Contact patch, two little words that represent a major impact on your vehicle's performance and your safety. A tire's contact patch or as it is often called, the tire's footprint, is normally not much bigger than your hand and often smaller than a professional sport player's shoes, yet, it's the only connection between you and the road!
In wet, dry, or snowy winter conditions, your tire's contact patch controls your acceleration, braking, and corning inputs to the road. In addition, the shape of the contact patch will influence the performance of the tire and the vehicle it's mounted on. Some examples are as follows:
For high performance driving, the tire's contact patch would be wide and rather short as shown below:
This shape provides superior traction, cornering stability, and handling for high performance driving in dry and or wet conditions.
A tire for a passenger car or light truck tire would have a contact patch that would be more long and narrow as shown below:
This shape provides a smoother, quieter ride with predictable handling, and good wet/snow traction.
So the next time you are thinking about the traction (or the lack of it) your tires are providing, take a look at the contact patch on your tires and keep in mind it are the only connection between you and the road and are the only thing controlling your vehicle's weight and speed when motoring down the road. So make sure they are in good shape and well suited for the job you want and need them to do! If you find it's time for you to replace your tires, visit tirerack.com for the best selection and pricing available.