There are benefits to directional tires and it is good to know if your tires are directional so that you don’t improperly rotate them. But how can you tell?
Not only is it important to know what directional tires are and how to tell if you have them, but it is also good to know why it is important to know if you have directional tires and how to know which way they should be facing.
You can check the sidewall because a directional tire will have an arrow pointing towards the front end of the vehicle or say “this side out” to indicate which side of the car it is meant for. You can also check for the v pattern on the tread.
This article was written from personal experience combined with expert advice.
What are Directional Tires?
Directional tires have a different tread pattern than symmetrical or asymmetrical tires. The pattern on the tread of directional tires is only designed to go one direction. This creates a v or y shape when you look at the tread pattern.
Directional tires are also called unidirectional tires and are better for performance cars and high speed. Directional tires move the water away which makes them better for preventing hydroplaning.
Since directional tires have to face a certain direction, they cannot be rotated to the other side of the vehicle without more work. To rotate them to the opposite side of the vehicle, they have to be dismounted and remounted on the wheels in the correct position. This is why most drivers that have directional tires tend to rotate them from front to back or vice versa instead of doing a full rotation. However, this can lead to uneven tread wear and poor gas mileage.
What are the Benefits and Downsides of Directional Tires?
Even though directional tires are more expensive than the average symmetrical and asymmetrical tires, there are some great benefits to be aware of.
The v-shaped tread on directional tires gives them improved handling ability in wet conditions. This is because the water will be channeled and pushed away from the tires. They also work well on dry surfaces. This is true even when traveling at higher speeds. Most race cars and sports cars use directional tires because of their handling ability at higher speeds. This is because of the better traction that directional tires create.
Also, directional tires can provide you with improved fuel efficiency. This is because they have less resistance to rolling. There may also be an improvement in fuel efficiency when driving on wet surfaces because of the tendency to channel the water away. They will also protect you against hydroplaning.
Directional tires also tend to be good in different conditions. They can adequately handle snow and mud for example. They are often much quieter than other tire types as well. Finally, many people like the way directional tires look because they have a fast, sleek appearance.
Besides the increased price compared with other tires, there is only one major downside to directional tires. The tread on unidirectional tires will typically be shorter than with other types of tires. This is because users tend to only rotate them front to back. However, if you do not mind the extra labor and cost of rotating them to the other side of the vehicle, then they can last just as long as any other tire.
How to Tell if You Have Directional Tires
The easiest way to tell if you have directional tires is to read the sidewall. The sidewall of a tire contains a lot of information including the direction on a directional tire. There are two different things that may indicate that the tire is directional. The first is an arrow pointing in the direction of the forward motion or the front end of the vehicle. The second indicator on the sidewall will be the words “This Side Out” that indicate that to rotate to the opposite side the tire would have to be dismounted and remounted facing the correct direction.
Asymmetrical tires will also require correct mounting onto wheels because they have an inside face and an outside face. However, unlike directional tires, the outside and inside are the only things that matter and they can point any direction.
Another way to tell if you have directional tires is by looking at the tread pattern on the tires. A directional tire will have a unique looking tread compared with other types of tires. The tread pattern will form a v-shape or a y-shape when you face the tire from the front. This is different from symmetrical tires because a symmetrical tire will have a tread pattern that partially goes towards both directions so that it does not matter which way the tire is mounted on the vehicle.
It is also important to check to see if all of the tires on your vehicle are directional. You should never assume that just because one or both front tires is directional or nondirectional that the other ones will be the same way. It is entirely possible to have a mixture of directional and nondirectional tires on the same vehicle.
Why is it Important to Know if You Have Directional Tires?
There are a couple of reasons why it is important to know if your tires are directional whether they are tires already on your vehicle or tires that you plan on mounting to your wheels. Even though a unidirectional tire that does not face the right way is not necessarily a safety hazard, it does negatively impact the tire and vehicle performance and may reduce energy efficiency and it should be corrected. Finally, if they are not installed correctly, the tread can wear down much faster. Tread that is worn down too much does, in fact, pose a safety hazard.
The first reason why it is important to know if the tires are directional is when you are preparing to mount them to a vehicle. When you are mounting directional tires, you have to make sure they are facing the correct direction. Therefore, not only do you have to know if they are directional tires, you also have to know which way they need to be installed.
You can double check for an arrow on the sidewall that points to the front of the vehicle. Alternatively, you can look at which way the tires face by looking for the v shape in the tread. This shape should be visible when looking towards the front surface of the tire.
Another reason why it is good to know if your tires are directional is for rotating. Since they are made to face a single direction, they cannot be rotated in the same way as other tires. When nondirectional tires are rotated, they are typically moved from the front to the back and vice versa and, depending on if it is rear wheel drive or front wheel drive, they will also move to the opposite side of the vehicle. With directional tires, the process is not as simple.
When you are preparing to rotate the tires on a vehicle that has directional tires, you will have to follow a different procedure. Typically, you can still rotate the front and rear tires as long as they stay on the same side. This is beneficial, but doing this throughout the tires’ lives can wear out the tread fast and unevenly which means new tires sooner. The best way to properly rotate directional tires requires more skill, labor, and cost than a typical tire rotation.
The best way to properly and adequately rotate directional tires is to remove the tires completely and remount them in the correct direction at the proper rotation place. This would depend on whether the vehicle is rear wheel drive, all wheel drive, or front wheel drive.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding