back to quickademy

Why Tread Patterns Matter

  • Tips/Guides-Tips/Guides

Tyre tread patterns are critical to the performance and safety of a vehicle. They are a unique design, each enhancing a vehicle’s performance in specific ways and play a significant role in providing traction and handling in different driving conditions.

Function of a tyre’s tread

The main function of tread patterns is to provide grip and traction on the road surface. The patterns vary depending on the intended use of the tyre, with different designs for dry, wet, and winter driving conditions. For example, a tyre designed for wet conditions will have deep grooves and channels to displace water and reduce the risk of hydroplaning.

Functions of different tread patterns

Tread patterns in tyres are therefore not merely a design for aesthetic purposes but are crafted for very specific functions and requirements. There are three main types:

  1. Symmetrical – Most commonly found on passenger car tyres, this type of tread delivers a smooth ride, high directional stability, and low rolling resistance. Sometimes referred to as “multi-directional” as these tyres can be mounted on the wheel and rotated in any direction without affecting performance.

    A symmetrical tread pattern features repeating series of grooves on the entire face of the tyre.

  2. Directional – A.k.a. unidirectional tread as they are designed for rolling in one direction only. These provide the best protection against aquaplaning, are excellent on snow and mud conditions, and perform very well at road-holding at high speeds.

    Directional tread comes with a broad V-shaped pattern and between tread blocks it has thick grooves.

  3. Asymmetric – These provide the best of both worlds. Generally used on high-performance cars, these offer excellent handling, high curve stability, and good grip in wet conditions. The inner and outer halves of the tread are designed with different channels and tread blocks to enhance performance in the dry, or increase wet weather performance by improving water dispersal.

    The asymmetric tread pattern is the opposite of the symmetrical tread, featuring two separate tread designs, one on the inner half and another on the outer half of the tyre.

Tread factors

The science and engineering behind tyre tread patterns involve a complex balance of many factors, including the shape, depth, and spacing of the grooves and channels.

1. Depth

The depth of the grooves in the tyre's tread pattern is also important. It helps to channel water, snow, and mud away from the tyre's contact patch. Shallow tread grooves make it more difficult to control a vehicle in wet weather, increasing the chance of aquaplaning. Groove spacing

2. Groove spacing

Grooves are deep channels which run circumferentially and laterally around the tyre. The spacing between the grooves influences the tyre's ability to grip the road surface, with wider spacing providing better grip on loose surfaces like gravel or mud.

Tyres are the bond between your vehicle and the surface it is riding on. If the tread is not deep enough or spacing not optimal, the car can lose traction or lose braking time, making it extremely unsafe to drive.

3. Tread block shape

Tread blocks are the raised rubber segments that make contact with the road surface. The shape of the tread blocks is a crucial factor in the tyre's performance. Blocks can be designed to provide better handling and stability, with some patterns featuring angled or curved blocks to improve cornering and braking performance.

4. Rubber type

In addition to these factors, tyre manufacturers also take into account other variables such as the type of rubber used in the tyre's construction, the tyre's size, and the weight of the vehicle. The combination of these factors is what makes tyre tread patterns such a complex and important part of the engineering and design process for modern tyres.


While engineers will also look to designing an aesthetically pleasing tread pattern, their main focus is on the performance of each and every tyre. Managing the trade-offs presents some challenges where improvement of one performance attribute will result in a performance reduction in another area. However, with the availability of supercomputers, tyre engineers are able to predict the performance of each tyre designed, and identify which will provide the best overall performance and safety.

Supa Quick are committed to safety on the road. Pop in to your nearest Supa Quick service centre and ask for a free vehicle safety check.

Also read:

Tyres - A Technical Perspective

Choosing Between Budget, Mid-range, and Premium Tyres

Tyre Buying Guide – What You Should Know

How Long Do Tyres Last?

Burst or Exploding Tyres - The What, Whys, and Hows

What You Should Know About Tyre Recycling

Vegan Tyres – Is There Such a Thing?

Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.

more info

Free safety check

more info

Information Centre

more info

open during load shedding
call center