How To Tell If You Have Directional Tires

How To Tell If You Have Directional Tires

When searching for new tires for your vehicle, it can get pretty confusing. Tires are pretty much the same across brands, right? Wrong. Besides the numerous sizes and styles you can purchase, there is also the consideration of directional vs. traditional tires. 

If you’re trying to figure out how to tell directional tires apart from traditional ones, you’re in the right place. This guide explains everything about directional tires, including whether they are suitable for your vehicle, how to tell the different treads apart, and the key differences between directional and traditional. 

Short Answer

The method for how to tell directional tires apart from traditional ones is relatively clear-cut: examine the tread and look for a V-shape. The V-shape indicates the direction they should face.

What Are Directional Tires?

A directional tire’s design means it should roll in one direction. The design makes it especially helpful in snowy or wet conditions, as it usually possesses a superior grip to traditional tread. The unique directional tread cuts through moisture on the road. 

How to Tell Directional Tires Using Tread Markers

are my tires directional

Due to their unique tread pattern, directional tires are identifiable via the pattern of their wheel. They will often have ‘V’ shapes cut into them instead of lines or ‘U’ shapes on traditional tires. These ‘V’ shapes cut through snow or precipitation that may otherwise compromise a vehicle’s control. 

If you aren’t sure what type of wheels you have, look at their groove pattern. If they feature sharper ‘V’ shapes rather than lines or ‘U’ shapes, they are likely to be directional tires. 

Additionally, there is usually a clear rotation marking on the outside tire sidewall. There may also be ‘This Side Out’ written along the sidewall. 

The markings are in place to prevent improper fitting, which can cause severe performance difficulties. 

Directional vs. Traditional Tires

There are a few things that distinguish the two tire styles beyond their groove patterns. 


Directional tires are best for those who frequently drive at high speeds or in wintry conditions. Their firmer grip means improved safety and performance on the road.


Directional tires exclusively face one direction, whereas traditional ones can face any direction. 

The design brings plenty of benefits, including increased control and performance, but it also means they can wear out faster. An excellent way to combat this is by rotating your wheels so that each side of the tread receives equal pressure. 


The rotation of directional vs. traditional tires differs. With traditional, you can switch them around in any way that you like as they have no specific groove direction. 

With directional styles, you can only rotate them according to their corresponding direction. You can swap the front to the back, but they must remain on the correct side.


Directional tires come at a higher price, both in the original purchase price and maintenance, but they are also of higher quality. If you frequently drive at high speeds or live in a more wet, wintry climate, they can make a significant difference to your driving experience. 

Why Is It Important to Know if You Have Directional Tires?

 directional tires how to tell

All the potential benefits rely on correct mounting. If placed backward or incorrectly, they cannot perform their designed function. You will effectively be paying out extra for no additional benefit. 

You will also wear your tread out far quicker with incorrect mounting. Too much pressure on the grooves will cause them to smooth out and flatten, completely negating any positive effect. 

The good news is that improperly fitted directional tires aren’t necessarily dangerous. They shouldn’t cause you to crash or increase the likelihood of an accident. Even so, they will cost you a lot of money in repairs, and you will receive none of their benefits if not fitted correctly. 

Can You Use Both Directional and Traditional Tires?

how do i know if my tires are directional

The debate is still going on this topic, but in general, the consensus is that you can use both as long as your wheels match on the same axle. 

It is not advisable, under any circumstances, to have different wheels on the same axle. The factors here include differences in size, material, and design. Failure to abide by this rule can result in an increased likelihood of a crash. 

Final Thoughts

Directional tires improve the control of your vehicle and make for a superior driving experience at high speeds. However, they are more expensive and, if fitted incorrectly, will not provide the same benefits.

The best method for how to tell directional tires apart from traditional ones is to check the groove pattern and outside sidewall. Look for the distinct ‘V’ shape and make sure that if you get them rotated, they face the direction they should. 

Did you find this guide helpful? Consider checking others:

How To Align Car Tires
How Long Does A Tire Alignment Take
How Often Tire Alignment
How Much Does Tire Alignment Cost