When you are tire shopping, you might become overwhelmed by options, specifically in tread pattern. Are all tires created equal? Does the tread pattern really matter when you are choosing your next set of tires? Keep reading to find out what these tire experts say about how tread pattern affects the performance of a car.

Stefan Kleinekoort

Stefan Kleinekoort

Stefan Kleinekoort, Owner and Founder of TheDriverAdviser.com.

Different Tread Patterns, Different Performance

As a general rule of thumb, there are four main tread patterns. Below are the patterns and in what kinds of situations they perform best:

Directional
This tread pattern has to be installed in the right direction since its pattern is designed to only rotate one way (front to back). Because of the way the tread pattern is designed, it’s great at preventing hydroplaning on rainy days. The optimum performance of this tread pattern is achieved in rainy conditions.

Symmetrical
This tread pattern consists of independent lugs and/or continuous grooves across the whole tire. Its main purpose is to be quiet and last a long time. This is why you’ll often find this pattern on passenger cars. However, it’s not the best if you’re looking for optimum performance.

Asymmetrical
This tread pattern is most commonly found on all-around sports cars. The outside of the tire has larger tread blocks that allow for grip on dry surfaces, while the inside of the tire has a tread pattern with smaller tread blocks and more lines which allow for better grip in rainier or snowier conditions because the tire can get rid of water more efficiently this way.

Directional/Asymmetrical
As the name suggests, this is a combination between a direction and an asymmetrical tread pattern. The inside of this tread pattern is designed for getting rid of water (and it’s more effective at this than the asymmetrical tread pattern), whereas the outside has the larger tread blocks which allow for better grip in dry conditions.

The difference between the directional/asymmetrical tread pattern and the previously named asymmetrical tread pattern is that this tread pattern can only be rotated front to back. Furthermore, cars that have different-sized wheels on the front and the back can’t rotate these tires and therefore have to resort to asymmetrical tires to get similar performance.

Top Speed, Handling, and Traction

Tire tread pattern affects how the tires grip a road and therefore affects top speed, handling, and traction.

The tire tread that you use must complement the terrain that you are driving on. For example, a directional tire pattern (where the tire tread has v-shaped grooves) provides the most grip on the road and is therefore ideal in muddy or snowy conditions. However, if you use this type of tread in hotter conditions tires can overheat and blow out.

The golden rule when it comes to tire tread patterns is to make sure that you have the same tread pattern on all four tires. Failing to do this can result in uneven handling and steering as the tires grip the road differently. The vehicle may pull in the direction of the tire with the greatest grip when you turn.

Mike Skoropad

Mike Skoropad

Mike Skoropad, CEO and General Manager of United Tires.

Ted Mosby

Ted Mosby

Ted Mosby, Founder of CamperAdvise.

Keep Make and Model of Tires Consistent

The tread depth of a tire has a significant impact on steering response and traction, both of which are critical to a car’s on-road performance. A thicker thread provides more traction, which might help you stop faster. It’s also great for tougher driving situations and terrains like sand, snow, dirt, gravel, and so on.

Tires with symmetrical designs give the vehicle owner maximum tire rotation freedom without impacting day-to-day performance. They’re also energy-efficient, quiet, and long-lasting. Avoid putting multiple types, sizes, or brands of tires on the same vehicle when purchasing new tires.

To preserve ideal performance qualities, find a tire that is the same make and model as the ones you presently have on your wheels.

The Three Main Tire Tread Patterns

There are three main tire tread patterns out there. Using different tire tread patterns will affect your driving abilities as well as the performance of your vehicle. The tire tread is a part of the tire that makes direct contact with the road. Manufacturers make different patterns to enhance its performance with grip and handling for specific driving conditions.

Besides different patterns, tire tread has four parts which are ribs, grooves, tread blocks, and sipes.

Tire tread patterns are directional, symmetrical, or asymmetrical.

Directional tire patterns provide excellent hold on the road at high speed, they are very good on snow and mud, and they provide high protection against aquaplaning.

Symmetrical tire tread patterns provide very low rolling resistance, delivering smooth driving, as well as providing high directional stability.

Asymmetrical tire tread patterns provide very good grip in wet conditions. They have excellent curve stability, offering very good handling.

At any cost avoid mixing tire tread patterns together. If you do, you’re risking optimal safety and performance.

John Taylor

John Taylor

John Taylor, Founder & Editor of GarageDetective.com.
Kathleen Ahmmed

Kathleen Ahmmed

Kathleen Ahmmed, Co-founder of USCarJunker.

The Deeper the Ridges, the More Traction and Stability

The tread design on a car’s tires will usually have a significant impact on its handling abilities, as it digs into the roadway surface and effectively repels water, grease, oil, or any other liquids from the main contact surface of the car’s tire. This, in turn, is usually what provides the traction that is necessary for any driver to be in control of the car on the road.

Furthermore, the type of tire tread can also affect how a car handles on the road, in terms of driving experience. For instance, car tires that come with deep ridges in their treads will usually offer good traction and stability.

Meanwhile, those with more symmetrical and streamlined tread designs tend to offer drivers a smoother and quieter driving experience at highway speeds, but with the trade-off of having less traction.

Improved Wet Weather Performance

Tires with deeper channels are better at shedding water, which helps decrease the slip and spin that can lead to accidents. The same can be said for tires with larger gaps between tread elements. The more open the tread pattern is, the more efficiently it will disperse water. The downside to this is that tires won’t handle as well in extreme conditions or cornering speeds, but they do improve traction in normal road driving conditions.

Cody Crawford

Cody Crawford

Cody Crawford, Co-Founder of Low Offset.
Ray Driggers

Ray Driggers

Ray Driggers is the owner of D&R Car Care.

Impacts the Way a Vehicle Responds to Your Needs

The tread design on a vehicle’s tire has an immense impact on the way a vehicle responds to your needs. A standard, all-season tire will generally have a symmetrical tread design. This allows for a quieter ride with good wet and dry road traction. If you are after a more performance-based ride generally an asymmetric tread design is used. This allows for better high speed and turning capability.

For trucks and SUVs, some prefer an all-terrain tread design. This allows better handling off-road while still giving you safe on-road handling. There are a multitude of tire tread patterns or designs, from no tread (racing slick) to a full mud tire (used mostly for off-roading).

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.