Unless you’ve paid a keen interest to tires, you probably don’t know what radial tires are.
You may also find it challenging to understand what they’re all about because of the excess information on the internet. It’s good that we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you and made it simple.
Find out what effects radial tires have on your vehicle’s performance.
Here’s the short answer to whether radial tires really make a difference:
Radial tires have the ability to reduce heat build-up more than non-radial tires, which makes them preferable. They also deliver better fuel economy and more comfortable rides. Radial tires are the most common tire type on cars today. With such wide usage, they really must make a difference.
What Are Radial Tires?
You’ve probably heard of all-season, winter and summer tires. But, of course, they’re the most common types people know about.
However, radial tires pop up when you classify tires based on their internal structure. So you can’t identify them based on their external tread patterns.
Tires have layers underneath them. It’s more common for passenger tires to have four plies with a steel belt.
Plies have cords that are arranged in different fashions. The variation in style is what differentiates radial from non-radial tires.
In radial tires, these cord plies are constructed across the crown area, seemingly from sidewall to sidewall. This is unlike bias ply tires, where the cord plies are built diagonally.
Radial tires have steel belts around their circumferences centralized on their tire tread areas.
What Are the Benefits of Using Radial Tires?
Their sidewalls function independently from the tread based on how radial tires are constructed. This causes them to have flexibility, providing a comfortable ride at higher speeds.
The steel belts around their circumferences mean added toughness against sharp objects. Other than that, contact with the ground is uniform, which means uniform tread wear. This also provides room for more stability on the road.
The tread wear is not just uniform, but also slower than non-radial tires. So although radial tires are generally more expensive, they have longer tread lives.
Another thing that contributes to their longevity is the reduced heat generation. Since they generate less heat, they suffer less from heat effects, prolonging their lifespans. It also means their longevity compensates for their high costs.
Radial tires also have a positive contribution to your fuel economy. This is because there is less resistance to its motion. Hence, they move more freely and save you some bucks on fuel costs.
When Are Radial Tires Recommended?
Radial tires are perfect if you prefer a more durable option. Radials are generally stronger than bias-ply tires, which usually translates to longevity.
So if you want to reduce your frequency of replacing your tires, you’d prefer radials.
Their better traction means you’d be better off with radials on slippery roads. You’d need adequate traction if you lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or even Florida.
These states have very high rainfall rates, which translates to frequent wet roads. Although it’s not bound to rain every day, you don’t want to be caught off guard.
Also, though their sidewalls aren’t usually as strong as bias-ply tires, radials are great for off-road driving. Thanks to the steel belts, that makes it more unlikely for them to get punctured by rocks.
Another advantage is that the sidewalls can absorb the effect of rough roads to deliver smooth drives.
Radial tires are also recommended for summer driving; most summer tires today are radials.
Are Radial Tires Good for Highway Driving?
Radial tires are recommended for road trips too. So if you frequently go on such trips, you’re better off with them.
They also have more contact with the road at all times. This provides for a better grip on highways.
Their speed ratings are higher, and their flexible sidewalls make driving around corners easier. This makes them great for driving at highway speeds.
However, their flexible sidewalls have downsides.
The sidewalls are more vulnerable to swelling when radial tires are overloaded because of the flexibility. As you’ve guessed, that can cause damage or at least wear. This is unlike bias ply tires that have rigid sidewalls.
Technology advances daily, and radial tires are gradually shedding this disadvantage away. As a result, manufacturers now use more robust materials to make them, so they’re no longer susceptible to damage.
Do Radial Tires Really Make a Difference?
Radial tires generally have more advantages than non-radial tires, as you already know.
Modern designs are also centered on fixing their disadvantages. This means as time goes on, more and more problems associated with them would lessen or even disappear.
Other than the costs, radial tires are the best option. But, as you’ve realized, the price is worth every penny since it gives good value for your money.
So, everything, including ride quality, gets better with radial tires. They make all the difference.
Related: What Tires Are On My Car? (Super-Easy Guide)
Do Radial Tires Get Worse Gas Mileage?
Not necessarily. There’s still some debate on which tires have the better fuel economy.
It is common knowledge that radial tires have less rolling resistance than bias ply ones. Rolling resistance in radials is as much as 30% lower compared to other tire types.
The rolling resistance is simply a measure of the forces opposing the movement of the tires. Less resistance means a smoother ride, and less fuel is consumed.
With the above information, it’s widely accepted that radial tires have a better fuel economy.
However, note that many other factors are at play, including road terrain, tread depth, driving speed, etcetera. These factors are unique for you, and you might experience better or worse gas mileage with your radials.
For example, when you drive at low speeds, the rolling resistance can be negligible. Also, tread wear can have a positive contribution to your fuel economy.
As strange as it sounds, older tires positively affect your gas mileage because they’re smoother on roads. The worn-out tread patterns reduce friction, and they can practically slide. They also weigh less than new ones.
However, we strongly suggest that you replace your tires when due.
Still, the treads on non-radials wear out quicker, which could eventually make them more fuel-efficient than radials.
Related: Can I Use Car Tires On Trailers? (Explained)
Do Radial Tires Wear Faster?
We’ve already established that radials are more durable. This durability comes with increased strength and tread life. Hence, radial tires do not wear faster than non-radial ones.
There are a few reasons radial tires are so durable.
Perhaps the primary contributor to their long life is their ability to dissipate heat quickly. Heat is arguably the number one enemy of tires.
What’s more, heat damage isn’t dependent on how old your tires are. It can damage new and old tires all the same.
Other than extreme weather, some driving habits influence heat build-up in your tires. These habits include regular braking, cornering and high-speed driving.
However, even without such extremes, heat builds up in tires under usual driving conditions. So whether or not you over-speed or brake too often, your radials usually last longer than non-radial tires.
Other than the heat, radial tires have longer tread lives, partly owing to their low rolling resistance.
Recall that rolling resistance means more friction and stress on the treads. Thus, the minimal rolling resistance also dramatically contributes to tire longevity.
Related: Are All-Terrain Tires Good For Towing? (Explained)
Do Mechanics and Car Dealers Recommend Radial Tires?
Many mechanics and dealers would often recommend radial tires.
Other than the fact that they have many benefits, as we’ve discussed, they usually come as standard in new cars. So when you buy a new car, the original equipment tires would probably be radials.
It’s a common idea that your replacement tires should be the same or better than the factory-installed ones. Well, no one should advise you to replace your tires with non-radials if your car didn’t arrive with them.
If your dealer recommends non-radial tires, maybe you’ve explained your preferences, or they’re considering your environmental factors. However, dealers may also recommend bias-ply tires if you frequent off-roads.
Until recently, bias ply tires have always been considered superior for off-roading.
Your car manual should also show the type of tires on your car.
Since you can’t precisely dissect the tire to figure it out, you’d have read the text on the tire. So it’s straightforward.
Every tire has multiple texts and figures on it. However, some alpha-numeric characters would stand out and it usually looks something like this; P205/65R16.
You don’t need to understand all the jargon. The “R” shows a radial tire, and non-radials would have some other letter.
Although radial tires deliver excellent performance, they’re not the “remedy to cure all ills.” Unfortunately, using them doesn’t guarantee a seamless experience.
Also, tire classifications go beyond tire structure. So in the winter, you’d be better off with winter or all-season tires. Summer tires would also serve you well during the summer.
Do not substitute radial summer tires for the winter.
Bias-ply tires are also better for agricultural vehicles since they have stronger sidewalls and such cars weigh a lot. Also, farms are off-road locations, so bias-ply tires are generally used.
Some trucks and buses may also use bias-ply tires, but that number decreases daily.
Finally, some radial tires are also run-flat tires, and run-flats have reinforced sidewalls. Hence, run-flat radials are simply radials without the “weak sidewall” disadvantage.
Radial vs. Bias-Ply Tires | motortrends.com