Tread Lightly: Tips For Choosing Tire Tread

If you've ever gone shopping for new tires for your car or truck at an auto repair shop and found yourself overwhelmed by all of the different tread patterns available, you're not alone. How are you supposed to know which ones are the best for your needs? Sure, you can just buy the same thing that's on there now, but what if that's not actually the best tread for the way that you drive? Here's a look at the basics of the tread patterns you'll see and what each one means.


Tires that have symmetrical patterns usually have a very uniform design of either grooves or something similar. The pattern will be consistent across the entire face of the tire. These are one of the most popular tire options because they can be rotated in any direction, they're versatile for different road conditions, and they ride quietly. Just remember that they don't protect you from hydroplaning the way that a directional tire will.


Directional tire tread is designed specifically to help you prevent hydroplaning and to keep water from pooling beneath the tire. These tires have a tread pattern that consists of chevrons and grooves that all face in the same direction. If you live in an area that is prone to heavy rains or water pooling on the road, these might be a good fit for you. However, it's important to remember that directional tires also come with a limitation. You can only rotate them front-to-back. You can't rotate them diagonally or from one side to the other, because it will change the direction that the tread is running.


Unlike symmetrical tires, asymmetrical tires feature tread patterns that are mixed with different patterns. Each one usually serves a purpose, such as a center section and an edge designed for the best traction in winter weather or wet roads, and a section on the opposite edge for cornering. These will be marked clearly with an outside and inside edge, limiting your ability to rotate these as well.


Combination treads are a mix of directional and asymmetrical tires. They feature a tread in the center with a "v" shape to keep the water away from the tire, and an asymmetrical pattern around the rest of the tire for your handling and general traction. Like both the directional and asymmetrical tires themselves, these are limited in their rotation options. Make sure you don't try to rotate them in the wrong direction, otherwise you'll have handling issues with your car.