability on dry surfaces. These tests are done on paved road surfaces and really put the tire's tack, or stickiness, to the test. Dry traction has a lot to do with the compound that's used to construct the tire. Tires possessing the best dry traction will often have softer tread compounds. The tradeoff to excellent tire traction is shorter tread life. Tires with softer tread compounds also do not fare as well in cold weather.
These traction evaluations also test the construction of the tire, including sidewall sturdiness, flexibility, and the capability of the contact patch, or footprint, to roll in solid contact with the ground. Dry traction tests determine braking and acceleration. Tires that grip the road and don't skid or slide get a higher traction rating.
What is Wet Traction?
Tire traction also measures grip on wet pavement. While many of the same variables are evaluated in a wet traction test, the key variable of wet traction is the tread design. Tread that boasts deep grooves that channel water out from under the tire will provide better wet traction. These grooves keep a film of water from forming under the tires while you drive. Water trapped between the tires and the road causes hydroplaning. When you choose a set of tires with good wet traction ratings, you stand a better chance of avoiding hydroplaning.
The type of tire you need depends greatly on the weather and road conditions where you drive. In some areas, a tire that has excellent dry traction and sufficient wet traction will be appropriate for daily driving needs, while in other areas you may need a tire that is designed for use in rain and light snow.