Directional, Asymmetric, Symmetrical & Road Legal Slicks
"Which tyre is best for your car and what are the differences?"
One thing that affects the performance of your car more than anything else has to be the tyres. Your tyre contact patch with the road is where all of your steering, control and throttle changes happen so ensuring this contact is good becomes paramount.
The right choice of tyre can shave precious seconds from your lap times on track days. In day to day driving however, you have some compromises to make and have a wide range of tyres to choose from.
We'll look at summer and winter tyres and look at the differences between Directional, Asymmetric, Symmetrical and Road Legal Slicks to help you decide which is the best option for your performance car.
You'll need a car tyre that performs well in the hot and cold and responds well to dry and wet weather. Having to change your tyres regularly is very time consuming and requires that you have storage space for the tyres that are not currently in use. If you can have a spare set of rims you'll benefit from easier swaps between tyres but will still have to sacrifice a lot of garage space.
TorqueCars are seeing more and more drivers fitting winter tyres to cover the icy and snowy weather. Grip is maintained and these are becoming an essential safety feature. In fact some countries are now specifying that cars are fitted with winter or wet weather spec tyres during the colder months of the year.
Winter tyres have very small tread sections which are divided up and allow the relatively hard compound to flex and grip the road surface when conditions are wet or icy cold. However if you use winter tyres during the warmer summer months and the heat will soften them and dramatically accelerate tyre wear. Grip will also be reduced due to the tread pattern and soft rubber compound used.
When it comes to performance tyres you have a wide choice. You only have to look at any large online retailer like mytyres.co.uk to see the wide range on offer. This can make choosing a tyre difficult.
Directional tread patterns require fitting according to the rotation of the wheel. These are good for performance cars where speed changes are frequent and you want to maximise your cornering grip. They usually perform best in wet weather where the V groove pattern throws water away from the contact area efficiently. Note the arrow on the sidewall showing the direction of rotation.
Asymmetric designs have a tread pattern designed for the inside and another for the outside again the rotation and outside edge are marked on the sidewall. The outer part enhances cornering and the inner part usually helps with the dispersal of water.
Standard symmetrical tyres can be fitted either way round and on either axle. Most standard cars are fitted with these and they do work well as all round tyres.
Road Legal Slicks
For track days you'll see companies offering road legal slicks. You'll always get the best dry weather grip from a slick tyre, as F1 cars can attest, but every country specifies a minimum tread depth to cope with wet weather.
The road legal slicks have large tread areas and very few channels so fit the legal requirement for tread depth over the tyre and still offer a large slick contact area.
Take into account the manufacturers speed rating. TorqueCars hear many drivers putting on cheap tyres and saying they never drive at 150mph so why would I need a tyre rated for that? In reality the speed ratings show the durability of the tyre and its ability to handle the torque of a more powerful car. If you drive at 70mph you can still experience a blow out or tyre failure due to the fitting of the wrong speed rating of your tyre.
Stretched tyres, rim size and speed ratings
We would also recommend fitting an appropriate size of tyre for your cars rims. Most manufacturers specify just one or two size options for each rim and sticking to these ensures that your car will operate safely and predictably. The growing trend of stretched tyres worries us. Pushing a tyre this far outside of its intended operating range cannot be a good thing!
For most performance cars used on the road we would recommend directional tread patterns with a V pattern. We also recommend you fit tyres in pairs on the same axle. Four wheel drive cars are usually better where Asymmetrical patterns are used and should usually be replaced as a set of four. For track days in the dry weather a road legal slick is the obvious choice. Manufacturers recommendations should be noted and where cars are modified you should try to exceed the recommended tyre specification.
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