Can Your Tires Be Mounted Backwards & Is It Safe?

People who have cars can list one or two occasions where they had troubles with their automobile.

The problem may not be entirely their fault but the effect of maintenance and familiarizing themselves with different parts of the vehicle cannot be underestimated.

One of the significant parts that constantly needs to be checked is the tires. Most car owners don’t pay attention to them, but they are important to the efficiency of the vehicle.

In this article, you’ll be looking at the impact/effect of installing tires backwards.

Can Tires Be Put Backward?

The answer to this question depends on the tread pattern.

Vehicle tires are designed with different tread patterns which ultimately determine performance.

The tread is a feature providing friction or traction to the wheels so that they can move at higher speeds and be stable on different surfaces, including slippery ones.

Overall, it is important to install tires correctly because the functionality depends on it.

What Type of Tires Can This Be Done with?

In discovering what tires can be put backward, it is important that you become familiar with the different tire treads.

With that information, you can easily tell if installing and rotation affect tire performance or not.

Here are the three types of tires based on tread patterns (two categories – radial and directional tires) you should know.

Unidirectional tires (or Directional Tires)

A unidirectional or directional tire has a directional tread that makes it possible to move or rotate in only one direction.

This tire is often equipped with lateral grooves on the side to evacuate water efficiently while driving on wet roads.

Directional tires are great choices for performance vehicles, and for people who like driving at high speeds on the highway – they are higher-performance tires.

How to Identify a Directional Tire?

A directional tire isn’t always hard to know. It often comes with a solid center rib, a feature for rigidity and stability, as well as lateral channels pointing down a V-shape.

Symmetrical, radial, & asymmetrical tire tread patterns

Radial Tires

Radial tires are the second category of tires but are divided into two types based on the pattern of the tread – symmetric and asymmetric tires.

Asymmetric Tires

An asymmetric tire has a varying pattern on its tread, offering great grip on different roads – dry, wet, or snow. They are one of the best all-season tires because they come with lateral voids like those in directional tires.

On the outside, they are identified with their larger tread blocks.

Symmetric Tires

The other type of radial tire is symmetrical. It is a popular choice for passenger cars because it has tread blocks facing each other with features like voids and grooves facing different directions.

Symmetric tires are somewhat like directional tires because they are one of the best summer and winter tires. However, the difference is that they can be rotated in any direction.

Can you put tires on the wrong way?

Depending on the tire manufacturer, car tires may take different forms. It could be directional, symmetric, or asymmetric.

It is opposed to the fact that many people think that all tires are the same and can be fixed/installed the same way.

The truth is: most tires are multi-directional tires but not all of them are – some are unidirectional tires. Thus, being able to identify them is consequential to determine if you are putting them in the opposite direction or not.

However, the answer lies in the tread patterns because tires are designed for various purposes.

That being said, the answer to this question is relative. Is it a unidirectional tire? Yes, you can put “the wrong way” and it won’t affect your car’s performance.

Is it multi-directional? No, all sides are correct and your car won’t be affected.

Benefits of Putting Tires on Backwards?

Why would someone want to do that to their vehicle?

Maybe you’ve seen someone do this or you plan to do it, the truth is: the only reason anyone would set their tire backward would be to improve tread life.

In some cases, it might actually work. If your tread has worn down after consistently driving on rough roads for a long time, you can swap the tire backward to increase the life.

In summary, car tires being backward is only to help them wear down evenly and use the treads efficiently for a long time.

What happens if you put a tire on backwards?

If you’ve swapped your tire from one direction to another, then you should be aware of what could happen.

Setting your tires in opposite directions is not an issue but it becomes one when they are like that for a long time.

First, your tires may have problems with reducing the risk of hydroplaning and high-speed performance.

Secondly, if your directional tire is not in the right direction, it is going against what it is designed to do. As it is, you run a high chance of getting into an accident.

In essence: the performance of these tires is unaffected by changing treads; instead, their effect on wet and dry road conditions was slightly diminished.

Tire direction arrow – How to tell what side is backwards?

If you have a directional tire, it is much easier to tell when you are installing or rotating in another direction.

The reason is that these tires often come with directional arrows on the sidewall that always distinguish if the tires are installed correctly or not.

If the arrows are forward, i.e., toward the vehicle’s front, that means the tire is installed in the right way; however, if they are backward or reverse direction, that means it isn’t in the appropriate direction.

Does it matter which side of a tire faces out?

No, it doesn’t. Regardless of the manufacturer, car tires are designed to have different wear rates – especially as they come as front and rear options.

As a matter of fact, you’ll be advised by experts to constantly rotate standard tires between front and back or crossways for the sole purpose of increasing treadwear.

With directional tires, it is much easier to swap front tires for rears on the same side, and vice-versa. When it comes to cross tires, it might have you going through different procedures.

Well, it’s nothing a mechanic or tire shop cannot handle.

What Will Change If My Directional Tread Tires Are on Backwards?

Are there Positive or Negative Effects?

Changing directional tires backwards is not dangerous but you might start experiencing issues with their traction quality as time goes by.

So, what you should do is to drive short distances until your local tire shop takes care of it – which shouldn’t be too long before you visit one.

There are a countless number of tire shops around that you could visit for new tires.

At the tire store, you could also get recommendations on how to improve driving performance with the new tires you get.

Conclusion

If you get the right tires from a good manufacturer, you may not have to worry about the tread life.

However, if you feel the need to balance out the tread evenly, it’s fine to change the tire backward.

The only thing you shouldn’t forget to do is visit a tire shop soon enough to set your tires straight for maximum road use.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dean Alvarez, TireForge Head Author

Thanks for reading our article! We've written this article with a lot of thought and care. If you're interested in seeing more of our content, please check out our Tires section and find an answer to your questions!

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