What’s the Difference Between Directional, Asymmetrical and Symmetrical Tread Patterns?

When you’re on the hunt for new tires, you might notice the manufacturer highlighting that the tire features one of three tread patterns: directional, asymmetrical or symmetrical. These tire tread designs incorporate specific features for optimum performance in different conditions.

 

All tire tread patterns use these parts of a tire:

  • Continuous ribs
  • Independent tread blocks
  • Circumferential and lateral grooves
  • Sipes

 

It’s how tread designs use each of these features to deliver certain functions—hydroplaning resistance, for example, or long wear and a smooth, quiet ride.

 

So, what’s the difference between directional and asymmetrical tread patterns? How does an asymmetrical tread pattern use these features to give all-weather tires year-round grip? Here’s a breakdown of the four types of tire tread designs.

 

Directional tread patterns (aka unidirectional tread patterns)

 

A directional tread pattern is designed to roll only in one direction. That’s why you’ll see arrows on the sidewalls pointing in the direction that tire needs to be mounted. They can only be rotated front to back.

 

Lateral grooves on both sides of the tire point toward the centre, creating a ‘v’ shape. These grooves pump water through the tread so the tire can maintain contact with the road to help resist hydroplaning.

 

Type of tirePerformance tires

 

The benefits

  • Excellent wet traction and hydroplaning resistance at high speeds
  • Superior dry performance because tread dissipates heat while a solid centre rib keeps the tire rigid for high-speed stability.

  

Symmetric tread patterns

 

A symmetric tread pattern is the most common. It uses continuous ribs or independent tread blocks across the entire tread face, that often create a wavy design. The pattern on each side of the centre is the same.

 

Type of tireAll-season tires, winter tires

 

The benefits

  • Even wear and long tread life
  • Smooth, quiet driving
  • Spring to summer performance
  • Multiple front to back, side to side or diagonal rotation positions are possible

 

Asymmetric tread patterns

 

Asymmetric tread patterns combine the features of other tread designs for equally strong dry and wet performance.

 

On an asymmetric tread pattern, you’ll usually find larger tread blocks on the outside to create a bigger contact patch for cornering grip. This also helps reduce tread squirm for better stability, and breaks up heat build up.

 

The outside also features large lateral grooves designed to pump water out the side of the tire.

 

The inside features smaller, independent tread blocks and smaller grooves to increase contact area and improve grip. On an asymmetric tread pattern, the sidewall will have ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ markings so you know which way they need to be mounted.

 

Type of tireAll-weather tires, performance tires

 

Benefits

  • Year-round grip
  • Hydroplaning and slushplaning resistance
  • High speed stability
  • Multiple tire rotation patterns

  

When you’re looking for new winter tires, year-round all-weather tires or off-road tires and performance tires, be sure to ask the tire experts at Kal Tire to help you find the tire that fits your budget, your driving needs and your vehicle. Visit a Kal Tire location near you, or chat online with one of our team members today.

 

What is Traction Control? How Traction Control Works to Keep Your Winter Tires Stable

 You’ve probably been there: You’re stopped at an intersection, the light turns green, and your tires spin and spin and spin on the snow until you finally fish-tail forward. That’s the very scenario traction control aims to eliminate, but how?

 

What is traction control?

 

Traction control, sometimes referred to as ‘electronic traction control’ uses your anti-lock brakes (ABS) system to help your tires get the traction they need to move forward on slippery and snowy roads. The goal is to prevent wheelspin and help your tires maintain optimum traction.

 

How does traction control work?

 

1. Measuring wheel speeds

If your vehicle has traction control, and many modern vehicles do, it uses the sensors in your ABS system to measure the speed of your wheels.

 

If your traction control system detects the front wheel, for example, is spinning faster than your rear wheels (front wheel drive vehicle) during acceleration or cornering, the traction control system is initiated. That’s when you’ll see your traction control light illuminated on the dashboard

 

When your traction control system kicks in, you should see this symbol light up on your dashboard.

When your traction control system kicks in, you should see this symbol light up on your dashboard.

2. Reducing power and applying the brakes

Early traction control systems reduced engine power to slow the spinning wheels down until they reached the same speed as the other three wheels. Engine power to the tire drops until it detects the tires can grab traction.

 

By slowing down the spinning tire, it gives the tire the driving force it needs to move the vehicle forward with stability.

 

Today, most traction control systems control engine output and braking force to prevent wheel spin and deliver traction. Together, these traction control features makes it much safer and easier to drive on slippery roads

 

Modern traction control systems control engine output and braking force to give a spinning tire the traction it needs to move forward on a slippery surface.

Modern traction control systems control engine output and braking force to give a spinning tire the traction it needs to move forward on a slippery surface.

 

What else do you need to know about traction control?

 

  • Having traction control on your vehicle isn’t a substitute for having quality tires with enough tread to bite into snow and ice, and drain slush and water. Having quality winter tires on a vehicle with traction control is a great combination to help you navigate slippery roads this winter. Check out our winter tire rebates page for some great deals.
  • Your traction control system can be disabled by using the button on your dashboard, but there is no need to turn it off.
  • While traction control might at first make you feel like you’re driving slower and taking longer to get going at intersections in the winter, you’ll actually move faster and with more control because you won’t be spinning out.

 

What have been some of your experiences and thoughts on traction control?

Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/cipango27

10 Winter Driving Tips – Part 2

How can you keep your vehicle on the road this winter? In our post Winter Driving Tips Part 1, we talk about how getting yourself , your vehicle and you winter tires ready for cold roads can go a long way to ensuring safe, smooth travels this winter.

 

Here, in Part 2, Kal Tire offers some tips to cope with cold weather driving from the driveway and beyond.

 

Winter Driving Tips 6-10

 

6. Get Every Inch Of Snow Off Your Vehicle

Just scraping a square of last night’s snowfall off your windshield isn’t enough. To make sure you’re going to be able to see out your front and rear windows for the duration of your journey, be sure to remove all the snow from your vehicle—sides, hood, roof, windows and lights—to prevent blowing snow and poor visibility.

 

7. Bring Your Fully Charged Cell Phone

You just never know when you’re going to get stuck in traffic, or, worse, a winter storm traffic jam. There’s also the chance you could slide off the side of the road or run out of gas in a not so convenient location.

 

Don’t just bring your cell phone. Bring your cell phone fully charged so you can make emergency calls, and be sure to bring your charger in case your trip takes longer than expected.

 

8. Buckle Up and Be Ready

Safe driving is driving prepared, and, sometimes, not driving at all. Here are some general tips to make sure you’re setting yourself up for a safe trip.

  • If the roads are bad and you can stay in, stay in.
  • As with driving safely any time of year, make sure you’re well-rested, sober and wearing a seatbelt before you move your car out of park.
  • Give yourself extra time or allow yourself to be late so you’re not rushed and driving faster than safe speeds.

 

9. Avoid Cruise And Overdrive

It’s important that you’re in control of your speed and that you can react quickly to slippery road conditions—say, a patch of ice or a slippery corner.

 

10. Avoid Collisions & Keep Calm

The best way to avoid collisions is to drive at safe speeds and handle obstacles with caution.

  • Slow down
  • Make sure there’s plenty of room between you and the car ahead of you, up to three times more space than usual
  • Make sure your lights are on
  • Gear down on hills
  • Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. They have limited visibility, and the road ahead of them won’t be in as good of shape as the one behind them.
  • If your rear wheels start to skid: 1) take your foot of the gas, 2) steer in the direction you want your wheels to go 3) with standard brakes, pump gently; with ABS, apply steady pressure
  • If your wheels spin, hopefully you’ve got a traction control system that’ll kick in and help you move forward. If you don’t have traction control, your tires will only dig deeper if you keep spinning. Try shifting your wheel from left to right to help move the snow away and lightly touch the gas to ease your car out.

 

What winter driving tips do you use to keep your vehicle on the road, or get moving when you don’t have traction?

Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/trendobjects

10 Winter Driving Tips Part 1 – From Winter Tires to Test Runs

When it comes to winter in Canada, you’ll probably see it all—freezing rain, sunshine, black ice and blizzards—even in the same day. To help you handle whatever weather comes your way, we’ve prepared a list of the top winter driving tips.

 

Winter Driving Tips 1-5

 

1. Prepare for Winter Driving in the Fall

Old man winter always seems to arrive so suddenly and completely. Instead of waking up to three feet of snow and a car that won’t make it out of the driveway, get your vehicle ready for winter in the Fall.

 

Some of the things you’ll want to do include installing winter wiper blades, getting a winter oil service, and checking your battery, your brakes and your lights. It’s also a good idea to make sure your ignition, heating and cooling and exhaust system are in good shape. You’ll also want to pack a winter survival kit for your trunk. And then it’s time for tires, which takes us to tip #2.

 

2. Install All Four Matching Winter Tires Early

They’re called winter tires rather than snow tires for a reason: it’s about temperature, not snow. Summer and all-season tires get cold and hard at just 7 C. Winter tires and all-weather tires have a different rubber compound that allows them to stay soft and flexible at colder temperatures for optimum grip.

 

They also bear the severe service mountain snowflake winter tire symbol so you know they’re safe for Canada’s winter driving conditions. To ensure safe handling, make sure you’re using all four of the same tires.

 

So, when should you install your winter tires? Instead of looking at the calendar, look at the forecast. When it’s 7 C at best, it’s time to put on your winter tires or all-weather tires.

 

3. Check Your Tire Pressure Regularly

Quality winter tires inflated at their recommended (not maximum) air pressure are your best defense against slippery ice, snow and slush. Check your tire pressure every few weeks and every time you’re about to head out on a winter road trip. Be sure to check your tires when they’re cold since pressure will go down at cooler temperatures.

 

4. Hit the Parking Lot to Practice Winter Driving

If you can, find a great big safe, empty parking lot during daylight so you can learn and practice how to drive on snow or ice. Rehearse some of these maneuvers slowly:

  • Steering. If you were skidding, would you know how to try and regain control of your vehicle if your car is turning more than you want it to (oversteering), or not turning as much as you’d like (understeering)? The best way to learn is by doing. Try gently adjusting your speed and your handling as you corner so you know what your vehicle needs to regain traction.
  • Braking. Know how to use your brakes best—apply steady pressure for anti-lock brakes; pump for non anti-lock brakes.
  • Stopping. On water-covered ice even at -1, it can take several more metres to stop.

 

A little driving practice will give you the know-how and confidence to handle skidding and stopping situations in cold weather conditions.

 

5. Check Road and Weather Conditions Before Heading Out

If you have a long drive ahead, make sure it’s safe for you to be on the road. It might be sunny and balmy where you are, but in a few hours or even just a few dozen kilometres away, you could be facing a blizzard, heavy snowfall, freezing rain or a cold snap. You wouldn’t want to be on the road during one of Eastern Canada’s notorious ice storms.

 

Surprisingly, some of the most dangerous driving conditions occur at fair temperatures. Snow and ice, for example, are more slippery at 0 C than -20 C. Environment Canada’s online weather reports are a good source of information about conditions, and there you’ll also find warnings about severe conditions.

 

 

What else can you do to stay safe on the road this winter? Read our Winter Driving Tips Part 2 to learn about how to handle the roads and your vehicle once you’re past the driveway.

 Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/photka

 

 

 

 

What’s the Difference Between All-Weather Tires and All-Season Tires?

Let’s say you live in the city or the suburbs and you enjoy what you might call a ‘mild Canadian winter’—light snow, slush, and cold but not extreme temperatures. You probably don’t need winter tires, but you don’t want all-season tires. You want all-weather tires.

 

Why? What’s the difference between all-weather tires and all-season tires?

 

Difference #1

 

All-weather tires offer winter safety and reliability. All-weather tires bear the designated mountain snowflake winter tire symbol so you know they’ve passed requirements to be considered safe for severe winter conditions in Canada.

 

All-season tires don’t. These tires offer safe performance only in spring, summer and fall.

 

 

Difference #2

 

All-weather tires deliver precise braking. All-weather tires use a special rubber compound that stays flexible at temperatures above and below 7 C for superior stability and grip on everything from bare asphalt to fresh snow.

 

All-seasons don’t. These tires use a rubber compound that gets cold and hard at temperatures below 7 C. They can take up to 30 meters longer to stop on smooth ice, even at just -1 C, where thin layers of water make the road slippery.

 

Difference #3

 

All-weather tires give you superior grip and cornering control.

All-weather tires have an aggressive tread pattern with thick, chunky tread blocks to bite ice and snow for reliable winter grip and stability.

 

All-seasons don’t. They have a tread pattern designed for comfort and fuel economy: small, smooth tread blocks that slide on snow and ice.

 

 

Difference #4

 

All-weather tires prevent slushplaning and hydroplaning. Wide channels and grooves capture and push away water and slush so your tires always have a strong contact patch with the road. Slushplaning is the second most dangerous driving condition.

 

All-season tires don’t. The thin channels of all-season tires clog with snow and slush in the winter, creating a slippery, unsafe surface.

 

All-weather tires give you significantly better performance on everything from wet and rough ice to soft snow and hard-packed snow. They often perform better on wet asphalt as well since they’re designed to double as a superior summer tire built to last.

 

Looking for the best all-weather tires so you can find one to suit your budget and your driving needs? Check out our infographic that introduces you to six all-weather tires for 2014, one for every budget and use, from off-roading to commuting.