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.

  • 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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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
  • 3
    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

No this won't help at all.

Instead, you should consider snow/ice tyres for winter. They're a different compound of rubber and will give far superior traction on snow and ice than a regular road tyre would.

Downside is winter tyres are terrible in summer because they wear faster, so you ideally have two sets of rims and swap all four over in spring and autumn.

If snow is a common and significant hazard in your area, consider carrying chains, or snow socks, or other traction aids.

To equalise wear, you need to do wheel rotation.

When you get to about half or 2/3-worn on your front tyres, swap both front wheels for both rear wheels. If you wear them down to the wear indicator its too late and you need to replace the fronts.

This assumes you have 4 full sized wheels and a different spare, or no spare. If you have 5 equal-sized wheels there are more options, search them out.

Do note that this can produce some slightly interesting handling in the first couple days after swapping the wheels. The front's grip get a bit better and the back wheel's grip get a bit worse.

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