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The Pros & Cons of Different Tyre Tread Patterns

close up image of car tyres

Whether you're in the market for a new car, or just need a change of tyres, you might not have properly considered tread patterns before. After all, tyres are all black, made of rubber and are just there to get you from one place to another, right? Not quite. For a start, tread patterns influence how your car might perform in different driving conditions, so choosing the right one for your driving style and the environment is an important choice.

If you often find yourself in the city, you'll need a tread pattern that's ready for road terrain and the constant stop/start of traffic. Elsewhere, those in the great outdoors will probably require a tyre with a tread pattern that's well-equipped for weather of all kinds. Here, we'll take a look at the various tread patterns that are available, including their pros and cons, to help you make a decision about which is the right type for you.

Symmetrical

The most common type of tread pattern, the symmetrical variety feature a pattern of continuous grooves or blocks across the entire tyre. Often found on city and compact cars, they tend to come in smaller sizes in the region of 12-15 inches, while they can also be very effective for cars that only have to drive short distances.

image of car tyres being splashed with water

Pros

·      Cheaper to buy than other tyre types, good value for money and tend to last longer

·      Good straight-line stability and handling that provides a comfortable ride

·      Easy to fit; can be fitted either way round and be rotated without any risk of error

·      Low rolling resistance

·      Comparatively quiet

Cons

·      Not as technically sophisticated as other tread types

·      Overall, doesn't perform as well when driving in wet conditions

·      Not designed for high-performance or sports cars

·      Unsuitable for long-distance journeys or motorway use

Directional


With their characteristic arrow-patterned tread that's designed to drain large amounts of water quickly, directional tyres are considered to be best-suited to driving on snowy or wet roads. They're also adept at providing a high degree of protection against aquaplaning, where water between the road surface and tyre builds up, causing a loss in traction.

Note: Direction tyres can be moved from the front axle to the rear axle in order to balance wear, but cannot be moved from one side of the car to the other unless remounted.

image of car tyres in snow

Pros

·      Rapid dispersion of water on wet roads, decreasing the chance of aquaplaning

·      Provides plenty of traction while driving in snowy conditions

·      Strong road holding even at high speeds

Cons

·      Higher cost and shorter life due to their use of soft rubber

·      Louder rolling noise, especially when they're closer to the end of their life

·      Designed to have only one direction of rotation - specific usage rules may put off some

Asymmetrical

As the name suggests, asymmetrical tyres have different tread patterns on their inner and outer sides of the tyre, with each pattern serving a different, but important, purpose. The inner treads are used for water displacement and protection from aquaplaning, whereas the outer tread provides a high level of lateral stiffness, ensuring substantial grip on tight corners or when driving on dry surfaces. This makes them especially popular with high-performance hatchbacks and sports cars.

Pros

·      Excellent handling and corner stability on both wet and dry surfaces

·      Aquaplaning resistance ensures maximum safety in wet conditions

·      Quieter than their symmetrical counterparts

Cons

·      More expensive than symmetrical tyres with a slightly shorter service life due to the use of soft rubber in the tyre structure

·      Care should be taken to fit them the right way around. The word outside should always be on the outside of the car

image of car speeding around corner with race tyres

Directional and Asymmetrical

A combination of both directional and asymmetrical technologies in its tread pattern, this tyre type is often used in sports cars with ultra-high performance and are pretty rare in the market. The right and left side tyres are different, meaning that on vehicles with different front and rear tyre sizes, all four tyres can be different.

Pros

·      Specifically designed to offer the maximum possible performance

Cons

·      Rare and expensive

·      As with directional tyres, they have to be fit to the letter

Can you mix tread patterns?

Despite the above, it is not recommended that you mix tread patterns on a single axle. For instance, an asymmetric tyre won't provide the same wet and dry traction if its counterpart is not the same tyre tread.

For best results, you should ideally replace tyres with identical tyres to the ones you already have, to ensure that the tread design matches exactly. However, if this isn’t possible - or should you wish to change your tyre brand - you should make sure your replacement tyre has the same tread type as the other tyre on this axle.

Therefore, if you have a directional tread pattern, you should avoid replacing it with an asymmetric or multidirectional one, unless you intend to change both tyres on the axle.

Looking for more from Brindley Garages? Click here to check out more news from the motoring world, or if you’re in the market for a new car, see how we can help at our homepage.

Added: 24 March 2020

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