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When using a front wheel drive car, the rear end is only used for braking. Is it a good idea (and if not, why) to "reverse" the tires so the tire threads are useful when braking?

I know it might increase the gasoline consumption, but as I'm driving on the snow, it would provide a great bonus.

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Welcome to the site! Could you elaborate on what you mean by "reverse" the tires? Do you mean just swapping the rear wheels from one side to the other or having the tires remounted so that the current outside faces in? – Mark Johnson Dec 5 '12 at 19:28
Thanks for the warm welcome Mark! Sorry for my poor english, I meant having the current outside faces in. – Rob Dec 5 '12 at 19:31
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Following answer assumes you've got tires with directional thread (if you flip the tire 180 the pattern will mirror upsidedown).

Among other duties, tire threads are responsible for "pumping" the water out from below the wheel when you drive through it. If you reverse the directional tires then the water will be pumped to under the wheel, effectively providing you with aquaplaning. That can badly affect handling irregardless of drive-wheels positions (fwd or rear).

Rear end is useful not only for braking, but for keeping vehicle stable on the road, allowing the car to take corners. Think of it, if you remove rear end traction and have only front 2 wheels, the car will spin (see YouTube for "half a car" examples).

However if you got bidirectional threads (pattern looks the same if you flip tire 180, see sidewall for rotation direction mark) then you have nothing to worry about, these tires can be installed both ways.

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Some tires are definitely directional, and should always rotate toward the front of the vehicle in drive (no swapping sides when rotating the tires). I think there must be some where it does not matter, since you do see rotation patterns that swap what side the tire is on. Swapping which side of the tire is on the inside, however, I'm not so sure about. I suppose that could be bad depending on the tire, but I think it used to be common to mount tires with whitewalls on the inside. – Mark Johnson Dec 5 '12 at 19:43
There are bidirectional tires. Thanks for the note, I will update my answer. – Kromster Dec 6 '12 at 5:41

Unidirectional tread tires need to be mounted according to the directional arrow. Hence they are left or right specific. Nondirectional tires can rotate in either direction. If I understand your question correctly you are asking about mounting what would normally be the visible surface facing in. If that is the case the tire tread rotational direction would not change. In most cases this is not a problem. Many drivers prefer the white lettering or whitewall facing in, especially if the brands don't match. Be aware that certain brands aren't directional but perform better when a specific side is mounted facing out. The tread pattern may be asymetrical meaning the left and right side of the tread are different. Some offroad tires have a reinforced sidewall for rock protection that is designed to face out.

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Thanks for your answer! Is there a way to determine if a tire is unidirectional or nondirectional by looking at the treads? – Rob Dec 5 '12 at 22:34
Directioal tires will have an indicator on the sidewall that says unidirectional and an arrow indicating which direction. – mikes Dec 5 '12 at 23:16

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