The Different Types of Tire Tread Designs and Their Typical Use

The tread pattern design influences how a tire functions on different surfaces and weather conditions.

Tires with different tread patterns also serve different uses and it’s important to pick tire types with a tread design that suits your driving needs.

Here is an analysis of the various types of tire tread patterns and their typical uses.

 

Common types of tire tread designs and usage

For beginners, every tread design is developed with specific driving conditions and even the type of vehicle in mind.

This explains the existence of the myriad designs as covered below:

1. Symmetrical tread design (or multi-directional tread design)

Most of the tires in the market today have a symmetrical tread design.

Now, these are made up of exactly similar patterns (symmetric means equal) on both the outer and inner treads around the tire.

These can be continuous ribs (and sometimes independent tread blocks) on both halves.

The reason why tires with symmetric patterns are often referred to as multi-directional is because they give you the freedom to rotate the tire in any direction you wish without curtailing performance. Tires with symmetrical treads include off-road tires and the best all terrain tires.

Pros

  • Best fuel economy (thanks to the lower rolling resistance).
  • Extended mileage.
  • Super quiet.

Cons

  • Struggles in deep freezing conditions.

Typical use: passenger car tires.

symmetrical tire treads design
    Symmetrical tire treads

2. Asymmetrical tire tread

Asymmetric tread is the converse of symmetrical designs meaning that this time the tread patterns are non-identical on either half- there are larger tread blocks (outside) and smaller tread blocks with unique slits (inside).

The reasoning behind the use of a distinct pattern inside and outside is to optimize water expulsion and defense against hydroplaning in wet weather (inner side) and stability and handling on dry pavements (outer side). These are treads patterns on all-weather tires, all-season tires for SUV, best all season truck tires.

You should be careful when fitting tires featuring asymmetrical treads- follow the markings “outside only” and “inside only” as indicated otherwise you negate the gains of the ‘mixed’ engineering.

Possible rotations options for asymmetric tires are back-to-front, front-to-back, and across as long as you observe the outer placement indicators on the sidewall.

Pros

  • Exhilarating performance.
  • Superb grip in wet weather.
  • Excellent at cornering.

Cons

  • Steering and response problems if mounted incorrectly.

Typical uses:  high performance vehicles and sporty cars

Asymmetrical tire tread design
   Asymmetrical tire treads

3. Directional tread design (unidirectional)

As the name implies, directional tread design tires only roll in one direction and you must thus mount them in the designated direction-their sidewalls have guiding arrows so this should not bother you much.

The most notable feature in directional tread pattern is the V shape in the grooves – this is intended to help displace water swiftly to prevent hydroplaning particularly when you hit cruising speeds. Directional treads are common on mud-terrain tires, and the best off-road tire for daily driving.

Another thing you enjoy with unidirectional tires is enhanced stability because of the rigid treads- it improves traction on icy or mud roads boosting the vehicle’s balance on such conditions.

And while you can rotate directional tires either front-to-back or back-to-front, its best to retain them on the same side as each tire delivers optimally on a specific side.

Pros

  • Resists hydroplaning awesomely.
  • Wonderful on snow and mud terrain.
  • Acceptable comfort levels at high speed.

Cons

  • Not the best tread design for navigating sharp corners.

Typical uses:  some all-season, off-road, and winter tires. Also found in selected high-performance tire brands.

Directional tire treads
Directional tire treads

Final Thoughts

The standout differences in the 3 leading categories of tread patterns are in the construction of the tread ribs (for traction), grooves/voids (helps water escape), tread blocks (rubber segments contacting the road surface), and sipes (small slits in the tread lugs).

They all have a major say on how your tire behaves out there and getting the tread design right will help you get the most out of your tires.

That should be straightforward now that you have learned how each tire tread design works.

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