Picking the best off-road tire for your vehicle can turn to painful process if you don’t know how to read off-road tire tread patterns. Well, I know because I’ve been encountered lots of questions when I was working for Bridgestone. No worries guys, picking off-road tires will become a doddle after reading this article. Let’s begin!
Table of Contents
Tread Pattern Types
Even though tread patterns state doesn’t much on their own, some features are highly impacted by tread. Handling, noise reduction, and traction are exceedingly related to your tire pattern. You can find the basic tread patterns in the below list.
- Symmetrical – Asymmetrical
- Directional – Non-Directional
- Lug Type – Rib Type
Let’s start with the basic comparisons.
Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical Pattern
Let’s assume that dividing tire down to the middle. If the same tread patterns are present on both sides, this tire is symmetrical. Of course, the opposite is asymmetrical. It might seem abecedarian. Yet, it can give you a ton of ideas about tires’ performance.
- Symmetrical patterns focus on comfort. Therefore, they have better handling and noise reduction
- Asymmetrical patterns focus on performance. Therefore, they have better traction and stopping distance
Note: Off-road tires generally have symmetrical patterns due to increasing comfort on highway driving.
Tires with directional patterns can only wheel on one way. That means they can rotate only one way(rear to steer or steer to rear). Most performance tires are part of this category. These tires have a direction arrow on their upper sidewall. That arrow shows the rolling direction.
Sidenote: If your tire leaves different marks when you change the direction(inner sidewall to outer, outer to inner), that means your tire is directional.
Opposite to directional patterns, non-directional patterns can wheel on both ways. These tires enable rotation variations(left to right, rear left to steer right, etc.). Most touring tires are part of this category.
Directional and non-directional tires have different advantages. The below list will explain them briefly.
- Directional tires are designed to evacuate water. Therefore, they have superior hydroplaning resistance.
- Directional and non-directional tires can’t be compared due to handling. Handling is mostly related to the inner structure.
- Directional tires have better dry breaking
- Non – Directional tires look more aggressive
- Directional tires generally last longer. They tend to wear evenly.
Tires generally have lug or rib-type designs. Basically, if your tire consists of small squares instead of circumferential and continuous sections, it’s a lug-type tire. Manufacturers use lugs due to increase traction. Lug-type tires have more void area than rib-types. The escalated void area always means better traction. For this reason, most all-terrain tires have a lug-type design. However, this design brings some disadvantages with it.
- Lug-type tires have better loose ground traction
- Rib-type tires are more comfortable
- Lug-type tires have significantly worse tread life
- Rib-type tires are less noisy
Off-Road Tire Categories
It’s time to go back to our main topic. Off-road tires can be evaluated in 4 different categories.
- Mud-Terrain(Maximum traction)
- Rugged-Terrain(Hybrid terrain)
- Commercial All-Terrain
These tires might seem similar at the beginning but they’re built with different intends. Hence, defining your operation is crucial.
All-terrain tires are built to perform on and off the road smoothly. In order to achieve this goal, they need a stiff compound and tough sidewalls. These tires are a popular selection due to their aggressive looks. However, using them only for good looking will kill your vehicle’s on-road comfort. For this reason, I recommend these tires only if the below points are valid for you.
- If you have at least 50% off-road operation
- If you like severe off-roading but don’t wanna sacrifice too much from on-road manners
- If tread life is priority for you
Note: If I was writing this article couple of years ago, I do recommend all-terrain tires for most of you. However, rugged-terrain tires had a big impact on the market.
Mud-terrain tires are also known as maximum traction tires. Due to their huge void area, their loose ground traction overperforms all the tires in this list. However, these tires have a softer compound than all-terrains due to increasing gripping ability. Yet, they have a lack of siping. Therefore, their light snow and wet ground performances are limited.
Use these tires only for,
- If wet performance isn’t your priority
- If you’re agreeing with road noise on the highways
- If you need a solid tire for severe off-road(rack crawling, deep mud driving)
- If you’re okay with highly limited tread life
- If you want a tough looking on your vehicle
Note: Mud-terrain tires have better traction than all-terrains. However, using them only for mild off-road is unnecessary and will destroy your MPG.
Commercial All-Terrain Tires
Last but one of the most efficient participants of off-road tires. As we all understand from the name, these all-terrain tires are built with commercial intent. For this reason, those tires have extremely high durability and long-lasting rubber. However, their application range is exceedingly limited compared to the other off-road tires.
- Best wet performance in this list
- Long wear-life
- Off-road capability is limited with mild off-road
- Can’t be used for adventure
- Solid highway handling due to rib type pattern
- A bit firm but quiet ride
- Not aggressive appearances
Some people don’t like rugged-terrain tires. Well, I love them because they serve a certain group of people. The guys who want an aggressive look but don’t wanna sacrifice from on-road manners. Come on up!
Even though rugged terrain tires look tough, underneath their look they have slim sidewalls and relatively fluffy compounds. These features are needed for satisfying on-road manners. In return, using them on the severe off-road will hurt your tread life, maybe even your tire.
- If you want to combine good looking with comfort
- If you want better severe off-road traction but doesn’t wanna sacrifice from the tread life
- If you want deaf driving
Note: Some people say these tires are between mud and rugged-terrain tires. However, it’s only valid for LT sizes). I recommend these tires for an aggressive appearance and comfortable ride.
I know rugged-terrain tires stir up trouble. Due to eliminate this confusion, I’ve prepared the below table.
- LT sizes have stronger sidewalls. That feature makes them more durable but less comfortable. I don’t recommend them only for inner-city driving. (LT vs P-Metric tires)
- XL sizes tend to carry more load and offer better handling. Hence, they might be a better pick for hauling and towing( XL vs SL tires)
- Please pay attention to the load range and speed index. These metrics are essential if you expect decent tread life.
A side note here: If you’d like to get local advice and find the best fit for your driving habits, location, and road conditions DiscountTire – Treadwell Tire Guide can give you masterpiece recommendations.
I hope this article was helpful. If you need any further questions, please leave them in the below section. Have a safe ride folks!
Guide Me Bruh!
This section contains my research and top picks. Depending on your need, you may choose a category and easily find the best fit for yourself. Remember, nobody knows your driving conditions and requirements better than yourself. You’re in the charge out here.