What Do Tire Treads Do and Why Are They Important

Tire treads are the most overlooked elements of a vehicle despite being one of the most important contributors to safety on the road. While speeding, the main factor preventing you from losing grip and spinning out of control are ridges you see around your wheels.

Tire treads refer to the rubber patterns that border a tire and make contact with the ground. Tread lugs, tread grooves, voids, tie bars, ribs, sipes, and blocks are all the different components that make up the tire tread pattern. As your vehicle makes more contact with the ground, your tire treads begin wearing out. This can lead to dangerous consequences; which is exactly why it is very important to keep maintaining your tire treads.

Why Are Tire Treads Important?

You may not realize it, but tire treads have a crucial role to play when you drive your car.


When it comes to tire traction, it often is down to a matter of life or death. According to experts, over 200 people die annually due to weak tire treads. Traction refers to the grip and control your car has over the road while driving.

The tire tread allows your vehicle to maintain this traction so that your driving experience can be a safe and smooth one. The smoother the wheels of your vehicle, the less traction you have. This is why treadless tires are a popular choice for race cars.

However, once their treadless wheels come into contact with any sort of wet or icy roads, the car has a very high chance of slipping off the road and out of control.


Tire treads also have an immense effect on the handling and steering of your car. Different tread patterns will have different functions and outcomes on your driving experience.

For example, symmetrical tread patterns are more equipped for driving on the highway as they provide a smoother driving experience, higher stability, and lower rolling resistance. More asymmetric tire treads provide exceptional handling, higher curve stability, and a stronger grip when driving on wet, slippery roads.

Accelerating And Braking

Tire treads allow for a smooth and safe acceleration of your car, ensuring that you do not lose grip and spin out of control.

Also, when it comes to braking, we expect our vehicle to be able to stop as quickly as possible and in the shortest distance covered. Tire treads allow your vehicle to do just that. This feature is the most important during the rainy season. As water covers your tires, creating a dangerous barrier between the tire and road, braking can become very difficult.

The ridges and grooves of the tire allow the water to escape, breaking the barrier created. Although the brake is the most important feature when it comes to stopping, ultimately the tires are what bring your vehicle to a halt.

Fuel Efficiency

A more symmetrical tread pattern because of minimal traction may increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. This, in turn, will save you money as well as be better for the environment as fuel consumption decreases and your carbon footprint falls.

Tire Tread Patterns

Symmetrical Tread Pattern

Source: Tirebuye

This the most popular type of pattern, especially for passenger vehicles. Tires have a continuous tread pattern across the entire wheel with both sides having identical tread designs. Symmetrical tread patterns do not offer higher performance since the inside and outside shoulders are equal in comparison to asymmetric tread patterns.

 A benefit of having symmetric tread patterns is having a plethora of tire rotation options possible. Since all four wheels are identical and equal, tires can be rotated in any way. This is an important feature since tire rotation allows you to extended your tire’s life, saving you time and money in the long run.

 Learn why and how you should rotate your tires here.

Asymmetrical Tread Pattern

Source: Tirebuyer

Asymmetrical tread patterns are usually found on the inner and outer halves of the tire. Although they look unusual, these different treads each serve a purpose. The inner half tread pattern is responsible for letting water escape so your car doesn’t hydroplane which is what happens when your vehicle spins out of control due to a wet road.

The outer tread pattern allows for higher grip and quieter noise and vibrations when turning. The combination of these patterns gives asymmetrical tread patterns a major advantage, which is high performance diversity. Asymmetric tread patterns improve traction, allowing a steadier, smoother grip in wet and dry environments.

Maintaining Tire Treads

The most important tip on the maintenance of tire treads is knowing when it is time to replace or get your tires retreaded. You can find out your tread depth by conducting a simple test known as the ‘Penny test.’

Penny Test

As simple as it sounds, all this test requires is a penny. Since it is recommended to get your tires changed once they reach a 2/32” depth, a penny can allow you to test whether your tires have hit that depth. Place a penny straight down into the ridges of your tire. If the top of the head is still visible, it is time to change your tires, if the top of the head has disappeared, it is suggested to change your tires soon.

Learn more about the penny test and other methods here

Source: Bridgestone

Tire Rotation

Tire rotation is a great way to even out wear on your tire treads. This is because the front tires wear out quicker than the rear wheels. By rotating your tires every 5000 miles, you equalize the wear and tear, extending your tread life.

Wheels Balanced

While having your tires rotated, it is important to also have a mechanic balance your wheels. Tires have heavy spots which can cause excessive vibration and tear. Having your wheels balanced is a much more cost-effective alternative to buying new wheels.

Retreading Your Wheels

Technology has advanced to a point where wheel retreading is a much safer and cheaper option than getting your wheels replaced. Despite their notoriety, the federal government does not find retreaded tires more dangerous than regular ones.

 In fact, they are so safe that they are even used by school bus fleets. More importantly, retreaded tires cost half the price of new wheels and are much more environmentally friendly.

In Conclusion

When it comes to vehicle parts, tires are often the most overlooked despite being responsible for the most crucial functions. Regular tire maintenance is critical for the protection of your life and your wallet.

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