Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:34 am

My quest for more traction started awhile back, some may even remember a post of mine "Tire Size - Mud Tires?" http://www.farmallcub.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=31&t=80378#p643260 where I considered trying 38.5 x 11 - R16 MT or AT truck tires on the stock tractor rims. This plan was good in theory, however finding tires proved harder than anticipated.

About a week ago I got stuck on my paved driveway in less than 1" of snow, with at least 2 more months of New England weather ahead of me I wanted to find a solution ASAP. I considered using wheel spacers + chains or wheel adapters & new rims / tires, but after doing some research I think grooving my stock turf's would give me the most traction / dollar.

Thought process: although my turfs have decent 3/4" - 1" tall knobs their rounded corners and flat faces are essentially slicks when it comes to snow, ice and even wet grass. Adding grooves to the face of each knob should improve traction.

The plan: I picked up a 250w Ideal Tire Groover with #4 blades (just shy of 1/4" wide) for $70.00. I’m planning on cutting a crosshatch pattern (as shown in the picture) about 1/4" - 3/8" deep on the face of the knobs. These grooves not only provide multiple biting edges, but they trap and hold snow which improves traction on snow and ice (like snow tires). In softer conditions the full size knobs from the turf tire itself will takeover the traction responsibilities. One downside to grooving tires is the reduced surface area increases wear. Since I'm only removing 10-15% of the traction area, wear should only increase by the same percentage. Since the tires have lasted 39 years so far I’m not worried about it too much.

Pictures and results from the experiment to follow.
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Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:48 am

I like the idea. Might not replace chains, but I agree, these turf tires need more grip for winter use.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:49 am

What kind of weight do you have on the rear tires? Those tires have such a big footprint in the snow that I would be dubious that the grooving alone will give you much benefit.


Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:13 am

The weight varies depending on what I'm carrying on the 3-point fork lift, can be anywhere between 50 lbs to 400 lbs. I'm not sure if the larger footprint of these tires has any significant effect in the 0-1" snow range. I will agree that in snow deeper than 1" the larger tires would provide more float, reducing ground pressure and their effectiveness, however based on the tire marks left in the snow only the center 3 lugs are contacting the ground (about 4") which is similar to the narrow set tires. Since I'm not plowing with the tractor (yet) I'm just looking for more traction. Clearly chains & weight are the way to go, but then again they cost more then $70 bucks too.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:24 am

I think you are setting yourself up to do an astounding amount of work and will not find a dimes worth of difference after you are done. At least experiment on a junk tire to see how difficult the project is likely to be before you mess up a good turf tire.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:25 am

I think what you are planning will not help much, the grooves will be so small they will simply pack with snow. An alternative would be to completely remove part of the lugs, leaving the remaining ones in V bar patterns like an agriculture tire, of course that would destroy the ability to avoid marking a soft yard. I have never had much dealings with the lowboys, but`can you use standard disks with rims and tires on them? If so, buy a set of standard wheels and tires, plus a set of wheel weights rather than butchering up your tires, the switch back in summer.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:15 pm

I suppose we'll have to wait and see. That is the whole purpose of an experiment, to see if it works.

As a matter of fact I would be delighted if they pack with snow. Look at any modern snow tire design the bulk of the tread is designed to trap and hold snow. Why? Snow grips snow better then rubber grips snow. There was a 20 something page thread on another forum in regards to people cutting their ladder bar and v lug tires to gain traction in snow with some surprisingly positive results.

Could I get different tires or offset rims and use chains of course. I could also buy a 4x4 tractor w/ studded tires, but that's not the point. The point is if we never tried new things we'd still be rubbing sticks together.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:20 pm

I agree with Jim and John. Snow and ice tire design is not based solely on the number, depth and size of the grooves (sipes). The rubber compound has a lot to do with it. The rubber in your 39 year old tires is hard as a rock and will not grip as a new snow tire will, especially after the new grooves fill up with snow. Consider deflating the tires to get more surface area on the pavement. It's free and doesn't permanently alter the tire.

Let us know how your experiment works out.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:40 pm

LFEngineering wrote:...Look at any modern snow tire design the bulk of the tread is designed to trap and hold snow. .....
I don't think that snow stays very well as soon as the vehicle gets up to speed, in the 15 to 20mph range (which your tires will never reach), centrifugal force throws it out. I have not seen any actual snow tires sold in years, they are All Season, some just have coarser tread than others. The more coarse tread gives better traction in snow and mud, but wears out sooner. Also, think about the reason for the closer tread, it is to give the tire a longer life on the highway, something that is not a concern with a lowboy. Also take into consideration the lbs/sq.in. of a vehicle drive wheels verses the flotation tires of the lowboy. The whole idea is traction, and weight plays a big factor.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:09 pm

Speaking as a guy who works for a tire manufacturer, snow tires get their traction from a multitude of biting edges. The sipes generate all the edges, which is why "winter" tires are chock full of sipes. Not to argue, but that design does not depend on those grooves holding in any snow, simply the edges created that bite into the snow. I sincerely doubt your carving will add any appreciable traction for ALL the reasons stated in previous responses. Good Luck!

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Mon Jan 06, 2014 9:05 pm

It will be interesting to see your findings once you groove the tires. Myself I don't think you'll see any discernable difference but I could be wrong. I agree that the increase in biting edges will in theory improve traction but my understanding is that the more aggressive tread on snow tires was to more easily allow the snow to be cleaned out of the tire due to centrifugal force not to pack full of snow. By cleaning out the tread the biting edges are ready to grip when they make contact with the frozen ground again.

My understanding has always been that narrower tires have a more pounds per square inch in the contact patch increasing grip. That makes sense to me and it also allows less pounds per square inch to be wasted in snow compaction and more on grip.

If you want to try something outside the box maybe you'd want to try this. Back in the day when I was younger and racing motorcycles the long winters here in Michigan would get us guys out on our bikes in the winter. To provide traction we screwed hex head sheet metal screws into the knobs on our tires. Those screws provided traction "like a cat on a certain". The heads would wear down some and a few would pull out but remember these were high horse power motorcycles running at high speed. You said your knobs were 3/4" - 1" high, that's plenty of knob to grab and hold screws. With knobs that big you could use some big sheet metal screws, bigger than we could use on our smaller motorcycle knobs. I'll bet if you put 1 or 2 screws in each knob that you show marked for grooving your low traction problems would be gone. After the snow is gone, remove the screws and you're good to go.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Tue Jan 07, 2014 5:13 am

Admittedly I hadn't considered screw in studs, which will be plan b. The hardest part now is coming up with a way to test it in an objective manor. Based on the outpouring of "support" I doubt my subjective review of the experiment will carry any weight with the skeptics.

Can't wait to see the look on my wife's face when I'm blowing snow into the driveway this afternoon.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:06 am

LFEngineering wrote:Can't wait to see the look on my wife's face when I'm blowing snow into the driveway this afternoon.

:shock: This is called a psychotropic medication and straight-jacket wearing future. :help:

I am anxious to hear your results. (about the tires)

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:50 am

Ideally I would test the tractor on all types of surfaces; snow covered pavement, frozen grass, frozen mud, wet grass, wet mud, etc. Like any test, limiting the variables is key to good results. I was originally going to measure the distance I could drive up each surface with the tires as they are currently, then remeasure after the grooving modification. Problem is I have no idea if the weather will cooperate. Heck we've gone from -7 degrees & snowing to 55 degrees & raining, back to 10 degrees & snowing in the last 5 days. To get the best "apples to apples" comparison I plan on grooving only 1 tire. That way I can drive on the same surfaces on the same day and see what happens. If the un-grooved tire repeatedly breaks free sooner then the grooved tire = grooving helps. If it's 50/50 = no go. Remember I'm not trying to beat chains, studs or lug tires I just want an improvement.

That being said the tractor should make it into the shop tonight, I hope to have them grooved and tested by the weekend.

Re: Turf Tire Grooving Experiment

Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:53 am

I hope it helps and look forward to the after picture and results.