What Are Radial Tires Used For? (+ How They Differ)

Although there are few debates in the automobile industry, radial tires are more widely used today.

They now come standard on almost all new vehicles.

Still, what purpose do they serve? Stop guessing and find out now.

radial tire

Here’s what radial tires are used for:

People use radials for many reasons; a few of these reasons include minimizing fuel usage and getting better traction. They’re also preferred when you need tires that can dissipate heat better. Thus, they provide a better experience on long trips.

How Are Radial Tires Different?

The significant difference with radial tires lies in their construction, not their outward appearance.

That’s right, unless you’re a genius in the tire department, you can’t identify radials even from a close distance.

Tires are made up of layers underneath, consisting of cord plies and string-like materials in the tire. However, there are slight variations in construction, resulting in different tire types. Still, the major ones are radial-ply and bias-ply tires.

In radial tires, the cords are arranged across the tread area. It further looks like it extends down the sidewalls towards the tire beads. This look gives them their name “radial” since the plies would seemingly converge.

Radials also have steel belts underneath their treads. These belts serve as extra layers above the radial cord plies.

Even though there are many differences, these are the significant distinctions between the tire types.

What Are Radial Tires Good For?

They are excellent for almost all types of driving. However, they have several advantages and fewer disadvantages, and that’s why they are more versatile than non-radial tires.

Radial tires are great for budget-conscious road trips. Because of their outstanding fuel economy, you’d spend less on gas with radials. So if you own a car, you probably use a radial tire.

If you haven’t noticed that they conserve fuel, it’s probably because you may not have used non-radial tires before. Hence, you’re only used to your fuel economical radials.

Another reason could be that you don’t drive long distances. Instead, the impact of saving on fuel costs is usually felt when you drive across long distances.

Generally, radials are better if you wish to save money in many ways other than fuel costs. So we’d explain more about that later on.

Also, if you don’t already use radials, feel free to switch as you’d soon discover their advantages.

Pros of Using Radial Tires

We’ve discussed how widely used radials are today. Well, it isn’t so, simply because drivers like the name “radial.” The pros are quite a handful. So let’s dive right in.

First, radial tires are better for your wallet. However, it takes a while to find that out. This is because they’re more expensive in a store or dealership than their equivalent non-radial counterparts.

Nonetheless, you’d soon realize they can last twice or thrice as long as non-radial tires and are more fuel economical.

Their improved fuel economy results from their reduced rolling resistance. Radial tires roll more smoothly on the ground with little opposing force. They also have improved puncture resistance because of their steel belts which run along their treads.

Then there’s the heat-dissipating factor to consider. It’s one of the primary reasons they last longer. Radials do not accumulate as much heat as non-radials on the road.

Their heat dissipation is also why you’re less likely to experience a blowout. Moreover, they are also more stable because of their wider footprints, which means more contact with the ground. More contact with the ground means more area to ‘share’ the heat build-up.

It also means tread wear is even throughout since all parts of the tread meet the ground while you drive.

Ultimately, radial tires deliver a smoother ride.

Cons of Using Radial Tires

They can’t support weighty loads as much as bias-ply tires.

This is perhaps the most common disadvantage with radial tires. It’s also the reason they’re not often used as much as bias-ply tires for off-road trips.

Their inability to support heavy loads well results from their sidewall configuration. Radial tires have always had softer sidewalls.

Their radial-ply structure means the sidewalls are constructed independently from the crown. They’re able to function independently too.

While their soft sidewalls are partly responsible for more comfortable rides, it’s also why they have reduced load-bearing capacity.

They tend to swell outwards when overloaded or under-inflated. This increases the risk of sidewall cuts and damage during collisions.

It also leads to another disadvantage: radial tires may need more attention at all times. So it’s best to monitor your radial tire to ensure it always has the proper pressure.

It’s also more apparent when they don’t have the correct pressure, except they are run-flat tires.

Related: Do Radial Tires Really Make A Difference? (Solved)

What Vehicle Should Use Radial Tires?

Radial tires used to be off-limits to off-road vehicles because of their softer sidewalls. However, more drivers are adopting radial tires because of their impressive puncture resistance.

As a result, they may feel the advantage outweighs the disadvantage.

Typically, any sedan, SUV or light-duty truck can go at high speeds, so these vehicles should use radial tires. These days, non-radials are mostly limited to heavy-duty trucks and agricultural vehicles.

Nonetheless, radials are also adopted for use in heavy vehicles today. Even transport machines now use radials since they are also now designed to carry heavy loads.

New special trailer radial tires can now perform the same load-bearing capabilities as bias-ply tires. So, radial technology does not have to be for passenger vehicles alone.

You can identify a special trailer tire from the code on it. These codes are typical examples of radial tire codes; P185/60R15 and ST205/75R15.

‘R’ in these codes means ‘radial.’ A bias-ply tire may be marked with a ‘B,’ ‘D,’ or an ‘X.’

The ‘P’ shows it’s for a passenger vehicle, while the ‘ST’ designates it for special trailer vehicles. If these letters are replaced with an ‘LT,’ it shows that the tire is meant for a light truck.

Today, there’s a radial for any application, and it’s a matter of time before they’re standard on any wheel-mounted vehicle.

Related: Do Radial Tires Really Make A Difference? (Solved)

Is It Recommended to Use Radial Tires?

Radials are highly recommended for every vehicle, especially passenger cars. This is especially if you travel at high speeds.

Since radial tires dissipate heat much better, they’re recommended for long distances and higher speeds.

They’d need less time to cool off than non-radial tires. They’d also last a lot longer since heat is less likely to damage them.

Radial tires are also recommended because they’re a lot safer to use. Safer how?

Well, their advantages contribute to safer driving. So let’s start with their better traction.

With radial tires, you’re guaranteed less sliding on slippery roads. Imagine driving on a foggy highway where you can’t see pedestrians from afar. No doubt, efficient traction would come in handy.

They could also save you from going over a cliff since they’re much better for cornering. Furthermore, the increased puncture resistance might be the difference between a flat tire on the highway and a steady car.

Except you use run-flat tires, a flat tire on the highway is quite dangerous. No one wishes to change a spare or fix a flat on the highway.

Even if you refuse to use radial tires despite these accolades, their longevity might appeal to you.

Related: Can I Use Car Tires On Trailers? (Explained)

What Are the Most-popular Radial Tire Brands?

After discovering what radials can do for you, the next thing is to find the best brands. These brands are popular for a reason; they all make quality tires.


It makes sense for Michelin to be number one on the list. They were the first tire brand to develop and market radial tires in the 1940s.

Many people also consider them the best tire manufacturers in the world. Still, it wasn’t until the 70s that radial tires found their way to American-made cars.


They’re one of the best tire brands in the world and have been around for over a century. Their radial tires are top-notch; like Michelin, they’re masters in innovation.

They are among a few tire brands working on tires equipped with artificial intelligence. Soon many cars on the road would be fitted with tires that can note a driver’s driving habits. They’d use this information to track tread wear and predict damage.

Yokohama Tires

This is another famous tire brand with exceptional products.

You probably already know them from their many commercials, and they’re also known for producing expensive and budget-friendly products. This means there’s a Yokohama tire every driver out there can afford.


Bridgestone manufactures some of the best and most expensive tires in the world. They’re notable for their many innovations like every other brand on this list, and their tires have exceptional lifespans.

You should know that the above tire brands may not produce radial tires alone. However, radial tires are more produced today than non-radials because of their high demand. As a result, automakers equip their new cars with standard OE radial tires.

Final Thoughts

Cars have come a long way from the earliest pneumatic tires.

We’ve also observed the once widely used bias-ply tire slowly fade out of fashion. Even though they have a few advantages over radials, radial tires are better by the day.

The improvements are so fast that they’re shedding away their disadvantages and outperforming non-radial tires. The growing increase in their usage may lead to complete standardization soon.

Expect to use radial tires with everything in the future.


Bias Tires Vs. Radial | It Still Runs

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