Types of Tyre and Tread Explained

You may not have thought about it before, but the type of tyre you install on your vehicle makes a huge difference to how your car performs in different conditions. Everything from the material to the tyre tread plays a significant role in how your wheels make contact with the road.

Before we go through the different types of tyre on the market, it’s important to understand tyre tread types, because they impact the performance of the tyre in different conditions.

An image of tyres stacked up in a mechanics workshop with the tread in focus of the photo.

Tyre Tread Types

1. Multi-directional/symmetrical

These are known as ‘symmetrical’ because the pattern on the inside matches the pattern on the outside of the tyre. The multi-directional lines means they can be placed anywhere on the car - which makes them cheaper, as you don’t have to order four different tyres for your car.

multi-directional tread pattern

2. Asymmetric

These types of tyres feature a different pattern on the inside and outside of the tyre which makes them able to perform well in dry and wet conditions. However, asymmetric tyres need to be facing a certain way when mounted onto the wheel of your car, so this can make them a little more expensive.

asymmetric tread pattern

3. Directional

Their arrow-like design works really well with wet conditions as the arrow channels water through the tread and displaces it very effectively. This gives you lots of grip, especially in wet conditions but, like asymmetric tyres, these need to be placed all facing the same way – which will be different on either side of the car.

In short, multi-directional tyres are the best if you’re on a budget, offering good value for money and a fair job in different conditions, while also being easier to replace individually. Directional tyres offer the most grip when anticipating wet conditions but because you can only place them all facing the same way, they can be more expensive. Asymmetric tyres are the best all-rounder tyres but come at a slightly higher price tag due to their performance.

directional tread pattern

Tyre types explained

Tyres need to meet the requirements of driving in different conditions, as well as driving with different loads. For example, a fully laden Vauxhall Corsa is still going to be much lighter than a fully laden Ford Transit van. The tyres on each vehicle need to be able to withstand these different stresses.

Summer tyres are designed to work in mostly dry, warm conditions. As the rubber doesn’t need to be thick enough to prevent splitting from cold environments, summer tyres can be made from a softer, more elastic rubber compound. They tend to feature a tread pattern with few grooves in order to maximise contact with roads – this has the added benefit of improving handling and giving better fuel economy during warmer months. To find out more, see our summer tyres.

Winter tyres feature a high groove ratio to enable more grip on wet, snowy ground. When you have a smooth tyre surface, the wheels aren’t able to channel water away – this then can lead to ‘aquaplaning’ which is a complete loss of traction and can cause crashes. Their tyre compound also contains more natural rubber to stop it hardening in the cold (which in turn leads to splitting).

These types of tyres are best suited for regions with moderate climates year-round (such as the UK). Due to the tyres not having to deal with extreme conditions, the manufacturers can develop them to match both wet and dry conditions within a reasonable temperature range. They also have the added benefit of reducing costs, as you won’t need to change your tyre sets twice a year. To find out more, see our page on All Season Tyres.

Run flat tyres are much the same as traditional tyres but are designed with a reinforced interior wall. This means that they are able to operate over a longer period of time with a puncture (thus giving you time to get to a garage) and also reduce the risk of a tyre blowout. If you’re interested in Run Flat Tyres, find out more here.

These tyres are designed for use on 4x4s and SUVs. They’re especially up to the task of off-road use, feature a tough construction to be able to withstand larger loads, and make use of tyre tread patterns that enable a lot of grip on soft ground and steep inclines. Click through to find out more about 4x4 tyres.

Reinforced tyres are perfect for use in larger vehicles that frequently carry heavy loads. They have greater distance-life over regular car tyres and provide more stability and traction, which is a huge benefit in icy conditions. Learn more about reinforced tyres here.

Owners of LCVs and vans will most likely need to fit ‘commercial’ tyres to their vehicle. This is because van tyres need to be able to carry the additional weight of tools, hardware, and passengers. The tyres themselves will carry a ‘C’ label to indicate ‘commercial’ and offer great longevity alongside increased grip. Find out more here.

Caravans and motorhomes don’t usually carry the same weight a commercial vehicle would, so you don’t necessarily need to have tyres as sturdy as those found on vans. However, investing in good quality tyres for your caravan or motorhome will help to ensure that you’re not stuck at the side of the motorway for hours with a flat. See what tyres we have available, including how we can fit Tyron bands, on this page.

Electric vehicle tyres are designed for the specific characteristics of EV vehicle models and provide improved range and handling over conventional tyres. EV tyres are designed to better handle the instant torque produce by Electric motors for greater acceleration, and additional weight due to the heavy lithium ion battery banks on board. Find out more here.

Like EV tyres, hybrid vehicle tyres are designed to provide performance benefits to vehicles fitted with a hybrid engine. Hybrid vehicles are heavier than standard cars because they contain both electric batteries and a combustion engine (plus they require fuel). Therefore hybrid tyres need to be designed to deal with this additional weight. Find out more here.

Homologated tyres are designed specifically for vehicles produced by a specific manufacturer and are tuned an adapted to the characteristics of that vehicle. They are sometimes referred to as Original Equipment tyres, or OE tyres for short, as they are often the tyres that are fitted to the vehicle when it first rolls off the production line. Find out more here.

If you’re unsure of what kind of tyre you may need, the technicians at your local Kwik Fit centre will be able to help. Get in touch today.

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