My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

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Pauldog
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My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by Pauldog » Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:42 pm

I just bought this ancient device on eBay:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/253963844796

Why did I buy that one? you ask. Because I once found the same thing years ago, on clearance, gathering dust in a hardware store. I had never heard of traction mats before, but once I saw them, they seemed like a good idea, and these mats looked like they meant business. I remember them getting me unstuck more than once.

Then, some years later, when I was returning from a 1500-mile trip, I wrecked my car and left it behind at a junk yard. The mats were too bulky to take with me on the bus home. My next set of traction devices were hefty rigid plastic, but I think they worked all right too, until I was on another long trip, and lost them trying to get out of deep mud.

One of those two sets was what I used to get someone else unstuck when they couldn't get off an exit ramp. That got a whole line of cars freed up.

I never found another mat that worked. I've bought quite a few, and they'd either crack in use, or skid out from under the car, or damage the tires, or just do nothing. They looked like they meant business, and they took up enough space in the trunk, but they were rarely any help.

I actually was pretty far along on a project to duplicate my favorite mats, using a thin vinyl car mat, a cheese grater, a grommet kit, a bunch of nails with big heads, and epoxy. My first prototype test was this past evening, around dusk, and the thing did not work, though in its defense I should add that I had only installed a few nails, just to see how much damage the thing would sustain from actual use. (I learned that brass grommets are too easy to bend, at least when run over by a car.)

But I won't need to continue this project, because The Real Thing is now on its way to me.

Maybe my next quest will be to show the mats, when they arrive, to anyone who might be inclined to manufacture them and elbow out all the flimsy, ineffective mats that are mostly what's being sold now.
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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by Rufus » Sun Jan 06, 2019 6:07 am

For ice and snow I’ve used kitty litter and pieces of carpet. They work, but I don’t know how they’d perform in mud.
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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by drmoss_ca » Sun Jan 06, 2019 6:38 am

You remind of the wretched day in which I tried to haul a 26' sloop out on its trailer (lifting keel and a couple of tons of water ballast that would dump as the boat came out). There was a rising tide and we didn't get the boat fully on to the trailer as I already had the back axles in the water, but we had to be quick. The stem was made fast to the winch on the trailer and the boat could be winched on all the way once it was out and the ballast drained. I pulled forward, the boat began to tip back, tending to lift the trailer tongue and reducing traction. Then the back wheels began to dig in and we were stuck, with the likelihood we would lose the boat, trailer and my truck. In desperation I took off a sweatshirt and tucked it under a back wheel, but it still spun uselessly. I ended up running across the bridge to a nearby fishing wharf and found the local insurance agent who came over with his truck and pulled everything up and out of the water in a bizarre semi-articulated train. We drained the ballast, winched on the boat, and drove red-faced home past the wharf, under the smirking gazes of the assembled fishermen.

Anyway, the sweatshirt was a rag of mud, sand, grit and seashells, but didn't seem torn. It washed out and was undamaged. I still have it, thirty years later! My father just shook his head when I told him the story - I had only tried using the sweatshirt after listening to his stories of digging out 8th army trucks in the Western desert, where mats and ladders were generally used for the job. The boat was neither stiff enough, nor weatherly enough for our waters, a fact made clear the next season when we sailed up to the mouth of our bay, but couldn't beat back against the wind. We had too much sail for such a tender boat, and had to drop the jib - we had reefing points on the mainsail but not on the jib, but then couldn't point close enough to get anywhere. We ended up coming back to that same wharf under power (it was halfway up the bay and not our usual anchorage), but with the outboard spending 80% of the time screaming with its prop out of the water given the size of the waves. I think my sailing dreams finally died that day, and the boat was sold the next year.
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by ShadowsDad » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:40 am

If you ever do need to make anything like that in the future, a piece of spent rubber belt, say from a cashiers station and screws maybe 1/8 - 1/4" longer then the washers (both sides) and nut should work fine. Of course you'd want to install them so that they stick out both sides or use a screw with a long head. If you were to contact a conveyer belt company they might have some in the trash free for the taking. Or even a piece of heavy fabric/canvas would work since what the screws are connected to is only there so that you rapidly lay out and can pick up the traction makers for reuse.
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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by brothers » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:32 pm

I don't know if they're legal these days, but 30 years ago I bought a set of studded snow tires for my 4WD Ford. I put them on around November and took them off in March. They worked pretty good.
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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by ShadowsDad » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:39 pm

Depends on the state under discussion Gary. They are legal in Maine and all I can discuss is Maine, but the wording is to the effect "as long as they aren't too aggressive" so it would be up to the individual officer. Too it would depend on conditions. They can only be used during snowstorms so they get put on and taken off as needed. In a blizzard they won't even touch the pavement so I would imagine even the tire chains I use for plowing snow with reinforcing bars and 2x the cross chains would be legal. But with just a dusting of snow on the roads even I would consider myself illegal with them. But with a dusting of snow I wouldn't consider chains. I have pretty good snow tires on the vehicles and we get plenty of practice driving on snow and ice.

But tire chains could be laid down just like those traction mats, but they are quite heavy.
Brian

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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by brothers » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:01 pm

We occasionally have ice storms. The thing about studs is that it works great when you're going, but stopping is another story. Using care and caution is fine, but the folks with lead feet most often approach an intersection under full power, then when they jam on the brakes, it's life or death, depending on who or what they are going to slam into while sliding and spinning around on the ice at 40.
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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by Pauldog » Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:43 pm

Does ABS make any difference for these wreckless skidders?

There's a new kind of tire called All-Weather, an improvement over the familiar All-Season. They're almost as good in the winter as regular snow tires, and about as good as regular tires the rest of the year. I know of the Goodyear Assurance Weather Ready, the Vredestein (Dutch) Quatrac 5, the Nokian (Finnish) WR D3 and WR D4, the Toyo Celsius, the Michelin Crossclimate, and the Pirelli P Zero. I'm not 100% sure if the Pirellis are fully in this category, since their blurb mentions "light snow."

If I had less tread on my current tires, I'd be getting a set of these. As it is, I'm still thinking about it, but I also figure that good traction mats are cheap insurance.

By the way, here is my traction mat prototype after some road testing. See if you can spot the bent grommet. The big shiny thing on the left is a Dollar Tree cheese grater, attached with an epoxy made to be used with plastic. I think that's the part that's closest to the original Centipede's design.
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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by Pauldog » Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:46 pm

ShadowsDad wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:40 am
If you ever do need to make anything like that in the future, a piece of spent rubber belt

After reading a bit of the patent document, I think the Centipedes use nylon-reinforced neoprene. My original ones showed little sign of wear after several uses, unlike my prototype. :) The metal parts were unpainted, and I don't know if they could be anything else but steel. Maybe stainless (or galvanized) steel, since I don't remember seeing rust.

The main qualities you need are the ability to grip the tire to get started, enough grip of both the road and the tire, and durability. The other mats I've bought failed in at least one of these.

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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by ShadowsDad » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:08 pm

Pauldog I don't know your location so I can only write in generalities. It may pertain to you or not.

It's not what holds the grippers that matters, it's the grippers themselves. If you threw down screws and nuts they would pull you out if you could keep them from sinking in, but you'd take forever to recover them. Hence the matrix that they are screwed into. The matrix isn't the magic, what the matrix is holding is.

Regarding tires, the best ones have the mountain logo on the wall I don't know about brand or models. I research what I buy at that time and reject anything without an extremely high rating. I don't respect names or models. They are made specifically for ice and snow if they have that mountain symbol. The better ones today don't need studs and are called studless and don't have the holes molded in for studs, yet they have a studlike grip. Their "rubber" (it isn't rubber) stays pliable and gives traction at very low temps. Normal rubber tires don't do that, hence the need for studs. A good studless tire will out perform any studded tire made. They aren't inexpensive but are worth the price if one lives in the snow and ice belt. I had my very last set of studded tires (20+ years ago?) that couldn't stop at all. They would allow me to go, but emergency braking was totally useless. As I wrote, that was my last set of studded tires, that was maybe 20 years ago. OK, story... I was heading home after work and a school bus was coming down the hill, yellow lights flashing the entire distance. Where was it going to stop? No way to tell in that 1/2+ mile. All of a sudden he puts on his reds as I was on him, he was going to stop and it's illegal to pass a bus under those conditions. I absolutely couldn't stop. The bus driver had some interesting hand signals. When I got home I called the school bus company and told them exactly what occurred. They are NOT supposed to ride with yellows flashing for any distance, yellows are to warn for an impending stop. But anyway, I couldn't stop when the moron bus driver decided to put his reds on. Those tires were removed shortly after but they were old tech' studded tires.

The all season tires are just garbage on snow and ice. Very little better than summer tires. I use summer tires and winter tires and endure the changeover. If someone lives where one has snow and ice infrequently I would just have summer tires and call in on snow days. It's just not worth the expense for good tires and definitely not worth life and limb to go to work... lots of downside and very little upside. If the employer wants one to risk ones neck and doesn't understand the risk they aren't much of an employer. That's just the way I think.
Brian

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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by Rufus » Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:25 am

All Weather tyres perform better in winter than All Season tyres, but not as well as Winter tyres. Looking at average stopping distances at 80 km per h/50 miles per h, a Winter tyre stops 100-feet shorter than an All Season tyre and 65-feet shorter than an All Weather tyre on icey roads. In temperatures lower than 7*C, Winter tyres deliver improved performance compared to All Season and All Weather tyres. Winter tyre compounds are designed to remain flexible and perform well in temperatures as low as -30*C thus giving better control on cold, dry or wet pavement and not just on snow and ice. In Canada Winter tyres can be identified by the mountain/snowflake on the sidewalk of the tyre. On Saturday I replaced my existing Winter tyres with a new set (all 4 wheels) as the tread depth on the existing tyres was about 3 mm. For safe handling always install 4 Winter tyres.
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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by brothers » Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:14 pm

Pauldog wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:43 pm
Does ABS make any difference for these wreckless skidders?
Yes, and no. I love ABS equipped vehicles. It wasn't standard until sometime around the 1990's or so. It only became mandatory in 2013 in USA.
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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by Pauldog » Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:58 am

Almost all the all-weather tires I mentioned have that mountain/snowflake symbol. I've gotten by with decent all-seasons (and traction mats) for decades, so I figure that switching to all-weather tires will be a good-enough improvement, and I won't need to deal with two sets of tires.

By the way, I've heard that the "303" brand protectant will extend the life of your tires by quite a bit, especially if you can somehow apply it to the inside as well as the outside of the tire. There's a Youtube video about it. Part of the claim is that by keeping the rubber supple, the tread wears less, since the friction against the road doesn't make much rubber dust. The stuff does seem to make my wipers last longer. I just applied it to my wipers for the second time, and they're the same wipers I installed in early 2017. I don't see the streaking or uneven clearing that I expect after 6-12 months of use.

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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by Pauldog » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:10 am

The mats came in the mail on Thursday, so I took a close look at the construction. The round metal things that look like grommets are actually washers to keep one side of the metal rivets in place. There are no grommets; the rivet shafts are touching the mat material with almost no clearance. The manufacture notes in the printed material that they used more rivets than needed to make up for the possible occasional pulling-out of a rivet in use. The rivet heads on the other side are wide enough, so no washers on that side. The mat material is rubbery and very durable. I can see reinforcing material inside. It seems quite possible that they make conveyor belts out of the same stuff.

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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by ShadowsDad » Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:43 am

Pauldog, you can certainly use those tires year round, but I have no experience with them in that role. But some things that might make a difference is that they will be noisier than a summer tire, and your gas mileage will also suffer a bit. Yes, tire changeover is a PITA but we always notice the difference once it's done.

One thing I don't miss at all with the snowflake/mountain tires is the mandatory "gotta get the studs off the car" date that Maine has written into law. We've been known to have snow after that date and I can just ignore it.
Brian

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Re: My Quest for working car traction mats may finally be over

Post by Pauldog » Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:03 pm

The big winter test for me of any tire is whether it will get me up a somewhat steep driveway without momentum. Sometimes I have to back the car out into the street to build up a little more steam to make it, with tires that are more or less average sporty all-seasons made more for speed than snow traction.

Tire size makes a difference, too. My car came with 215/45R17 tires, and that narrow profile and relatively wide tread are a challenge in snow for any model tire. I could get a set of wheels for winter that use 185/65R15 tires. That would give me the same diameter, but more weight per square inch on the driving patch.

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