Getting a grip on winter roads by siping your tires

ISHPEMING — Drivers across the Upper Peninsula are often far too familiar with the slipping and sliding that wintry roads can inspire. Those looking to get a better grip have an interesting option when it comes to their tires.

Siping is a process that can quickly improve tire performance for many different tires. It involves slicing into the tire’s surface with a specialized machine, creating more edges in the tread.

“The machine cuts a groove across the face of the tire at a 90-degree angle,” said Steven Beauchamp, manager of Willey’s Tire Shop in Ishpeming. “It adds siping to the tire. It improves traction on ice, snow, and wet roads. It doesn’t affect the tire warranty at all. It actually improves the tire as far as mileage rating. It will allow the tire to run cooler.”

Siping also allows tires to absorb bumps in the road better, but the process can cause an increase in road noise.

“There’s a little bit of a tradeoff in the summertime on dry pavement,” said Beauchamp. “You will notice a little bit more road noise than normal, but in the wintertime, definitely more traction.”

Winter tires have some siping already added during the manufacturing process. Tires with less than 7/32″ of tread depth won’t see a big benefit from siping. The procedure is relatively low-cost, but be aware that siping old tires will be more expensive, as rocks and debris need to be removed from the treads to avoid damage to the siping equipment.