Are tread patterns mostly for show? What kind of stupid question is THAT?! You might be thinking

I have come to suspect that tread patterns matter only a little and in specific circumstances. Just about every line of tire, even from the same brand, comes with a different tread pattern, they’re all basically able to evacuate water, but I think the different tread patterns is really there differentiate the tire line but ultimately they’re pretty much all the same… even directional tires when I’ve mounted them backwards (forced by circumstance) I have noticed no different in handling in dry or wet.

Summer tires will have blockier treads, and that makes sense. All seasons and snow tires are also different.

I’ll concede that summer, all-seasons, snow tires will be noticeably different… but let’s consider ONLY all-season tires which is what most people (unthinking people perhaps) use…

it seems to me that they’re all basically the same… some of them will be better than others depending on the rubber compound used and some will last longer… but they’re basically all the same… and that’s probably a good thing.

My mind isn’t really made up on the topic, I’d ask that you chime in with your opinion.

They are the same in that they all have grooves and sipes. Other than that, tires are highly engineered to evacuate water, grip on snow and mud, not capture gravel, grip on ice. The tread is designed with the rubber compounds and belt structures in mind to all complement each other. And that is just in the field of AS tires. Add in snows, summer high performance or mud-doggy truck tires and the designs vary wildly.

Each tire manufacturer closely guards their construction secrets, patents their tread design and construction. And then some bargain brand from a country you can’t pronounce copies it as best they can so their tires look just like the good ones, but they are not.

Tires are very different from one another and you generally get what you pay for. Considering these air-filled round lumps of string and rubber are the only things between you (and your family) and death, research thoroughly and buy accordingly.

I agree with Mustangman; tires are not fashion statements. The sidewalls of some steam roller type tires might have some macho writing and logo on them, but the treads are designed to do the best job they can considering the application and the compound they are made of…

I grew up on a farm and tractor tires have very businesslike treads.

@mareakin - you answer your own question when you observe that, within a type, tread patterns are similar. That tells me that the tire engineers have found that a certain tread geometry is appropriate for each type, with variations according to the compromises used in each company. Absolutely NOT ‘mostly for show’.

Some tires tell you on the tread (scroll down a bit):


In addition to Mustang’s points, treads are also designed to keep rolling noise low and to prevent the tires from developing noisy resonances at specific speeds. You may have noticed if you looked carefully that the tread blocks are not equal in size all the way around the tire. They vary. That’s no accident. That’s one technique used in tire design to prevent resonances from developing.

I am of the conspiracy theory better all around tread patterns come with more expensive tires.

Form follows function

I, too , believe many tread patters are just for looks as so many of them are patented, trade marked, copyrighted, or what ever you call it for such things.
Ther are only just so many basic patters to accomplish just a few basic traction needs, the rest are looks.

Naw. They save the artistic stuff for the sidewalls.
However, patenting tread designs would seem to be a prudent business. I think any tire company that failed to patent their tread designs would get a sound scolding from their lawyers… and maybe their investors. A tire companies designs are their product, their property.

…even directional tires when I’ve mounted them backwards (forced by circumstance) I have noticed no different in handling in dry or wet.

What circumstances forced that?

Good question.
I’ll guess that they were all mounted the same-way-out on the four wheels and the installation on the car was done at a different time and place. Let’s see how good a guesser I am. {:slight_smile:

Sometimes you wonder. I have had summer tires that worked well in winter and some tires that looked like winter tires that didn’t work at all in any amount of snow. Most of my snow tires were OK. Sometimes you can tell that they’re not going to work. Too bad we have to try them and see what happens. Too bad it costs money.

Slightly off-topic I suppose, but many years ago a guy here used to run around town now and then in an old Jeep CJ which he had modified to accept 4 wheel/tire assemblies from a B-52 bomber.
He had 3 steps welded on each side as getting in and out of the Jeep involved a climb.

Needless to say, the tires were illegal as sin on a street vehicle and he got more than a few tickets for illegal equipment. It was kind of neat to look at though. It was definitely a vehicle that required both hands on the wheel at all times and some muscle to wrestle it around the corners.

…even directional tires when I’ve mounted them backwards (forced by circumstance) I have noticed no different in handling in dry or wet.

What circumstances forced that?

I had to do a tire rotation to test whether a steering wheel wobble was tire-related (it was.) Tires were swapped from front left, to rear-right.

There are many different components to a tire that performs well. Tire makers are trying to emphasize one over another…like noise abatement over winter traction for example. The tread designs are all important to that goal. You may think that two tires perform the same way with different tread designs, but they don’t. They may perform similarly in some situations, but not all.
Even tread depth differences from the same tire will alter some of it’s characteristics.

Just increasing the contact area slightly by making the corner lugs closer together helps firm up dry road handling in a snow tire at the expense of deep snow traction. Viola ! You now have a " performance winter tire" and can charge more for it.

There is no better place to look to show that tire treads are all task orientated. Just look at the tires on a snow blower or tractor. You only get one of about three types because their tasks are so limited. A car tire isn’t limited and there just as many different tread designs to those ends.

For summer tires, the only important requirements are for stable tread blocks and to shed water (prevent hydroplaning). Beyond that, tread pattern is irrelevant.

I fail to understand how anyone can believe that the tread designs on tires are irrelevant to other than water dispersion. Tires don’t simply roll on their circumference. Tire carcasses flex, and “lay down” the tread. How the tread lays down determines rolling resistance, noise characteristics, traction, how well the tire “tracks”, how the tire corners, and how well the tire rides. That’s a whole host of characteristics determined by the tread design.

I’ve had a number of different brands over the years, and even different models of the same brand, and they all feel different. They track different, they corner different, the ride different, and the noise levels vary.

Hankook even changed their tread design on their new Ventus tires, and I bought the new ones last fall. The new tread generates less road noise that the old one (which is probably why they changed). Tracking feels a bit different too (not quite as arrow-straight).

The smoothest and quietest tires I ever had have been BF Goodys. If they made them for my car I’d get them, but they don’t.

Others here who have had a variety of tires over the years, have you also noticed differences?
Do you all believe as I do that tread design is a significant factor in those differences?

I’ll give you noise. All your other arguments are specious.

Specious means seeming credible but actually wrong.
You may disagree with the other arguments, but that does not make the other arguments wrong.

But I try to keep an open mind. What exactly do you attribute the differences in tracking, ride, cornering, and traction to? How do you explain them?