Tread Patterns

Every now and then I will get a question from a customer asking about a tire’s tread design that does not “look right.” According to the customer, the tread design on the driver side and passenger side tires are not pointing in the same direction. This is a good time to discuss the variety of,tread patterns used by tire manufacturers.

Symmetric Tread Patterns
A symmetric tread pattern is the most common design. It features continuous ribs or independent tread blocks across the tire’s entire tread face where both inboard and outboard halves feature the same pattern. Tires featuring symmetric tread patterns allow the use of multiple tire rotation patterns.

Continental ContiProContact     Michelin Pilot HX MXM4
Continental ContiProContact Michelin Pilot HX MXM4
Asymmetric Tread Patterns
An asymmetric pattern is often confused with a directional tread pattern and is the source of the confusion that I mentioned earlier. This pattern changes across the face of the tire to blend the requirements of dry grip, water dispersal and snow traction.

By incorporates larger tread ribs/blocks on the outboard side of the tire, corninering stability is increased on dry roads by offering a greater contact area.

The inboard side of asymmetric designed tires usually features smaller, independent tread blocks to aid wet and/or winter traction when driving straight ahead.

Tires featuring asymmetric tread patterns allow for rotation to either side of the vehicle and are identified with mounting instructions printed on the side wall designating "Mount this side out."

Kumho Ecsta ASX                    Continental ExtremeContact DWS
Kumho Ecsta ASXContinental ExtremeContact DWS
Directional (Unidirectional) Tread Patterns
A directional tread pattern is designed to roll in only one direction. It incorporates lateral grooves on both sides of the tire’s centerline that point in the same direction and result in v-shaped tread blocks. These grooves enhance hydroplaning resistance at high speeds by pumping water more efficiently through the tread pattern. Directional tires are to be used on one side of the vehicle and are intended to be rotated from the front axle to the rear axle. If different tire sizes are used on the front and rear axles, the tires become location-specific and tire rotation is not possible unless the tires are remounted.

Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus     Bridgestone RE960AS                                                             
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S PlusBridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position


Friday, August 20, 2010 by David Miller

I have 2007 Brigstone Fuzion tire. When mounted with "outside" logo to the out side the trea patterns left side vs right side are oposite. if mounted by loghic of having trwead design going in same direction two tires would have inside logo to the out side. The tire dealer has no answers. The tires make a lot of road noise.
Monday, August 23, 2010 by Porter

Dear Mr. Miller, thank you for your question. Tires with asymmetric tread designs should be mounted with the side marked outside to the outside. The slant to the tread groves is to allow for water dispersion. The tire only has a very narrow portion of the tread making contact with the road at one time and the angled grove helps eject water out from under the tire. The groves work equally well whether slanted to the front or back of the car. We would need further information to help determine the cause of the tire noise.
Saturday, September 25, 2010 by bob berger

How do I determine if tread pattern on my SUV tires is causing noise when I reach speeds of 60mph and above?
Saturday, September 25, 2010 by Porter

Dear Mr. Berger, Without knowing the tires we can offer some possible causes. Tires that have an tread pattern designed to work off-road will make noise at highway speeds. If the tires have uneven wear they will make noise also. A tire with damaged or defective internal structure will also be noisy. The tires should be inspected for both irregular tread wear or possible damage or defects. Other vehicle issues such as worn wheel bearings or other mechanical issues can sound like tire noises also. Without further information these are speculations. We suggest the vehicle be inspected before further use as the noise may be evidence of a potentially dangerous condition.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010 by Alex

What about tires like Pirelli Scorpion ATR or Nitto Terra Grappler? What is the proper way to install them? Do they have to be installed identically (same direction) on all wheels, or symmetrically? Does it matter? Thanks!!!
Friday, January 20, 2012 by dean devor

inside wear on both front tires
Sunday, January 29, 2012 by Andrey Filippov

Dunlop SP Sport 01 is assymetrical Tire. Is it also directional tire. Thread patterns look like they are.
Thank you.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 by Dave

I was getting ready to put my summer tires on and was wondering if they are directional or merely aysmetrical? Can I rotate them side to side? Continental ExtremeContact DW (Not DWS)
Thanks in advance.
Friday, April 20, 2012 by Charles

My Bridgestone Turanza Serenity tires (225/45R17) are asymmetrical. Are they also directional?
Saturday, October 20, 2012 by Mike

The Michelin Defender appears to have a unidirectional tread design, but I don't see a rotation indicator on the sidewall. Does anyone have any info on this tire in terms of direction?
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 by porter

The Michelin Defender incorporates an asymmetric tread design for a balance of dry cornering traction and dependable wet traction. An asymmetrical tread design is not directional and is designed to rotate in either direction.
Our web site describes it best:
"An asymmetric pattern is designed to blend the requirements of dry grip and water dispersal/snow traction where the tread pattern changes across the face of the tire. An asymmetric tread pattern usually incorporates larger tread ribs/blocks on the outboard side to increase cornering stability on dry roads by offering greater contact area. This also helps to reduce tread squirm and heat buildup on the outside shoulder. The inboard side usually features smaller independent tread blocks to aid wet and/or winter traction when driving straight ahead. Tires featuring asymmetric tread patterns allow using multiple tire rotation patterns."
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 by Trish

I have General Altimax RT tires. Looking at it from the front of the car the tread pattern looks like
(passenger side)|//|-------|//| (driver side)
does that look correct or should it look like
I can't discern anything that points to direction or any "inside/outside" type labels.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 by Porter

The General Altimax RT tire has a symetrical tread pattern and can be mounted in any position on the vehicle. The second tread pattern that you indicate would be an example of a directional tread design.
Friday, July 19, 2013 by Doug

I have Continental Contipro Contact tires mounted on a 2010 VW CC R-Line. Car has 25000 miles and they are very noisy with vibration. Dealer says the tires are cupped. I noticed the tire grooves are facing forward on the drivers side and backwards on the passenger side. Does this mean they've been improperly mounted?
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 by Porter

Your dealer is probably correct that the tread wear is contributing to increasing levels of noise. The tires are most likely mounted correctly as the various versions of the Continental Pro Contact tires are made with symetric tread design.
Friday, July 26, 2013 by mitch

You dont seem to answer the question here, What sort of tire do I need if I want the tread pattern to appear to be in the same direction on both the left and right side? (//}-{\). For appearance sake. Thank You
Monday, May 12, 2014 by DT

I purchased a set of Michelin Defenders from TireRack. I just switched them out from my winter tires (x-ice). Are the Defenders "directional" tires, meaning, do they have to be installed facing a specific direction?
Saturday, May 17, 2014 by porter

The Michelin Defender tire is designed with a symmetric tread design that is non directional and can be rotated to any position on the vehicle. A directional tread design would be imprinted on the side wall with mounting directions indicating the direction of rotation.
Friday, May 23, 2014 by Nikkie

The Michelin Defender tires I purchased from TireRack were, according to my repair shop, "istalled incorrectly." I've read what you say here about Defenders being symmetric, rather than directional, but the shop says there's a notation on the tire itself that indicates which way the tire should be installed, and mine weren't installed that way. Can you clarify further, please?
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 by porter

There are mounting directions on the side wall of the Michelin Defender that indicate which side of the tire is to be mounted facing out. Tire installers should look for this and mount the tire accordingly. Once the tire is mounted it can be rotated to all positions of the vehicle, passenger and driver side. This tread design is asymmetric with a different tread design on the out board and in board portions to maximize wet traction and dry handling. A typo on my earlier response appeared as "a symmetric" when it should have been "asymmetric".
Thursday, July 7, 2016 by John Scott

What is the issue with running non-directional Asymmetrical tires with the "inside" on the outside, and the "outside" on the inside?
Monday, July 11, 2016 by Joe S

I had scuff marks polished off my rims last year and am noticing 10 months later, one of the tires is all chewed up near the sidewall. The tire is Pirelli P Zero Nero all season 265/40R20 104h. I also noticed it was mounted with the inside wall facing out. The other 3 tires look like they have normal tread wear for a vehicle with only 14k miles. Was the installation the obvious reason for the tread to be so worn? What should I do?
Thursday, January 19, 2017 by Jennifer Frame

I purchased two Hankook Ventus S1 noble 2 245/45ZR17XL and they were mounted with the word "inside" facing out by mistake. Does it really matter with this particular tire?
Wednesday, August 9, 2017 by Bob

Interesting discussion. I just had a set of Michelin Premier A/S mounted on a Civic. Once I was home I noticed that the block tread as it goes onto the sidewall slopes toward the back on one side of the car and towards the front on the other side. Is the Premier asymmetric? It looks more symmetric compared to your tires above. I just wanted to be sure things were installed correctly. Thanks!
Saturday, November 18, 2017 by Randy

I installed Michelin defenders on my SUV earlier this year. Road noise was very quite. At 5,000 miles the tires were aligned and rotated. Now I have a noticeable hum (road noise) especially at speeds between 25 and 45 MPH. Talked to the dealer, but got no real resolution except let's see what happens after the next rotation. Any thoughts?
Friday, November 24, 2017 by Tire Rack Team

Randy, that tire is known to be pretty quiet so our only thought is that there could be some uneven wear. Rotating tires a little more frequently at the beginning of the life of the tire can help, click here to see our rotation recommendations:
Sunday, December 17, 2017 by Travis

I bought a set of Bridgestone Potenza RE760 sports from Discount a year or so ago. I just swapped them out for my snow tires and realized that the two front tires are exactly the same, so the tread patterns don’t look symmetrical when placed side by side. The same applies for the back tires (which are a different size). I am thinking instead of ordering a right and left tire, they just ordered left tires and mounted them on both sides. Is that possible? Am I fair to be pretty upset?
Tuesday, December 19, 2017 by Tire Rack Team

Travis: Asymmetric tires are only made in one part number, so no left or right only. It will, however, have an outside to the tire when it is mounted. Then it can roll either direction, so those work as designed. From the point of view of the road and the contact patch, they work exactly the same in either direction.

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