28 Jun 2018



We talk about tyre tread a lot round here. And we got to thinking, does everyone know exactly what it is and why we our tyres have it? Turns out it’s maybe not as simple as we thought. So here’s the lowdown on tyre tread, what it is and why we need it.

What exactly is tyre tread?

Here’s where we found people were getting confused to begin with. Technically the tread is just the part of the tyre that makes contact with the road. The pattern in the tread is just that, a pattern with grooves in it. On regular car tyres, that pattern tends to be intricate and tight. Compared to 4WD tyres which have chunky tread patterns. You can also have tyres with no pattern that still have tread; these are racing slicks and if you keep reading you’ll work out why we don’t drive around on these all the time.

Why do we need tread on our tyres?

On 4WD vehicles where you need a different level of traction when driving off-road, the tread pattern is designed to ‘bite’ into the surface and lever the sides of the tread to get better grip.

On regular car tyres or road tyres, we need tread for wet roads. It doesn’t matter on dry surfaces. Tread is designed to get water out from under the tyre. The grooves in the rubber of the tyre’s tread act like a pumping system, getting water out from underneath the tyre. This prevents hydroplaning – you know, that feeling of losing control when it’s raining like you’re sliding. Hydroplaning happens when a layer of water builds up between the tyre and the road and you lose traction. Without tread pattern, you’d have very little control at all in the wet.

How much tread is not enough?

Because it's the part of the vehicle that grips the road, the depth of tread on your tyres is very important. When tyres are new they have about 8mm of tread pattern depth. The minimum legal depth is 1.5mm but it’s not a great idea to be rolling around on tyres that have worn down that far for long. Definitely start shopping around when you get as low as 2mm. You can tell how low your tread depth is getting by looking for the ‘tread depth indicators’ on the tyres. These are small bits of rubber in the grooves that once the pattern ears down to this level you know you’re getting down to the bare minimum. If you can’t find them, look on the side wall of the tyre for a small triangle or 'TWI' (tread wear indicator).

What else does tread pattern affect?

It can affect the amount of noise the tyre makes, especially when driving at high speeds. Simpler patterns often mean less noise but deeper patterns enhance safety, so you can guess which one gets priority.

Tread getting low?

Probably best you go give yours a quick check now. If it’s time to upgrade, we’ve got it made it easy with our handy online tool and mobile tyre fitting service. You choose and pay for your tyres online then tell us where and when to come fit them. We’re not called EASYtyre for nothing.

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