How to Tell if Tires Are Directional?


Not sure if you have directional tires? Telling the difference between non-directional and directional tires is easier than you think!

To tell if tires are directional, simply examine the outside sidewall. You should see an arrow indicating the direction that the treads face and either the word “Direction” or “Rotation.”

If you know where to look, you can quickly determine what type of tires your vehicle has.

What Are Directional Tires?

Directional tires have a unique tread pattern on them that is designed to rotate in only one direction. Looking at these tires head-on, you will notice that the treads all point forward and down. The lateral voids and channels in the tire should all meet together in the middle, forming a “Y” or “V” shape.

Sometimes referred to as unidirectional, directional tires are preferred by vehicle owners looking to get better performance from their vehicle. If you typically travel at a high rate of speed, you’re going to want to invest in directional tires.

The same reasoning is true if you live in an area that sees frequent rainfall or snow. Directional tires will effectively increase your safety on the road by providing better control and performance. With that being said, directional tires are designed to enhance your driving experience on all kinds of surfaces – not just wet or slick.

This is because the lateral voids and treads help to push water away from the tire, effectively preventing hydroplaning while offering enhanced performance on dry surfaces.

Furthermore, many racing and high-performance vehicles use directional tires. This is because you’re getting superior handling and control that isn’t typically found in non-directional tires. There are certainly high-quality non-directional tires available. But they don’t provide the same versatile improvements that you find in directional tires.

If you want the very best for your vehicle and are willing to spend a little more, directional tires are worthy of your consideration.

Related: How To Tell If Dealer Rotated Tires

Directional Tire Rotation Pattern

One of the biggest downsides to directional tires is that they cannot be easily rotated like traditional tires. Therefore, directional should only be rotated from back to front or front to back, and always on the same side of your vehicle.

In order to successfully rotate directional tires on opposite sides of your vehicle, however, you must dismount each one from its wheel, remount it, and then install it on the side you want. Most people don’t have the equipment and machinery needed to do this.

As such, it’s best to take your vehicle to a trusted tire shop or mechanic who can safely and efficiently rotate your directional tires for you.

While you can certainly rotate your directional tires on your own if you stick to the same side, anything otherwise should be handled by a professional.

Are All Tires Directional?

No. In order to easily determine whether your tires are directional, you will need to examine their tread or look at the outside sidewall. There, you will find the rotation direction, indicating that it is directional. What’s more, you should also see the words “Direction” or “Rotation” imprinted on the outside sidewall.

What Happens if You Put Directional Tires on Backwards?

While you can certainly drive a vehicle with irregularly mounted directional tires, you wouldn’t get the same high level of performance. Specifically, the directional tires’ resistance to hydroplaning would be effectively negated, and they would provide the best traction on roadways.

You are also likely to experience wearing at increased rates if your directional tires aren’t properly mounted. As such, it is important that you ensure that each tire is mounted correctly and in the right direction if you wish to get the best performance possible.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Directional and Non-Directional Tires?

Traditional tires (non-directional) will have treads on them that line up in a symmetric/asymmetric direction, while directional tires will have a V or Y shape at the center. If you were to look down on a non-directional tire horizontally, its treads would either look like this:

Or This:

Conversely, looking down on a directional tire horizontally, its treads would look more like this: <<<

Hence, all of the treads point in a specific direction. And as we mentioned above, traditional tires can easily be swapped, or rotated, on each side of the vehicle without issue or reduction in performance. Directional tires cannot.

Are Directional Tires More Expensive?

They are. This is due to the unique tread pattern and high-performance rubber compounds used in the production of directional tires. As such, your vehicle will experience enhanced driving capabilities not found in non-directional tires.

The tread pattern and rubber combine to deliver exceptional grip on the road. But that’s not all. You’re also investing in a safer driving experience thanks to the design of directional tires. As stated, directional tires provide enhanced safety on wet surfaces, giving you much better control when it’s raining.

Since water is expelled from the tire and away from your vehicle, there is much less chance of hydroplaning to occur while you’re driving. This alone is worth the price of admission for many drivers.

If you are turning a teen loose on the road for the first time, it is best to outfit their vehicle with directional tires, as this will help to prevent accidents related to slick surfaces while giving them better control and performance.

Moreover, directional tires assist with snowy and icy surfaces, as well. The unique treads on these tires work to provide drivers with better traction, so it is recommended that you invest in directional tires if you are concerned about control issues.

Not only are directional tires ideal for slick roadways, but they are great for normal driving conditions, too. The enhanced grip ensures that you will have far greater control of your vehicle, offering tighter cornering and response.

This can come in handy if you need to react quickly on the road, such as avoiding an object in the road or moving out of the way of an erratic driver. Directional tires could therefore help to prevent accidents due to the quality of driving that they provide.

If you want to ensure your family’s safety, you would do well to invest in directional tires.

Do Directional Tires Wear Faster?

Both directional and non-directional tires typically wear at the same rate. However, improperly mounting your directional tires can indeed cause them to wear faster than they normally would. That’s why it is so important to make sure that whoever is installing your directional tires knows what they are doing.

There are other factors to consider if your directional tires are not mounted correctly, such as reduced fuel efficiency. Always double-check to ensure that your directional tires are mounted in the correct position by checking the outside sidewall.

You will see an arrow indicating which direction the treads should be facing. If they are facing the wrong way, take the time to correct them. Driving too long on improperly mounted directional tires will result in faster wearing of the rubber, among other things.

Can I Mix Directional and Nondirectional Tires?

You may hear conflicting opinions on this matter. But as long as your tires are all the same size, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. The issue comes when you try to mount differently-sized tires on a vehicle.

This can be very dangerous, let alone the damage it can do to your vehicle. If you’re in doubt, have a trusted mechanic examine your tires and let them recommend how to best mount them.

It’s important to note that some vehicles are designed to have larger tires on the back. But having a larger tire on the front right and back left, for example, is far from the same concept.

If you are mixing directional and non-directional tires, you may want to keep them on either the front or rear, depending on the type of vehicle you drive. You may find that you get better performance by having them mounted in a certain location on your vehicle.

Directional Tires: Pros and Cons

Like anything else, there are pros and cons to owning directional tires. Let’s take a moment to discuss these so that you can make an educated decision as to whether you want to invest in directional tires for your vehicle.


  • Superior traction. If you live in a wet climate or struggle to drive confidently when it’s raining, directional tires could make all the difference. By pushing water away from the tire, you will have much better control on the road.
  • Enhanced handling. It’s little wonder as to why high-performance and racing vehicles use directional tires. The traction and handling come together to deliver a safer, tighter driving experience. Even at high speeds, directional tires continue to provide better performance.
  • Better fuel efficiency. If you’re trying to do all that you can to improve your fuel efficiency, you’ll want to invest in directional tires. Their design and performance combine to enhance performance while using less fuel.


  • Strict mounting. As we have already mentioned, directional tires cannot be mounted the same way as non-directional tires. You don’t have the freedom to place your directional tires anywhere on your vehicle like you do with other types.
  • If you’re rotating directional tires on your own, you will be limited to the front and back positions. Rotating directional tires to either side of your vehicle requires that the tire be dismounted from its wheel and remounted before installing on the opposite side.
  • Higher price. Directional tires are going to cost you more than traditional tires. While this is certainly a drawback, you are getting a superior tire in every aspect. And when it comes to safety and protecting your loved ones, it’s hard to argue with the extra cost.
  • Just keep in mind that you’re going to need to pay a professional for your rotating needs. They are pricier to own and maintain, sure, but their benefits far outweigh any negatives.


It’s easy to tell whether you have directional tires. And now that you know all of the benefits that these tires offer, you have the information needed to make an educated decision as to whether you should invest in them.

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