Tire Tread Close Up - A Beginner's Look at Tires blog photo

Choosing the right tire for your vehicle requires more than the make, model, and tire measurements of your vehicle. It is almost equally important to take your lifestyle and current location into consideration. These types of considerations include:

- Your daily commute

- Job or school commitments

- Seasonal weather conditions

- Your overall desired driving experience

To make the buying process a little easier, let's break down some of the common tire terminology and how it applies to you.


To make the buying process a little easier, lets breakdown some of common tire terminology and how it applies to you.


The tread is the part of the tire that comes into direct contact with the ground. It is made from rubber or rubber compounds and is arguably the most important aspect of the tire. The tread pattern is designed differently to meet the basic requirements of the vehicle as well as the external conditions it will endure.


Grooves are the large gaps in the tire tread patterns and are designed to push water, snow, and mud away from the center of the tire. This method helps the tire to maintain the most amount of grip possible. For example, all-terrain tires will have smaller groves and mud and aggressive tires will have larger groves. When a tire has smaller groves, tire noise is also minimized making all-terrain tires more ideal for city and highway driving.


Tread lugs work to provide stability, support, and performance capabilities based on the manufacturer’s goals. The lug compresses as it contacts the ground, then returns to its normal shape as it comes back around. This process is commonly referred to as force variation. Lugs act as the main contact patch and grips the edges of the road. In the off-road world, the lug pattern is an extremely important part of the tire. The lug pattern often dictates the capabilities of the tire.


Voids are the space where the lugs can shift and flex. The term void ratio refers to the space between the lugs. Lower void ratio = more surface contact. Higher void ratio = less surface contact. Often you can spot the difference between mud and all-terrain tires simply by the lug and void patterns of the tires. Larger voids aid the tires in gripping onto rough surfaces such as embankments or rock ledges.

Photo from Yokohama Tires website

Types of tires

As technology develops, tire manufacturers strive to create the most effective tires possible with high-tech compounds and sophisticated engineering methods. As the market expands, so do your options. From a glance, it can be difficult to identify the differences and what will work best for your needs. With so many products possessing similar styles and costs, how can you choose the right set of tires for you? Let’s discuss the important aspects of tires to pay attention to, especially when it comes to off-roading.

All Terrain Tires

The all-terrain (AT) tires also known as the jack of all trades; are the most versatile option to get for your vehicle. AT tires are ideal when needing to balance on-road comfortability and off-road stability and handling. It’s the open-tread design that allows AT tires to rival dedicated trail tires regarding pavement performance. The justification for investing in all-terrain tires lies in the variety of driving experiences you normally have. Keep in mind, all-terrain tires are meant for all purposes; you need a healthy mix on and off-road driving for these to be your best option.

For example, if most of your driving is done on the highway or in-town, investing in this type of tire is not the recommended choice. The rubber is specially designed to be easily manipulated and adaptable to a wide range of surfaces. In turn, you won’t get optimal fuel economy on paved roads and the ride will be noisy. If this is what your daily route looks like, investing in a good highway tire is a better choice.

Mud and Aggressive Terrain Tires

The basic understanding of mud and aggressive terrain tires is that they are designed for heavy off-road use. While manufacturers may design these tires to have some on-road manner, they are meant for those who frequently find themselves driving in harsh or rough terrain. So even though you can run them all year round, the in-town driving experience will be noticeable as these tires will be louder and will not perform as well as all-terrain tires in wet or snow conditions.

Mud tires are built with deep tread blocks for extra traction on treacherous roads. These tires are designed with compounds to resist extreme punctures, chips and cuts. The more deluxe (and expensive) mud tires, the more durability and traction they will have. This is because a higher sidewall ply count will be used which allows the tires to run on lower PSI.

To purchase the best mud tires for your intended use, you should consider the most extreme type of mud and terrain you will potentially have to drive in. A general rule of thumb when buying mud tires, it’s best to plan for the worst. The last thing you want is to get stuck because you purchased a mud tire that was too modest for the terrain.


Interested in purchasing tires? You can shop online now at our Tire Centre. To talk to a parts advisor, please call us at (403) 851-2932 or email us at parts@cochranetoyota.com.