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Tyre tread patterns: why are they important?

14th October 2022

The tread of your tyre is the part that actually makes contact with the surface of the road. Different tyres have a variety of tread patterns that include grooves, ribs, sipes and tread blocks that are arranged in unique patterns to adjust a tyre’s performance. 

Why are tyre tread patterns important?

Tyre tread patterns are the most important feature to consider before purchasing tyres as they can influence a number of factors such as - driving comfort, handling traction, tyre wear, fuel consumption rate and noise level. The choice of tyre tread can affect both the handling of the vehicle itself and the properties of the specific tyre. This allows tyre manufacturers to develop tread patterns to address specific driving requirements such as dry handling, wet braking, traction on ice or snow and aquaplaning resistance.  It’s important to be aware of the different parts of a tyres tread, these include:

  • Grooves – these are the deep channels that run through the entire tyre. They generally serve to improve the steerability of the tyre and braking effectiveness. The depth and pattern of the grooves can also have an impact on the noise level.
  • Ribs – these are made up of tread blocks are the raised sections of a tread pattern.
  • Sipes – these are thin, small slots that are moulded into the tread blocks. Their general purpose is to improve the tyre’s traction on wet surfaces, including snow, by directing water from underneath the tyre. This helps to build resistance against 
  • Tread blocks – these are the raised rubber segments that actually make contact with the road.

It is important to avoid mixing tyre tread patterns as this could be potentially dangerous. This means avoiding different sizes, types, or brands of a tyre on a single vehicle. To maintain optimal performance, it is best to source the identical model and make of the tyre to match the ones you already have. When replacing tyres, it is always safer to replace tyres in pairs rather than replacing a single tyre.

Different types of tyre tread patterns

Although there are many tread patterns on the market, there are three fundamental patterns used in tread designs. The three categories include symmetrical, directional and asymmetric.

Symmetrical tread

These are the most common type, suitable for passenger cars but not for high-performance use. They offer the most flexibility for tyre rotation without impacting day-to-day performance. Key features include smooth driving, long-lasting, low rolling resistance, fuel efficiency and offer less noise. Although symmetrical patterns deliver steady grip on dry roads, they aren’t as effective in wet conditions making them less adaptable to changing conditions on the road.

Directional tread

Tyres with a directional tread pattern are created to roll forward in one direction only. They involve a series of horizontal grooves positioned at the same angle on either side of the tyre to resemble the shape of an arrowhead. Directional treads provide extra traction, allowing for greater handling on mud and snow. The V-shape of the grooves are also more capable of resisting aquaplaning at high speeds by moving water more efficiently through the tread pattern. The key feature of this pattern is greater road holding at higher speeds, making directional treads ideal for high-performance sports vehicles. However, directional tyres can only be rotated vertically.  This means the benefits of this pattern could be rendered useless if the pattern is positioned in the wrong direction when fitted.

Asymmetric tread

Asymmetric tread patterns consist of two separate designs, one on the outer half and one on the inner half of the tyre. Both halves serve a different purpose. The outer tread provides less interior noise and assists the tyres gripping the road better on dry surfaces or going around corners. The inner tread serves to displace water to protect against aquaplaning. Key features include greater handling and high curve stability making them popular for ultra-high-performance cars. However, similarly to directional treads, tyre rotation requires more care.

If you are looking for new tyres, you can easily search and buy online. We recommend visiting your nearest Merityre Specialist branch to get them fitted or to take advantage of our free tyre health check. You can also contact our helpful team today, for any further information or advice.