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How Different Tread Works

Surely you’ve noticed the wide range of tread patterns and styles available between different tire brands and models. Here’s a brief technical breakdown of how they all work: 

  • Tread patterns: Tires are commonly designed with symmetrical, asymmetrical and directional tread patterns. Symmetrical treads are the most common, with ribs or tread blocks where the inboard and outboard sections of the tire come together and match. Asymmetrical tread patterns vary the groove pattern of the tire to help deflect water and snow in all-season conditions, making them a good pick for year-round use. The grooves on directional tires form a V shape at the tire’s center, helping to displace water and avoid hydroplaning. The geometry of the tread blocks and tread pattern is designed to fulfill very dedicated, specific functions for each tire’s application. These factors all figure into a tire’s noise level and handling, as well as the tire’s service life and treadwear.

  • Rolling resistance: A tire has to be designed to split the best of both worlds…premium traction and low rolling resistance. Rolling resistance is the amount of friction generated while keeping a vehicle moving down the road, with a 360 degree analysis of the tire’s performance. Rolling resistance is also a factor of the tire’s tread compound and internal construction, among many other features; obviously, the lower a tire’s rolling resistance, the greater fuel economy you can expect.

  • Wear indicators: Most new tires are designed with “wear bars,” indicators at the base of the tread that run at a right angle to the grooves. When the tire’s tread wears down past about 60% or so, the wear bars show through to indicate it’s time to replace the tire.

Different vehicles have different needs when it comes to traction and control. Mud tires and all-terrain tires, of course, use a chunky, blocky tread that’s designed to grip and claw their way through sand, dirt, mud and other loose conditions. Mud tires generally feature shoulder blocks that wrap up onto the tire’s sidewall for an inch or so, helping to claw through ruts, and deep, wide voids inbetween lugs that allow the tire to eject mud and rocks so it will constantly have a fresh, clean “bite” into the mud.