If you're only facing the occasional light shower, almost any tire with proper how to perform a tread depth inspection and how to check tire air pressure inspection will get the job done. But, if you're dealing with downpours and standing water, tires designed for wet-weather driving are your best and, most importantly, your safest bet.
Here are three tire terms that will make shopping for wet-weather tires a little easier:
- Circumferential grooves: These are the tread lines that wrap long ways around the tire. As tires spin on wet surfaces, circumferential grooves channel water away to maintain good traction. The next time it rains, watch the rear tires of the car in front of you as they pull away from a stop. If you see water radiating off them, that's the circumferential grooves at work.
- Rubber compound: Tires are made up of varying types of rubber compounds, depending on the manufacturer's intended use of the tire. For example, tires designed for wet-weather conditions usually have a softer rubber compound for better grip.
- Contact patch: The contact patch is the part of the tire that touches the road. Picture your car sitting on a plane of glass, and you are looking at it from underneath the glass. Your tires would look like four rubber squares pressing up against the glass. These are your contact patches, and they carry the weight of your vehicle. Wet-weather tires have narrower contact patches so there's less surface area against the road, which reduces the risk of hydroplaning.
PERFECTING YOUR PICKS
There are two types of tires built especially for foul weather conditions—summer tires and all-season tires. Use this quick guide to help you can choose the one that's right for you.
- AKA: Regular tires or three-season tires.
- Pros: Summer tires are the rock stars of wet-weather performance. Their tread patterns are specially designed to channel water away from the tire's footprint so more rubber meets the road—a must for slick situations. Summer tires are also made from a soft, grippy compound, so these tires stick to the road for better control.
- Cons: While their soft rubber compound makes summer tires well suited for rainy conditions, it also causes them to stiffen when temps fall below freezing, which means less traction.
- Best For: Year-round use in warm and rainy climates where winters are mild with little to no snow.
- AKA: All-season tires don't really have any alternate names, but they do have an acronym. "A/S" on the sidewall means it's an all-season tire.
- Pros: All-season tires provide good traction in all seasons if you live in a moderate climate with mild winters. If your winters see lots of snow, snow tires are your best choice.
- Cons: All-season tires give you adequate traction year-round in sun, rain and light snow. However, in rainy conditions, summer tires have a winning edge over all-season tires when it comes to traction and performance.
- Best For: Year-round use, except in heavy snow and icy conditions.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Summer tires are better at sticking to wet roads, but an all-season tire gives you added grip in below-freezing temps and light snow. So climate should be the deciding factor. No matter which type of tires you choose, be sure you know how to perform a tread depth inspection and how to check tire air tire pressure inspection are up to snuff—especially if rain is in the forecast.