The road surface plays a significant role in how tires perform and interact with the driving environment. Different road surfaces have varying textures, compositions, and conditions, which influence tire traction, handling, and overall performance.
Being aware of how a different road surface affect tires can help prevent you from finding yourself in a dangerous situation. There are a whole range of different road surfaces and some can be very dangerous if driven on in an unsuitable manner.
In this article we will talk about how road surface affect tires, how this can influence the level of grip and traction that your tires will be able to put down, and how to approach driving on each type of road surface.
Ways Road Surface Affect Tires
Your tires are one of the most important aspects of your vehicle as they are the only part that is in contact with the road. Knowing how different surfaces can affect your tires is important to remaining safe. Here are some ways in which road surfaces affect tires.
The level of traction between the tire and the road surface depends on factors like the texture and grip of the road. Smooth asphalt or concrete surfaces generally provide good traction, allowing the tire to grip the road efficiently.
On the other hand, rough or uneven surfaces, such as gravel or unpaved roads, can reduce traction and increase the risk of tire slippage. This is because the rough terrain prevents the tire from making maximum contact with the ground.
Rain and Wet Surfaces
Wet or slippery road surfaces, including rain-soaked roads, icy patches, or oil spills, pose challenges for tire traction. These surfaces can significantly reduce the tire’s ability to grip the road, increasing the risk of skidding or hydroplaning.
Tires with proper tread patterns and rubber compounds designed for wet conditions help displace water and improve traction.
Road noise and Tire Roar
The road surface can contribute to the level of noise experienced inside the vehicle. Different road textures and conditions can generate varying levels of noise as the tires roll over them. Smoother surfaces generally produce less road noise, while rougher surfaces can result in increased noise and vibration.
All tires experience wear when being driven on. The kind of road surface will impact the rate at which tires wear. Abrasive surfaces, such as coarse asphalt or gravel roads, can accelerate tire tread wear. Potholes, road debris, and uneven surfaces can cause irregular tire wear patterns and potentially lead to premature tire damage.
Premature tire wear will erode the performance of your tires sooner than it would on smoother roads. This will cause your tires to provide less grip after a shorter period of time and also be more prone to hydroplaning with less tread depth.
Comfort and Ride Quality
The quality of the road surface affects the overall comfort and ride quality of the vehicle. Smooth and well-maintained roads provide a more comfortable ride, reducing the impact felt by the tires and the vehicle’s occupants. Rough or poorly maintained roads can result in a harsher ride and increased vibrations.
The type of tire and height of the sidewalls can also make a difference on a tires overall comfort and ride quality.
The road surface also influences rolling resistance, which refers to the energy required to keep the tires moving. Smoother surfaces typically offer lower rolling resistance, allowing the vehicle to travel more efficiently and consume less fuel. Rough or uneven surfaces can increase rolling resistance, leading to reduced fuel efficiency.
This also increases the wear on the tire and the amount of friction and wear that the tire experiences.
Handling and Stability
The road surface affects a vehicle’s handling and stability. Different road conditions can impact traction, cornering capabilities, and the vehicle’s ability to maintain stability. Tires with appropriate tread patterns and compounds designed for specific road conditions can enhance handling performance.
Different Road Surfaces
It’s important to adapt driving behaviour and tire selection to match the road surface and conditions encountered. Here are a list of the most common road surfaces and how they affect tire performance.
Asphalt is a common road surface material. It provides a smooth and relatively quiet ride for vehicles. However, prolonged exposure to hot asphalt can cause tire overheating, leading to increased wear and reduced tire life. This heated road surface will also affect a tires performance as it will soften the rubber and wear it down faster.
Asphalt is the standard type of road surface which nearly all tires are designed to drive upon. No special attention is required to drive on asphalt roads. You still however need to bear in mind the weather you are likely to experience and purchase suitable tires for the conditions.
Concrete roads are known for their durability and long lifespan. They offer good traction and stability. However, concrete surfaces can be rougher than asphalt, resulting in increased road noise and potentially causing more vibration and impact on tires.
Concrete is a common choice of road surface for highways thanks to the durability. All tire types are suitable to drive on concrete roads. Just be aware that it may not be as comfortable a ride as driving on asphalt.
Gravel roads consist of loose stones and can vary in terms of size and compactness. They can be challenging for tires due to reduced traction, especially during wet or icy conditions. Gravel roads may cause stones to be kicked up, leading to potential tire damage or punctures from particularly large or sharp stones.
Gravel roads are common in the country and on farmland. It is often used as a cheap substitute to mark out carparks or paths for vehicles to drive down. We always advise driving slower on gravel surfaces and to avoid large rocks.
Cobblestone roads feature individual stones laid closely together. The uneven surface of cobblestones can be harsh on tires and your vehicles suspension, leading to increased vibration, impact, and potentially a bumpy ride.
Tires may wear out more quickly on cobblestone surfaces and offer less precise steering input. We would advise driving slower and more carefully on cobbled roads.
Dirt roads lack pavement and are generally made of soil or gravel. These roads can be challenging for tires, especially during rainy or muddy conditions. Traction is significantly reduced, and the risk of getting stuck or slipping increases.
For long periods of driving on dirt roads, off-road tires are recommended. They are stronger and larger which makes them more suitable to deal with the rough and uneven surface. They are also also able to withstand more rough treatment than average road tires.
Wet road surfaces, regardless of the material, can significantly affect tire performance. Water reduces the amount of traction available and this reduces the tire’s ability to grip the road, leading to increased braking distances, reduced handling, and an increased risk of hydroplaning.
Not all tires perform as well on wet roads. Slick tires are the worst as they have no tread to channel water away.
All season tires are usually the best on wet roads, however tires that are better on wet roads are strongly correlated with the more a tire costs. This is because of the extra time and research and high quality of materials that go into the tire, making it better at performing in wet conditions.
- Designed for pickups and SUVs with very limited operating clearance around tires
- Fast easy installation with no need to move the vehicle
- Designed-in rubber tightener means no need to retighten after installation
- Better all-around traction performance than conventional tire chains or cables
- Greater durability than conventional tire chains or cables
Snow and ice-covered roads pose a considerable challenge for tires. Reduced traction and grip make it difficult for tires to maintain control, leading to increased skidding and longer braking distances. Winter tires or chains are recommended for driving in such conditions.
Winter tires or good all season tires are a necessity when driving in sub zero conditions. These tires have a softer compound with specially designed tread patterns to work on snow and ice. Off road tires are also very useful in deep snow thanks to their tall tires and deep sipes.
It’s important to note that tire design, tread pattern, and tire pressure also play significant roles in how tires perform on different road surfaces. Proper maintenance, regular tire checks, and choosing the right tires for specific road conditions can help optimize tire performance and longevity.
Now that you know all the different ways that the road surface affect tires, you can be better prepared to drive on all these surfaces. Always make sure that your tires are correct for the surface and the environment you are driving in.