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# Journal of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies, Vol.

8, 2010

## Analyzing Effect of Tire Groove Patterns on Hydroplaning Speed

S. Santosh KUMAR KUMAR Anupam
Department of Civil Engineering Department of Civil Engineering
National University of Singapore National University of Singapore
10 Kent Ridge Crescent 10 Kent Ridge Crescent
SINGAPORE 119260 SINGAPORE 119260
Email: g0601001@nus.edu.sg Email: g0600315@nus.edu.sg

T. F. FWA
Professor
Department of Civil Engineering
National University of Sing
10 Kent Ridge Crescent
SINGAPORE 119260
Email: cvefwatf@nus.edu.sg

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Journal of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies, Vol. 8, 2010

Abstract: Hydroplaning is a major safety concern in wet-weather driving. Grooved tires have
been commonly used to improve skid resistance and increase the hydroplaning speed. Tire
grooves help in the expulsion of water from the tire pavement contact region by providing escape
channels. Past researchers have shown that tire groove spacing, groove width and groove depth
affect skid resistance. However, analytical tools are unavailable for highway engineers to
evaluate hydroplaning speed taking into consideration basic geometric parameters such as tire
groove width, groove depth and spacing etc. The present paper describes a numerical analytical
tool to study the effect of tire groove spacing, groove width and groove depth on hydroplaning
speed by means of earlier verified analytical hydroplaning modeling for tire having transverse
groove pattern, longitudinal groove pattern and combined transverse and longitudinal groove
pattern on plane pavement surface are analyzed in this paper.

Key Words: Hydroplaning speed, Tire groove spacing, Tire groove width, Tire groove depth

1. INTRODUCTION

Hydroplaning is a major safety concern in wet-weather driving which occurs when the traveling
speed of a vehicle becomes so high that the hydrodynamic pressure of the water between its tires
and the pavement surface rises and equals the tire inflation pressure. When this condition
prevails, the tires become supported on the water film and the driver may lose braking and
steering control of the vehicle (Horne et al 1963).

According to past researchers (Horne and Dreher, 1963; Gallaway, 1979), tire grooves help in
expulsion of water from the tire pavement contact region by providing escape channels, thus
reducing the risk of hydroplaning. Deeper tire groove depth, lesser tire groove spacing and larger
tire groove width offers a more effective channel for water flow, hydroplaning takes place at a
higher speed due to a lower rate of development of the hydrodynamic uplift force. Thus the tire
groove patterns help to increase the minimum fluid depth required for a tire to hydroplane, or in
other words they raise the hydroplaning speed at a fixed water depth.

Many different groove patterns are found in the market. However, each of them has different
effectiveness in alleviating hydroplaning risk. Maycock (1967) and Gengenbach (1968)
conducted many experimental studies to study the effects of width, depth and spacing of tire
groove on skid resistance. They showed that width, depth and spacing of the tire grooves have
tremendous effect on wet skid resistance. Gilbert (1973) has conducted experimental study on
small scale models of circumferential tire, but the measured data could not be easily scaled up to
study the hydroplaning behaviors of actual tires. Grogger and Weiss (1996 & 1997) have
conducted numerical studies on hydroplaning phenomenon for smooth and longitudinally
grooved tires, which do not rotate. However, these earlier studies do not provide a complete
picture on the effects of different groove patterns on vehicle hydroplaning.

The present paper aims to find the effect of tire groove spacing, groove width and groove depth
on hydroplaning speed by means of analytical hydroplaning modeling for tire having transverse
groove pattern, longitudinal groove pattern and block groove pattern (i.e. combination of

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transverse and longitudinal groove patterns) on plane pavement surface. The analysis is
performed by means of a computer simulation model using a 3-dimensional finite element
approach. Computational fluid dynamics techniques are used to simulate the model.

2. STUDY PARAMETERS

The study parameters adopted in the analytical hydroplaning model are presented in the this
section

## 2.1 Rib Tire

The ASTM E 501 standard G78-15 tire (ASTM, 2006) with a cross sectional radius of 393.7 mm
and a groove width of 148.6 mm are adopted for this study. Figure 1 shows the transverse groove
pattern, longitudinal groove pattern and block groove pattern.

The analyses performed in this study consider the following values of model parameters: (a) tire
groove centre to centre spacing of 16.8 mm, 20 mm and 25 mm, (b) groove widths of 5.08 mm,
7.0 mm and 8.5 mm, (c) groove depths of 5.08 mm, 7.0 mm and 8.5 mm, (d) fixed surface water
depth of 5 mm, (e) tire inflation pressure of 27 psi, (186.2 kPa), and (f) wheel load of 2.41. These
parameter values considered are summarized in Table 1.

## 2.2 Pavement Surface Model

A smooth plane pavement surface is considered for all the analysis presented as this presents the
worst case and a conservative estimate of the hydroplaning speed for in-service pavements
(Horne et al., 1962; Horne et al., 1963; Horne et al., 1965; Hayes et al., 1981, Fwa et al., 2008).
The hydroplaning simulation model used for the analysis is adapted from the 3-dimensional
finite-element model developed and validated earlier by the authors (Fwa et al., 2008).

## 2.2 Material Properties

The properties of water and air at 20oC are used in this study. The density, dynamic viscosity and
kinematic viscosity of water at 20oC are 998.2 kg/m3, 1.002 x 10-3 Ns/m3 and 1.004 x 10-6 m2/s
respectively (Chemical Rubber Company, 1988). The density, dynamic viscosity and kinematic
viscosity of air at standard atmospheric pressure and 20oC are 1.204 kg/m3, 1.82x10-5 Ns/m3 and
1.51x10-5 m2/s respectively (Blevins, 1984).

## The hydroplaning phenomenon of a locked wheel sliding on a flooded smooth pavement is

modeled in a moving wheel frame of reference. A two-phase flow comprising a layer of air jet
and a layer of water jet is considered. The problem can be similarly modeled as a jet with a layer
of air and a layer of water, with a smooth pavement surface moving towards the wheel as shown
in Figure 2. The tire deformation profile used is the same as that by Ong et al (2005). The
geometry of the three-dimensional rib tire model is shown in Figure 3. The upstream boundary

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conditions consist of a pair of inlets, namely velocity inlet of 5 mm (about 0.2 in) thickness and a
velocity inlet of 48.26 mm (about 2 in) thick of air. The inlet is modeled at a distance of 200 mm
away from the leading edge of the wheel so as to allow for any possible formation of bow wave.
Side edges and the trailing edges are modeled as pressure outlets with the pressure set as 0 kPa
(i.e. atmospheric pressure). The centre line of the wheel is treated as a plane of symmetry.

## 3. DESCRIPTION OF MESH USED IN THE ANALYSIS

The finite volume method is employed for the model, using 6-node wedge elements and 8-node
hexahedral elements. Figure 3 shows the mesh of the model geometry used in the simulation.
The optimal number of mesh elements needed to give the converged solution has been tested for
the original model through mesh sensitivity analysis. In tire groove model simulations, different
combinations of finite volume mesh are used, with different number of 8-node hexahedral
elements in the ribs and in the smallest channel in the model, i.e., the hydroplaning region. The
optimal combination of mesh elements in the ribs and the smallest channel needed to give
numerical convergence is tested through the mesh sensitivity analysis and it is found that 10
mesh elements in the ribs and 30 mesh elements in the smallest channel are required to reach
numerical convergence.

## 4. PROCEDURE TO OBTAIN HYDROPLANING SPEED IN THE ANALYSES

The hydroplaning simulation analysis is conducted in two stages. First, from the initial vehicle
speed of 0 km/h, a relatively large speed increment of 5 m/s (18 km/h) is first applied and a
simulation run is conducted. This is followed by another speed increment and a simulation run.
The process is repeated until the fluid uplift force matches or exceeds the wheel load. This would
provide a first estimate of the hydroplaning speed. Next, starting from a sliding speed slightly
lower than the first estimate of the hydroplaning speed, the sliding speed is increased at a small
speed increment of 0.1 m/s (0.36 km/h) to determine the final simulation hydroplaning speed.

## 5.1 Effect of Tire Groove Width

The computed hydroplaning speeds for 3 tire groove widths of 5.08 mm, 7 mm and 8.5 mm from
simulation analyses of longitudinal, transverse and block tire groove pattern respectively are
presented in Table 2. Each curve in the Figure 4 represents the changes of hydroplaning speed
with the tire groove width. It indicates that at a constant surface water depth and groove depth of
5 mm, the hydroplaning speed increases with tire groove width. The hydroplaning speed at the
tire groove width of 8.5 mm is higher than the value at 5.08 mm tire groove width by 23.3 km/h
for longitudinal tire groove, 18.1 km/h for transverse tire groove and 23.2 km/h for block tire
groove pattern. It can also be observed that for each mm increase in width of the tire groove,
there is an increase of hydroplaning speed of 6.8 km/h for longitudinal tire groove, 5.5 km/h for
transverse tire groove and 7.2 km/h for block tire groove pattern indicating that the effect of

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increase in width can be more pronounced for longitudinal and block tire patterns. An
examination of the simulation results shows that with wider tire grooves which offer a more
effective channel for water flow, hydroplaning takes place at a higher speed due to a lower rate
of development of the hydrodynamic uplift force. Therefore, wider tire grooves of the rib tire
would have a higher hydroplaning speed, hence a lower hydroplaning risk.

## 5.2 Effect of Tire Groove Spacing

Using the data of Table 3, the hydroplaning speed is plotted against tire groove spacing in Figure
5 for the purpose of examining how spacing of tire groove would affect the effectiveness of rib
tires in reducing hydroplaning risk. Table 3 presents the changes of hydroplaning speed with tire
groove spacing of 16.8 mm, 20mm and 25 mm at a constant water film thickness of 5 mm. The
curves in Figure 5 show that hydroplaning speed varies negatively with tire groove spacing for
longitudinal, transverse and block patterns. The hydroplaning speed at the tire groove spacing of
16.8 mm is higher than the value at 25 mm tire groove spacing by 15.6 km/h for longitudinal tire
groove pattern, 21.2 km/h for transverse tire groove pattern and 18.2 km/h for block tire groove
pattern. For each mm decrease in the spacing of tire groove, there is an increase of hydroplaning
speed of 1.8 km/h for longitudinal tire groove pattern, 2.5 km/h for transverse tire groove pattern
and 2.3 km/h for block tire groove pattern. An examination of the simulation results shows that
more spacing between tire grooves increases hydroplaning risk due to reduction in tire groove
volume.

## 5.3 Effect of Tire Groove Depth

Table 4 shows the hydroplaning speed, obtained from simulation analysis at groove depths of
5.08 mm, 7 mm and 8.5 mm for longitudinally, transversely and block grooved tire at a fixed
water depth of 5 mm. Using the data of Table 4, hydroplaning speed is plotted against tire groove
depth as shown in Figure 6. The figure shows that at any fixed groove depth, hydroplaning speed
is highest for block grooved tire followed by transversely grooved tire and longitudinally
grooved tire. The curves shows that as the groove depth increases the hydroplaning speed also
increases for all the three patterns analyzed. Each mm increase in tire groove depth there
increases the hydroplaning speed by 1.6 km/h for longitudinal and transverse tire groove pattern,
and 1.8 km/h for block tire groove pattern.

6. CONCLUSION

This paper has presented a verfied hydroplaning simulation model for rib tires and the solutions
for hydroplaning speeds using the finite element method. The hydroplaning characteristics of the
standard ASTM E501 rib tire were studied for different tire groove widths, spacing and depths at
fixed water depth of 5 mm. Three different tire groove patterns namely transversely grooved tire,
longitudinally grooved tire and block tire groove pattern has been considered in the simulation
analysis.

The simulation results showed that a vehicle with a tire having deeper groove depth, lesser
spacing and larger groove width has higher hydroplaning speed and thus has lower risk of

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hydroplaning, for any given irrespective of their groove pattern. For each mm increase in tire
groove depth, decrease in tire groove spacing and increase in tire groove width on an average
raises the vehicle hydroplaning speed by 1.6 km/h, 1.8 km/h, and 6.8 km/h respectively for
longitudinally grooved tire. For transversely grooved tire the corresponding increases in
hydroplaning speed are 1.6 km/h, 2.5 km/h, and 5.5 km/h respectively whereas for block grooved
tire the hydroplaning speed increases by 1.8 km/h, 2.3 km/h, and 7.2 km/h respectively.

In general, for a tire with fixed dimensions of tire groove depth, tire groove spacing and tire
groove width the block tire pattern has highest hydroplaning speed followed by transversely
grooved tire pattern and longitudinally grooved tire. The analysis presented in this paper suggests
that the proposed model can be used as useful analytical tool for evaluating hydroplaning risk of
vehicles with different tire patterns.

## Table 1: Parameters considered for analysis

Parameter Details

Passenger car tire ASTM E 501 standard G78-15 tire, with 393.7 mm
cross sectional radius, and 148.6 mm groove width
Tire grooves analyzed Longitudinal, Transverse and Block

## Tire inflation pressure 186.2 kPa

Tire groove width 5.08, 7 and 8.5 mm for all tire groove patterns

Tire groove rib width (w) 16.8, 20 and 25 mm for all tire groove patterns

Tire groove depth 5.08, 7 and 8.5 mm for all tire groove patterns

## Water film thickness 5.0 mm

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## Hydroplaning speed (km/h)

Width of tire
groove (mm)
Longitudinally Transversely Block
grooved tire grooved tire groove tire
5.08 98.10 126.61 145.00
7.00 111.54 133.53 152.75
8.50 121.39 144.69 168.16

## Spacing of Hydroplaning speed (km/h)

(mm) Longitudinally Transversely Block
grooved tire grooved tire groove tire
16.80 98.10 126.61 145.00
20.00 93.40 119.25 136.66
25.00 82.50 105.39 126.84

## Hydroplaning speed (km/h)

Depth of tire
groove (mm)
Longitudinally Transversely Block
grooved tire grooved tire groove tire
5.08 98.10 126.61 145.00
7.00 102.00 131.00 149.12
8.50 103.85 132.25 151.26

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148.6 mm 148.6 mm

393.7 mm

## Groove width (w)

(a) Longitudinal groove pattern tire (b) Transverse groove pattern tire

148.6 mm

393.7 mm

## Figure 1 Tire groove patterns analyzed

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Speed U

Air

Locked
Wheel

Water film

Pavement Surface

region region

## Figure 2 Locked wheel sliding on pavement in moving tire’s reference frame

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## Symmetry along the

centre plane of the wheel
Symmetry along the
centre plane of the wheel
(a) Longitudinal groove pattern
(b) Transverse groove pattern

## Symmetry along the

centre plane of the wheel

Pressure outlet

Tire front

## Symmetry along center

plane of the tire

Smooth pavement
surface

## Figure 3 Mesh design for simulation model

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190

170

## Block tire groove

150
Hydroplaning speed (km/h)

## Transverse tire groove

130

110
Longitudinal tire groove

## G78-15 Tube-less tire of belted bias construction

(393.7 mm X 148.6 mm) on Smooth pavement surface
90
Tire Inflation pressure 186.2 kPa
70 Water Depth 5 mm
Tire Groove Depth 5 mm
Tire Groove Spacing 16.8 mm
50
5 6 7 8 9 10
Tire groove width (mm)
Figure 4 Effect of Tire groove width on hydroplaning speed

190
G78-15 Tube-less tire of belted bias construction (393.7
mm X 148.6 mm) on Smooth pavement surface
170 Tire Inflation
Pressure 186.2 kPa
150 Water Depth 5 mm
Tire Groove Depth 5 mm
Hydroplaning speed (km/h)

## Tire Groove Width 5 mm

130
Block tire groove

110
Transverse tire groove

90
Longitudinal tire groove
70

50
16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
Tire groove spacing (mm)
Figure 5 Effect of Tire groove spacing on hydroplaning speed
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190

170

## Block tire groove

150
Hydroplaning speed (km/h)

130

## G78-15 Tube-less tire of belted bias construction

90
(393.7 mm X 148.6 mm) on Smooth pavement surface
Tire Inflation Pressure 186.2 kPa
70
Water Depth 5 mm
Tire Groove Width 5mm
Tire Groove Spacing 16.8 mm
50
5 6 7 8 9 10
Tire groove depth (mm)
Figure 6 Effect of Tire groove depth on hydroplaning speed

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