Tire Tread Patterns

You probably know what tire tread is: the part of the tire that makes contact with the road surface. But what you might not know is that the specific tire tread pattern your tire utilizes can impact how your tires perform, such as how they handle and how much traction they provide in different driving conditions. Let’s look deeper at both the elements of tire tread patterns as well as the three types you might run across in your search for new tires: Symmetric tread, asymmetric tread, and directional tread.

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What are the elements of tire tread patterns?

A tire tread’s design is composed of five basic elements: tread blocks, grooves, sipes, cross slots and ribs. Grooves are channels that run circumferentially around the tire between the tread ribs. Tread ribs are the raised section of tread pattern that are composed of tread blocks. Tread blocks are the raised rubber segments that make contact with the road surface. Cross slots are channels molded into tread elements to provide extra water evacuation. Finally, sipes are the small slits molded into the tread blocks that increase the number of biting edges to enhance all-season traction.

The Elements of Tire Tread Patterns

Symmetric Tread Pattern

The most common tread pattern in use on passenger tires is the symmetric tread pattern. In these types of patterns, the outer and inner sides of the tread are symmetric—that is, they are mirror images of one another. The tread blocks form continuous ribs around the tire. Tires with a symmetric tread may use any type of rotation method – front-to-back, modified X or full X. An example of a symmetric tread pattern is the Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 Plus. At times, you might hear symmetric tread pattern tires referred to as “multi-directional”. This is because the tire can be mounted on the wheel and rotated in any direction without affecting performance.

Bridgestone Ecopia EP 422 Plus

Asymmetric Tread Pattern

Another tread type found on passenger tires is the asymmetric pattern. In these types of patterns, the inner and outer halves of the tread are designed with different channels and tread blocks. This design is intended to enhance performance such as water dispersal or dry grip and snow traction. In the example above, the Bridgestone Turanza Serenity Plus all-season touring tire, you can see how the left (outer) side of the tire tread features chunkier tread blocks that provide a larger contact area for increased stability and handling on dry roads. The right (inner) side of the tread pattern features more channels and smaller tread blocks to aid in channeling water away for improved rain traction. Multiple rotation patterns may be used for this type of tire.

Bridgestone Turanza Serenity Plus

Directional Tread Patterns

Some tire tread patterns are designed for rolling in a unidirectional way, meaning in only one direction. These are called directional tread patterns and are often found in high-performance tires and winter tires. As you can see in the example above, the Potenza RE960AS Pole Position tire features tread elements that form a V-shape. This V-shaped tread pattern helps move water more efficiently from under the contact patch to help boost hydroplaning resistance at higher speeds. Since the channels only work if mounted with the V’s oriented correctly, once the tire is mounted, directional tires can only be rotated using a front-to-back and back-to-front pattern. Directional tires will feature an arrow on the sidewall indicating which direction they need to roll when mounted on the car.

Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position RFT

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