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Can Car Tires Be Put On Backwards

Can Car Tires Be Put On Backwards

Cars can feel like your baby, and each time you take care of it can feel like you are showing how much you care for it. Many people who love cars can attest to this fact, and putting time and money into your car can give it the look and driving abilities that you have been wanting. Whether you like a modern, sleek look or would rather go for something sportier. 

One part of your car that you might not always think as much about are the tires. Although the look and size of tires are often talked about, mostly for aesthetic purposes, the direction of the tread is not. However, if you have ever wondered if your car tires can be put on backward, then this is something that you will need to know.

So, can car tires by put on backwards? Car tires will function best when installed in the correct direction. This is because the tire tread is designed to operate in a specific front-to-back manner to maximize the tires performance.

Three main types of tire treads will be discussed today, but only one that will allow you to put your tire on backward. However, this does mean that you can put some car tires on backward, just not all.

Although this might sound like something that doesn’t seem right to do, it actually has some benefits to doing it and we will go over those later. 

Why Tire Treads Matter

The tread of a tire refers to the lines that you see when you look at the outer part of the rubber wheel that comes in contact with the ground. This design and pattern come in different forms and as it is driven on, it tends to wear down and become slicker on the road over time. 

The tread provides friction for your wheel, especially at higher speeds and in inclement weather, and keeps you from sliding on slippery roads.

If the tread of the tire is too low, then wet ground during rain or snow could cause an accident. So, tires are typically rotated around every six months to ensure even wear between the tires.

This keeps all four wheels working at the same capacity as they wear down so that one tire will not cause your car to pull in one direction.

Benefits of Putting Tires on Backwards

As I mentioned, some of you readers might be feeling like this is a question that doesn’t need to be answered.

Why would someone want to do that to their vehicle?

However, the fact is that putting your car tires on backward can actually be beneficial for your tires and their tread.

As you use your tires to drive your car for a longer period of time, the tread has the ability to be worn down a bit unevenly due to road conditions and the type of roads you drive on.

This can happen even if you have rotated and changed your tires as you should, and can happen easier when a tire pops and only one tire is changed for a new one. The others tend to suffer more. 

Putting your car tires on backward can help your tires wear down more evenly, if they are able to, and can help keep the tread deeper and more efficient for a long time.

Types of Tire Treads Available 

There are three different types of tire treads that are common and used frequently in the automotive world. Those types are radial, which can be broken down into two subtypes of asymmetrical and symmetrical.

Then there is directional, also known as unidirectional tires, which is the only type of tire tread that could technically be installed “backward”.

All of these tire treads are used for different purposes and have various reasons for being used by drivers. So, let’s talk about the differences between these tire treads.

Radial Tires 

Radial tires are made to go in one specific direction and have an arrow on the sidewall that indicates the direction it should be installed in.

There is also usually a single dot also on the sidewall, commonly in bright red, that lines up with the tubeless valve once installed correctly. There are two types of radial tires and neither of them is made to install backward.

Asymmetric Tires 

These types of tires have a varied tread pattern that goes across the face of the tire and should not be reversed because each tread will wear down at a different rate.

If you were to reverse them, the tread that was made for the inside of the tire that wears down slowly will change how well the car drives and how smooth the ride is. It can also be dangerous for the driver and passengers. 

Symmetrical Tires 

These types of tires have a single pattern or design for its tread and continue all the way across the tire.

However, the tread has a bit more of a direction to the design and should still be installed with the pointed design pointing to the forward to the front of the car.

If the direction of this slightly different pattern is switched, then the car has a higher risk accident from poor handling.

Unidirectional Tires 

A unidirectional tire has what is known as a directional thread, which has a design that clearly flows in a single direction.

There are also lateral grooves that are placed on the side of the main design which can point in the same direction as the midsection or are cut straight across.

This pattern gives the tire a greater ability to dispel water in a more efficient way while on the road.

What Will Change If My Tires Are on Backwards? 

Although you technically can have your tires on backward, it is still not a good idea to keep them like that for an extended period of time.

Having your tire backward might give it a more even wear, but it comes at the expense of losing the decreased risk of hydroplaning and high-speed performance.

When your unidirectional tires with directional thread are on backward, the thread is going in the opposite direction. This means that the purpose of the thread is negated because it cannot do the job that is was meant to, or at least not nearly as well.

This can raise the risk of causing an accident.

However, the myth that most people believe is that putting any type of tire on backward will affect the function and mechanics of the wheel, and not just the rubber tire itself is a little off base.

In fact, not only is it true that tires can be installed and driven without damage, but it also doesn’t seem to have as major of an effect as many would have expected.

That is not to say that the performance of a backward tire was not decreased, but the rate at which is decreased was not as much as previously thought.

The effect on dry and wet road conditions were both shown to be only slightly diminished. However, I should make it clear that the performance was only based on average speeds and not high-speed conditions. 

Is It a Good Idea? 

Well, overall, it is not as dangerous as people originally thought. And, it can offer some even wear to your tire than consistently having them in a front-facing direction.

So, if you get your tires changed or rotated and your unidirectional tires are put on backward, this doesn’t mean that you immediately need to stop driving until your local shop can take care of the issue.

You can drive a short distance when needed without much risk or danger. However, you will want to adjust the way you drive a little bit to ensure that you are being as safe as possible.

You should drive a bit slower than usual, especially in the rain, and get time to get the tires reinstalled at the earliest time possible.

So, is it a good idea to drive with your tires on backward? Well, no.

But, if you do end up seeing that the tire shop made a mistake, you don’t need to worry about it ruining your wheels or making it impossible to drive safely.

Just adjust the way you drive, stay off the road unless you need to, and make your appointment at a tire shop to get your tires reinstalled.

Final Words 

Knowing that your tires are meant to be installed a certain way makes it easy to see which direction the tire is meant to be installed in, but with some tire shops having to move quickly to keep up with the number of customers they have, mistakes can be made.

If you have radial tires with either asymmetrical or symmetrical treads, then you should not drive on them at all.

This will cause damage to your tire.

However, if you have directional tread on unidirectional tires, then you will have a lot less to worry about.

So, if you see that your directional tread tires are on backward, you don’t need to have a heart attack about your wheels being ruined.

Just take the advice from this article and get into the shop as soon as possible and everything will be fine!

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!