Cars Simplified: Everything Automotive Explained

Racing Slick Tires

Slick tires, or racing slicks, are special tires which are designed to get the most grip out of a dry, paved track. Slick tires are usually not street legal in any region, so they are typically found on just race cars or show cars.

Why Remove Treads?

Slick tires have no tread because the openings that treads require reduce the overall amount of rubber which comes in contact with the road. Having more of the tire's rubber on the road surface increases the friction between the road and the tire, keeping the vehicle stable at higher cornering speeds.

Incompatable Surfaces

Racing slicks don't work well on wet tracks because the water on top of the track surface has no room to move out of the way, and the flat tire surface spreads the water evenly between the tire and track surface. When this occurs, little to no rubber from the tire makes contact with the road/track, and all grip/stability is lost. When rain gets to a race track, there is usually some time before the track is wet enough for slick tires to lose grip,

These tires also don't work well on dirt and gravel surfaces because there is no tread to get a foothold in the unstable surface.

Are Slick Tires Balanced?

Some race teams choose not to balance their tires. To correct a balance, weight must be added, which increases the unsprung mass. However, a balanced tire vibrates less, and even if it is not enough to change how much rubber is on the racing surface, that imbalance is a small, rapid change in overall downward force on the contact patch, leading to a slightly less stable level of traction. These two trade offs are considered by teams, and both approaches are used.

Sometimes, heavy vehicles and high downforce cars will have less concern for the imbalance, because the vibration ends up being a tiny percent of the overall force. Lightweight and extra high speed vehicles may be more affected by this imbalance.

When balanced, most racing tires are static balanced rather than dynamic balanced.