Car Drivers

What Does Tire Tread Do And How Does It Work

Mike Cross
Updated Oct 18, 2020

Tires are a key part of your car. Most people don’t think about them on a day to day basis, but they are really important. There are a whole lot of different tires on the market, but they all have the key main parts. Understanding your tires is more important than you might think. Most people don’t start thinking about the tires until they get worse or start to get old. Well, after reading this article you will understand your tires better so when you need new ones you will know what to look for. We are going to talk about what tire tread is and also how the different threads work. Read on to learn everything you need to know about tires and their tire treads.

What does Tire Tread do and How does it Work
What does Tire Tread do and How does it Work

Tire Tread

So, getting into what tire tread is. Well, the tire's tread is the part that contacts the ground. You may not think about it, but believe it or not, a car can move without an engine. However, it can not move without tires. That is because the engine is just the propelling force and a car can be pushed if it doesn’t have an engine. However, the tires are what contacts the ground and are what really allows the car to move. The tread on tires are black and made of a rubber or rubber composite material. The tread also has different patterns in it. We will go in-depth on each pattern shortly, but the different patterns of the tread help the tire be good at certain things or good in certain conditions. A lot of times tires are designed for specific weather conditions. You have your hot summer tires, your more grippy winter tires, and everything in-between. Now we can get to the different parts of the tread though, so you can have a better idea of what you are looking at the next time you look at your tire tread.

Tread Parts

The first tire tread part that we are going to talk about are the grooves. The grooves are, like the name suggest, deep points in the tire. In other words, it is the lower points that don’t touch the road. The grooves are designed to channel water away from under the tire. This way you won’t slide as much. There are a variety of kinds of grooves depending only our actual need. On top quality high-performance tires, the groves can flex as you drive. This leads to a pump action occurring and it will suck the water up into the groove and out from under your tire. Also, the grooves will angle from the center of the tire towards the side. This helps move water out from underneath your tire to avoid sliding.

Tire tread grooves
Tire tread grooves

The next part of the tread we are going to look at are called lugs. This is the part of the tire that actually contacts the road. The lugs provide traction and give you grip. The lugs compress when the tire is on them, and then as the tire rolls, they return to their normal shape. This helps reduce vibration. Also, the lugs are never identical to help reduce noise while driving.

Another part of the tire treat are the voids. The voids provide the area that the lugs need to shift and flex. The void ratio is the space between lugs, the lower the void ratio the higher the contact area, the higher the void ratio the less the contact area. The more contact area means the grippier the tire. Also, the voids help the grooves to disperse water from under the tire, as well as mud and snow.

The last part of the tread that we are going to talk about are the sipes. These are the cuts in the tire that run perpendicular to the grooves. They are another part of the tire that helps the grooves work. They move water from the center of the tire to the edge to reduce the chance of hydroplaning or sliding. The sipes also provide additional space to the lugs to allow them room to shift and expand.

Tread in practice

So, now that you know the different parts of the tread what kind of tires are for what conditions? Well, it is hard to get the perfect tire because if you reduce one feature to improve the tire in one condition it makes it worse in another. The best dry tires are known as slicks and they have no grooves or sipes. Slicks are used by racers because they offer the most grip, but you can’t drive them in wet conditions or you will hydroplane everywhere. On the other hand tires with a lot of grooves and sipes are great for the winter in the snow or rain, but they don’t offer much grip to corner fast or allow good dry braking. Finding the perfect tire tread pattern can be a challenge.

For most people, if they live in an area that gets snow, they have a winter set of tires and a summer set. The winter set has a lot of sipes to grab into the snow, and the summer set has less. The summer set will have more lugs to get better dry braking performance. Finding the best tire tread pattern though can be a real challenge, but the key is to find one with all the different tire pattern parts balanced for the conditions that you drive under the most often. For your street car, you will want road tires where for your off-road vehicles you will want tires designed for that.

Tire Wear

Some of you may be wondering about tire wear. Well, as you drive and brake parts of the tread come off on the road. To help the tread wear evenly you should have the tires rotated. At a certain point, the tread becomes to low and you need new tires. We are not going to go in-depth about tire wear though here though because it is enough information for a whole article on its own.


After reading this article though you should now understand what tire tread is and what it does. You know the different parts of the tire tread and some different tire tread patterns. You also know that certain tire tread patterns work better under certain condition and that it can be a challenge to get the balance correct. The best thing though is to get a set of tires that work in the conditions you drive in the most and if you live in an area with extreme weather change to get a summer set of tires and winter set. Now you know all you need to know about tire tread how it works and what it is.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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