What is Tire traction and why does it matter?

Key Takeaways

  • Traction is a measure of the grip or adhesion between a tire and the road surface
  • The more traction, the better a tire grips and the less likely it is to lose control or slip
  • Tire Traction rating is available on every tire and is rated from AA to C

When looking to purchase new tires, you should always take into account the traction rating of a tire. You may have heard the term traction before but what exactly is it?

Tire traction is the amount of grip that a tire is able to maintain between itself and the road. It is responsible for giving your car the friction and grip it needs to be able to function. This includes moving off, steering, braking and pretty much anything your vehicle does.

So knowing this, clearly a tires traction is extremely important. When looking at purchasing new tires, there are ways to find out how good a particular tires traction is and how well it is likely to perform before you purchase them.

What is tire traction?

Traction refers to the grip or adhesion between a tire and the surface it is in contact with, typically the road in the context of vehicles. It is a critical factor in determining how well a tire can maintain control and perform on the road.

How traction affects your vehicle

Traction is crucial to ensuring safe and controlled driving. When a tire has good traction, it allows your vehicle to effectively grip the road, providing stability, control, and the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and steer the vehicle safely and in a controlled manner.

Insufficient traction lead to various issues, such as reduced braking performance, difficulty in maintaining control during turns or maneuvers, and generally leave you at an increased risk of skidding or sliding, particularly in adverse weather conditions.

How is traction measured?

A tires traction is measured using the Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) system, which provides information about a tire’s treadwear, traction, and temperature resistance. Traction is indicated by a letter grade: AA, A, B, or C.

  • AA: Provides the highest traction performance on wet roads.
  • A: Offers good traction but not as high as AA.
  • B: Moderately good traction.
  • C: Meets minimum federal standards for traction but may have reduced performance in challenging conditions.

This rating system gives us a general idea of any given tire’s traction capabilities, especially on wet surfaces. This is very helpful for us to check when trying to decide on a new tire for our vehicles. Around 77% of all tires are rated A.

How to find a Tires Traction Rating

The Traction Rating of a tire is found in the tire’s specifications provided by the manufacturer on the retailers website. It can also be found on the tire sidewall. Look for a letter grade (AA, A, B, or C) typically alongside other tire information like the UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grading) ratings.

How to maximise your tires traction

Once you have purchased your chosen tire, it is up to you to maintain your tires to maximize its traction. As we’ve said, this crucial for ensuring safe and controlled driving, especially in challenging road conditions. Here are some tips to help you maximize your new tires traction.

Maintain Proper Tire Pressure

Ensure that your tires are inflated to the recommended pressure levels specified by the vehicle manufacturer. Underinflated or overinflated tires can compromise traction and handling. Regularly check tire pressure and adjust as needed.

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Check Tread Depth

Monitor your tire tread depth regularly. Adequate tread depth is essential for maintaining traction on wet or slippery surfaces. Use the “penny test” or a tread depth gauge to ensure the tread depth meets the recommended minimum level. Replace tires that have worn out treads.

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Use Appropriate Tires

Choose tires that are suitable for the driving conditions you encounter. Consider using winter tires in snowy and icy conditions for enhanced traction. All-season tires are designed to provide good traction in a variety of weather conditions.

Rotate and Align Tires

Regularly rotate your tires to promote even wear and prolong their lifespan. Properly aligned wheels ensure that the tires make optimal contact with the road surface, maximizing traction. Follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended rotation and alignment intervals.

Avoid Sudden Acceleration and Braking

Rapid acceleration and harsh braking can cause the tires to lose traction. Gradually apply acceleration and brake smoothly to maintain control and prevent wheel spin or lock-up.

Drive According to Road Conditions

Adjust your driving style to match the road conditions. Reduce speed on wet, icy, or slippery surfaces to minimize the risk of skidding. Allow for longer stopping distances and maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead.

Avoid Overloading your vehicle

Do not exceed the recommended load capacity for your vehicle and tires. Overloading can lead to reduced traction, handling issues, and increased wear on the tires.

Avoid Aggressive Maneuvers

Aggressive maneuvers like hard cornering or abrupt lane changes can cause the tires to lose grip. Practice smooth and controlled driving techniques to maintain traction and stability.

Keep your Tires Clean

Remove dirt, mud, and other debris from your tires regularly. Accumulated grime can affect traction, especially when driving on wet or slippery surfaces.

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Consider Traction Aids

In extreme conditions, such as deep snow or icy roads, you may benefit from using traction aids like tire chains or snow socks. These devices provide additional grip and traction on slippery surfaces.

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Remember, maximizing tire traction is essential for safe and confident driving. Regular tire maintenance, adjusting driving behavior to match road conditions, and using appropriate tires are key factors in optimizing traction and ensuring a secure driving experience.

What affects the level of traction my tires have?

The quality of your tires is the most important factor determining how much traction you have. Ensuring you purchase good quality tires that are suitable for the weather and terrain is super important if you are to drive your vehicle safely.

The level of traction at any given moment is influenced by various factors, including the condition of the tire’s tread, the composition of your tires rubber, the texture and composition of the road surface, and external elements such as the weather and temperatures involved.

Traction can also be influenced by the type of tire and its specific design features. Some tires are specifically engineered for enhanced traction in particular conditions, such as all-season tires, winter tires, or performance tires.

These tires may have unique tread patterns, rubber compounds, or additional features like siping or grooves to improve grip in specific scenarios.

Tires with worn or bald treads tend to have reduced traction, as the tire’s ability to grip the road is compromised. This can result in longer stopping distances, decreased handling capabilities, and an increased risk of hydroplaning on wet surfaces. It is important to regularly check the condition of your tires and replace them when the tread depth becomes insufficient.

How does Tire Traction relate to Traction Control?

Traction control is a vehicle safety feature designed to help your vehicle maintain traction with the road and prevent wheel slippage. It is particularly useful in situations where there is a risk of your wheels losing traction, such as when driving on wet, icy, or gravel-covered roads.

The basic principle behind traction control is to detect when a wheel or wheels are spinning faster than the desired speed based on the driver’s input and road conditions.

When the system detects that a wheel has lost traction is spinning freely, the system automatically intervenes to reduce engine power and apply braking force to that wheel. This allows your tires the chance to regain traction with the road.

To summarise

Traction is the grip or adhesion between a tire and the road surface. It is a critical aspect of tire performance that directly affects the safety, control, and overall driving experience. Knowing about tire traction allows you to pick the best tires for your vehicle and where to look to find each tires Traction Rating.