A tire can be either directional or multi-directional. Whether you are mounting new tires to your ATV or want to ensure the wheels are installed correctly, you need to know if the tires are directional.
Directional tires should be mounted in a specific direction for optimal performance, while multi-directional tires work just as well in either direction.
So are ATV tires directional? Some types of ATV tires, like mud tires, are usually directional, while others, like rock climbing tires, are generally not. Whether an ATV tire is directional depends on the type of terrain and riding style the tire was designed for.
The table below tells you whether the different types of ATV tires are more likely to be directional or not.
ATV Tire Type
Directional / Multi-directional
Most are directional
Trail (All-Terrain Tires)
Either directional or multi-directional
Hard Pack / Rock Tires
Rear: Usually directional. Front: Multi-directional
Rear: Usually directional. Front: Multi-directional
How to Tell if an ATV Tire Is Directional?
You can tell if a tire is directional or not in several ways. Some are relatively straightforward, while others require that you take a closer look at the tire’s design.
Please note that these are general guidelines only and that some manufacturers may offer other guidelines for specific tire models.
Look For Directional Markings on the Tire Sidewalls
Most directional ATV tires have markings stamped onto the tire sidewalls, indicating the forward direction of rotation. If there are directional markings, you know that the tire is directional.
These markings come in various styles. Here are some of the more common:
- The word “ROTATION” is next to what looks like a slope to a point. The point is the direction the tire should turn when driving forward.
- The word “TRACTION” is next to an arrow. The arrow points in the direction the tire should turn when driving forward.
- A stand-alone arrow symbol. The arrow points in the direction the tire should turn when driving forward.
Look for a V-Shaped Tread Pattern
The treads on directional ATV tires often form a “V”-like pattern, some more prominent than others.
Here are a couple of examples of what to look for:
Some manufacturers offer tires with a less prominent “V”-shaped tread pattern marketed as multi-directional regardless. The idea with these tires is that they offer more flexibility.
The less aggressive V-style tread pattern still offers decent traction when mounted as you usually would mount a directional tire. Then, if you want, you can mount the tire backward without being too troubled by the potential downsides.
Check if the Tread Pattern Is Symmetric
If there are no directional marks on the sidewalls or a distinct V-like pattern, the tire is likely multi-directional, but it can still be directional. To know for sure, you need to inspect the design of the tread pattern.
- Stand the tire upright and look at the tread pattern from the top. Then turn the tire 180 degrees.
- Notice whether the thread pattern looks the same in both positions or if it looks different. It may be easier if you compare two similar tires at the same time.
- The tread pattern on a multi-directional tire will look the same regardless of direction.
- The tread pattern on a directional tire looks noticeably different in the two positions.
Read the Tire Specs or Ask the Reseller
When you shop for new tires online, you will often find that they include information about tire direction in the listing spec section. If there is no listed info, you should ask the seller or do a Google search on the specific tire.
Your local tire shop should also be able to tell you which tires they offer are directional and which are not.
Identify the Correct Tread Direction on a Directional ATV
If you’ve established that you have directional tires, you must make sure they are installed in the correct direction.
- If there are directional markings on the tire sidewalls, the tires should be mounted so that the arrow faces the forward rotation direction.
- V-style tread patterns should be installed so that the V’s tip hits the ground first when driving forward.
- A directional tire usually has no “left” and “right” sides. They can be mounted on either side as long as the arrow points forward.
Directional vs Multi-Directional Tires (Pros and Cons)
The type of terrain where you do most of your riding determines whether directional or multi-directional tires are the better choice for you.
If most of your riding is on hard surfaces such as hardpack, rock, gravel, or pavement, you will probably be better off with a multi-directional tire. They are also the preferred choice in off-camber situations.
If you ride primarily in wet mud or prefer optimal traction the few times you ride in mud over ride comfort and handling on hard surfaces, a directional tire may be the better choice.
- Directional tread patterns provide better traction on loose surfaces like mud, snow, and sand. This makes them pull better in the forward direction.
- Directional tread patterns are self-cleaning. The V-shaped threads push mud out as you go forward, creating a self-cleaning effect. This helps improve traction by keeping the threads less mud-packed and ready to grip when driving forward.
- High-power ATVs can utilize the lugs on a directional mud tire to create a paddling effect when going through the mud at high speeds.
- Multi-directional tread patterns are smoother on hard surfaces such as pavement.
- Multi-directional tread patterns grip better on rocks.
- Multi-directional tires can be rotated to even out tire wear.
- Multi-directional tread patterns grip side slopes better.
- Multi-directional tires generally stop faster than directional tires.
- Some multi-directional tires are designed with a directional tire’s characteristic V-like thread pattern.
Can You Mount Directional ATV Tires Backward?
You can swap directions on a directional tire for most ATV applications, but it is not always recommended or beneficial. In some situations, it can negatively affect handling to the point where it gets dangerous.
Installing a Directional Tire Backward May Affect Safety
Installing a directional tire backward significantly reduces the tire’s traction on most surfaces, possibly leaving you stuck halfway up a slippery hill.
It may also pull hard to one side as it is not tracking as well as when mounted forward. This may cause instability to such a degree that you lose control of the ATV, especially when riding at higher speeds.
The Specified Direction of Rotation Provides Best Traction
Many manufacturers mark their directional tires’ sidewalls with “TRACTION” instead of “DIRECTION.” The choice of words emphasizes the primary purpose of mounting a directional ATV tire in the specified direction; it’s the direction that gives you better traction.
Installing a directional tire according to the specified direction allows you to take full advantage of its performance. For the average rider, it’s recommended that you follow the recommendations from the manufacturer.
Mounting the tire backward may be beneficial in sand or snow
For lower-speed applications, there might be situations where installing the tire backward might prove beneficial:
- For reduced tire wear and vibrations on hard surfaces. Tractor drivers that drive a lot on paved roads reverse the tires as it may reduce tire wear and vibrations, ensuring a smoother ride. It is also thought to reduce the so-called bubble effect at high speeds.
- For floating on top instead of digging in on snow and sand. When installed correctly, a directional tire will push mud out to the sides, effectively cutting into the ground for better traction. Installing the tire backward will pull the dirt to the center of the wheel instead. This reduces traction, but the tire does not dig in as deep as it would when mounted in the forward direction. Some riders report that this gives you better flotation on surfaces such as sand or snow.
In a spare tire situation, you should have no problems using a directional tire mounted backward to get home.
Are SunF ATV tires directional?
The SunF brand offers directional tires like the A050 “Godzilla” and multi-directional ATV tires like the A001.
Are Wanda ATV tires directional?
The Wanda brand offers directional tires like the P375-10218 and multi-directional tires like the P350-10165.
What’s the benefit of directional ATV tires?
Directional tires are designed to optimize performance in specific conditions. They can improve traction, handling, and ride comfort when properly installed.
What happens if directional ATV tires are installed incorrectly?
If directional ATV tires are installed backward, they may not perform optimally. This could affect traction, handling, and even tire lifespan.
Are directional tires more expensive than non-directional tires?
The cost of ATV tires varies by brand, size, and design. Directionality doesn’t necessarily make a tire more expensive.
In conclusion, the directionality of ATV tires dramatically influences their performance and application across different terrains.
Correctly identifying and mounting these tires, whether directional or multi-directional, will ensure optimum performance, safety, and tire longevity.
Remember, while there are exceptions, generally, it is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the direction of tire installation for the best riding experience.