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Symmetric, asymmetric or directional tyres: which tread pattern should you choose?

Which tread pattern to choose: symmetric, asymmetric or directional? Tread patterns influence the performance of a tyre in different driving conditions, so it's important to choose the right one for your driving needs. Here we take you through the main features of each tread pattern to help you choose the most suitable option for your vehicle.
Symmetric, asymmetric or directional ?

© rezulteo

Symmetric tyres: for good value and comfort

Tyre with symmetrical tread

© Kumho

As the name suggests, symmetrical tyres have the same tread pattern on both sides of the tyre. They are the most common type of tyre on compact and city cars and are mainly available in smaller sizes (13, 14 or 15 inches).

Advantages:

  • Good value for money, cheaper to buy than asymmetric or directional tyres and last longer.
  • Good straight line stability, good handling and a comfortable ride.
  • Easy to fit: can be fitted either way round, and can be rotated without any risk of error.

Disadvantages:

  • Not as technically sophisticated as asymmetric or directional tyres.
  • In particular, not as good as the other tread patterns in wet conditions.
  • Not designed for high performance or sports cars.

The verdict: ideal if you’re looking for an affordable tyre with overall performance.

Asymmetric tyres: for optimum safety in wet and dry

Tyre with asymmetric tread

© Bridgestone

Unlike symmetrical tyres, asymmetric tyres have a different tread pattern on the inner and outer sides of the tyre. Tread blocks on the outer side are usually larger to provide better grip when cornering. On the inner side, grooves are designed to quickly remove water on wet roads. Asymmetric tyres are mostly available in medium and large sizes (17 inches and above) and are often fitted on powerful, middle to upper range vehicles.

Advantages:

  • Excellent handling and cornering stability.
  • Aquaplaning resistance for maximum safety in wet conditions.
  • Quieter than symmetric tyres.

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive than symmetric tyres and with a slightly shorter service life due to the use of soft rubber in the tyre structure.
  • Care needs to be taken to fit them the right way round with the word “outside” on the tyre’s outer sidewall.

The verdict: Perfect for enjoying a safe drive in your hatchback, saloon or sports car on all types of journey.

Directional tyres: for performance on snow

Tyre with directional tread

© BF Goodrich

Directional tyres have a characteristic arrow-patterned tread designed to quickly drain large amounts of water at high speed. This tread pattern is mainly used for latest generation winter tyres as it offers excellent traction in snow.

Advantages:

  • Tyres rapidly disperse water on very wet roads, significantly reducing the risk of aquaplaning.    
  • On winter tyres, this tread pattern gives more traction on all types of snow and slush. 

Disadvantages:

  • Higher cost and shorter life due to the use of soft rubber in the tyre structure.
  • Slightly louder rolling noise, particularly towards the end of the tyre’s life.
  • When fitting these tyres it’s important to follow the direction of rotation indicated by an arrow on the sidewall. These tyres are designed to work in only one direction of rotation.

The verdict: Originally designed for sports cars, directional tyres are now used to tackle winter weather conditions.

Asymmetric and directional tyre: for ultra-high performance

This type of tyre combines both the asymmetric and directional technologies in its tread pattern. Designed for sports cars in need of ultra high performance, these tyres are still relatively rare on the market. The right and left side tyres are different, meaning that on vehicles with different front and rear tyre sizes, all 4 tyres can be different.

Advantages:

  • Specifically designed for the vehicle to offer the highest level of performance.

Disadvantages:

  • Rare and expensive.
  • Fitting rules are strict, as with directional tyres.  

The verdict: Tyres specifically designed for sports cars needing maximum performance.

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