A detailed understanding of effects occurring in the contact patch between tire tread and snow surface is needed to maximize tire grip in winter conditions. The main focus of this study is quantifying the snow milling effects of individual tire tread block elements during sliding. Tests are carried out using the high-speed linear friction tester (HiLiTe), located at the Institute of Dynamics and Vibration Research at Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany. Test tracks are prepared using artificially produced snow.
To solely investigate snow milling effects and exclude material properties of rubber, in a first instance the tread block samples are made of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Because PTFE is at the same time rigid and hydrophobic, known friction mechanisms such as adhesion and hysteresis can be neglected, leaving only the tread pattern milling mechanics to transmit frictional forces to the snow track. The PTFE samples are shaped in such a way that they mimic the geometry of different siped rubber tread blocks under load, varying the sipes' number, shape, and tilt angle.
Results show the benefit of multiple sipes and give information on the evolution of transmittable forces with respect to sliding distance. It is found that the block element shape and tilt angle are directly linked to the frictional force, showing a distinct optimum for specific angle and shape combinations. In addition, forces are not depending on sliding speed, but on sliding distance.
The snow milling results of PTFE block elements are then compared to siped rubber block samples. Corresponding high-speed videos show that PTFE sample snow milling mechanics can be directly applied to rubber samples.