What Does my Tire Tread Design mean?

The design of the tread pattern influences the overall performance of the tire. The tread slab is placed on top of the belt package in the manufacturing process. The tire’s tread design is molded into the tread cap rubber during the curing process.

The following explanations of six different tread designs help clarify the design differences.

Summer Design

Provides traction on wet and dry road surfaces. The design is usually void of any tread sipes and the tread block elements are aligned in a rub pattern with wide grooves to help resist hydroplaning. This design is used primarily on High or Ultra-High Performance tires for handling, responsiveness, and high-speed capability. An increase in OE applications requires better customer qualifying for replacement tires.

  • Less Grooving
  • Increased cornering, and braking capabilities
  • Enhanced speed & agility
  • Maximum road-holding performance
  • Improved performance in wet driving conditions

All-Season Design

Provides traction on wet, dry and snow-covered surfaces. The all-season design will have additional traction edges, slotted shoulders, and sipes for added snow traction. This design offers year-round usage and is used in all basic tires categories: Passenger, Touring, Performance and Light Truck.

  • Moderate tread depths
  • Longer tread life
  • Performance in wet and dry conditions
  • Acceptable performance in light winter conditions
  • Capable pf providing traction in winter

The most popular tires sold today feature “All-Season” tread design. The “M+S” shown in the photo is one of several formats, used to identify a tire with an “All-Season” tread design. “M&S” or “M/S” also means the same thing. If any of these markings appear on a tire, it meets the design requirements for an all-season tire, it meets the design requirements for an all-season tire as defined by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA) and the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC) definition of an all-season tire.

Winter Tire Design

Tires that meet the performance-based criteria of “Winter Tire” design will feature tread patterns, construction elements, and materials that provide improved winter performance over tires meeting the existing RMA/RAC all-season tire definition.

  • Aggressive block edges for maximized traction in snow
  • Enhanced contact footprint which better distributes contact pressure and improves control
  • Special tread rubber that stays pliable in cold temperatures.

Directional or Unidirectional Design

The tread block shapes and tread grooves are aligned to direct water through the tire’s footprint in one direction to help wet traction while providing dry performance. This design offers improved wet and dry performance and is used primarily on Ultra-High Performance tires with some High-Performance tires having this feature.

The two photos below illustrate two examples of what to look for on the sidewall of directional tread design tires. Tires with a directional tread should be mounted in the manner indicated on the sidewall. If directional tread design tires are mounted in reverse rotation (backwards), some tires could experience hydroplaning sooner in wet weather conditions. You won’t receive the full benefit of wet weather traction when tires are reverse mounted.

Asymmetric Design

The outside shoulder features large tread elements for dry performance, while the inner shoulder is comprised of a greater number of smaller tread elements to improve wet weather and snow traction. This design offers year-round all-season traction in addition to the year-round performance attributes.

All-Terrain (A/T) design

A light truck tire tread design for use both on and off the road. This design will usually feature deeper tread depth, wider tread grooves, and larger tread block elements than a highway tread (H/T) tire for increased traction capabilities off the road while maintaining on-road handling, maximizing tread life and helping to provide a smooth quiet ride.

Max-Traction (M/T) design

A light truck tread design that differs from the All-Terrain and Highway design in that some of the tread bars run laterally to the direction of the rotation. The tread grooves are open at the shoulder; this “open lug” design will provide more traction in mud and rocky terrain than the other tread designs.

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