Tire Siping for Winter Driving

Dear Tracy,

I recently heard about process called tire siping. Apparently this is something you can have done to your tires to improve traction and handling on snow and ice. Is this something I should do this fall, before winter arrives?

-Duncan S.

Dear Duncan,

Tire siping is a process that involves cutting slices across the tire tread. The idea is that the slice spreads open on the road surface, griping it and dispersing water to improve tire traction.

The concept of siping actually began with shoe rubber, not tires. In the early 20’s a slaughterhouse employee by the name of John Sipe found a solution to the problem of his shoes slipping on the wet floor. Sipe tried cutting groves into the bottoms of his rubber shoes and discovered that it greatly improved their traction. Mr. Sipe had the foresight to realize that his discovery would be useful and had the concept patented. About 30 years later, by the 1950’s, tire manufacturers were widely using the siping concept in their tire tread designs. Specialized siping patterns are still used today for a variety of tires.

As to whether or not after-market tire siping is a good idea, opinions differ. Tire siping machines have been developed do a variety of configurations for after-market tire modification. Those who believe in tire siping contend that it offers significant performance and safety benefits. The problem with siping, others say, is that today’s tire manufacturers already use siping in the design and manufacture of new tires. Extensive engineering and performance testing goes into modern tread design, so many experts believe there is no need for after-market modification. Another consideration is that after-market siping could void your tread-wear warranty.

When considering tire siping, first talk to your tire dealer about  the type, condition, and age of your tires. Rather than make irreversible changes to your tires, consider purchasing a quality set of winter tires, which are designed to incorporate siping features and benefits.

About Automotive Recalls

Dear Tracy,

I have recently become a new car owner for the first time in my life, and am super excited to finally own a vehicle that I can rely on! It did occur to me, though, that there are sometimes recalls on cars. Can you explain what a car recall means, how I will know if there is one, and what I need to do?


Grace M.

Dear Grace,

Congratulations on your new car! Odds are great that you will have many worry-free miles ahead before you have any issues, providing that you take good care of your vehicle and tires. Automotive recalls do happen, however, so your questions are good ones to ask.

The reason for an automotive recall to be issued is that a problem has been discovered, which poses a risk of injury or property damage. It can be the manufacturer that issues the recall, or sometimes recalls are ordered by the U.S. Department of Transportation through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, upon investigation of problems that have been reported.

While car owners may learn of a recall on the news or by word-of-mouth, an official letter is sent to vehicle owners concerning specific auto recalls. This should be considered confirmation that there is an issue with your specific make and model. A recall letter will include detailed information about the nature of the problem or defect. Instructions are provided regarding what your next steps should be to remedy the problem, as well as the time frame within which the vehicle needs to be brought in for the corrective measures. All issues should be rectified at no cost to you. Drivers who have had repairs done prior to the issuance of a recall may be eligible for reimbursement with the proper receipts or paperwork.

Vehicle owners of used cars, or other owners who fear they may miss delivery of a recall notification letter for some reason, can also contact an authorized dealership for more information if they hear about a recall.