Radial tire

Radial tire
A cross-section of a tire. Number 12 indicates the radial-ply. Numbers 14 and 16 are bias-plies.

A radial tire (more properly, a radial-ply tire) is a particular design of automotive tire (in British English, tyre). In this design, the cord plies are arranged at 90 degrees to the direction of travel, or radially (from the center of the tire).



A series of plies of cord reinforces a tire. Without this, a tire would be flexible and weak. The network of cords that gives the tire strength and shape is called the carcass. Since the 1960s, all common tires have a carcass of cords of polyester, steel, or other textile materials, inlaid with several layers of rubber.

In the past, the fabric was built up on a flat steel drum, with the cords at angles of about +60 and −60 degrees from the direction of travel, so they criss-crossed over each other. They were called cross-ply or bias ply tires. The plies were turned up around the steel wire beads and the combined tread/sidewall applied. The green (uncured) tire was loaded over a curing bladder and shaped into the mold. This shaping process caused the cords in the tire to assume an S shape from bead to bead. The angle under the tread stretched down to about 36 degrees. This was called the Crown Angle. In the sidewall region the angle was 45 degrees and in the bead it remained at 60 degrees. The low crown angle gave rigidity to support the tread and the high sidewall angle gave comfort.

By comparison, radial tires lay all of the cord plies at 90 degrees to the direction of travel (that is, across the tire from lip to lip). This design avoids having the plies rub against each other as the tire flexes, reducing the rolling friction of the tire. This allows vehicles with radial tires to achieve better fuel economy than vehicles with bias-ply tires. It also accounts for the slightly "low on air" (bulging) look that radial tire sidewalls have, especially when compared to bias-ply tires.

The first radial tire designs were patented in 1915 by Arthur W. Savage, a successful tire manufacturer and inventor in San Diego, CA. [1] Savage's patents expired in 1949. The design was further developed and widely commercialized by Michelin in 1946, [1]. Because of its advantages, it has now become the standard design for essentially all automotive tires.


With only radial cords, a radial tire would not be sufficiently rigid at the contact with the ground. To add further stiffness, the entire tire is surrounded by additional belts that are oriented along the direction of travel. These belts can be made of steel (hence the term steel-belted radial), Polyester, or Aramid fibers such as Twaron and Kevlar.

In this way, low radial tires separate the tire carcass into two separate systems:

  • The radial cords in the sidewall allow it to act like a spring, giving flexibility and ride comfort.
  • The rigid steel belts reinforce the tread region, giving high mileage and performance.

Each system can then be individually optimized for best performance.


Radial tires have different characteristics of springiness from those of bias-ply tires, and a different degree of slip while steering. Motorists were not accustomed to the feel, hence the suspension systems of cars had to be modified. Ford Motor Company engineer Jack Bajer experimented in the 1960s on a Ford Falcon, by giving it less tight steering, and adding both isolators to the drive shaft and bushings to the suspension, the latter being to absorb the thump of riding over asphalt expansion joints in a concrete roadway. Cars could now be made lighter because they would not have to make up for the deficiencies of bias-ply tires.[2]

Radial tires have twice found application on bicycles, used on the 1980s Miyata touring bicycle; models 1000 and 610,[3] and more recently in 2009 on the Maxxis Radiale.[4] Panaracer radial tires were also standard on the Jamis Gentry model bicycle in 1985.

Interestingly, the steel wires in radial tires become magnetic with use, and as they rotate a significant alternating magnetic field is created. It is quite measurable with an EMF meter close to the wheel well when the car is moving and is a spectrum of harmonic strengths from 10 to several hundred Hertz. [2]


  1. ^ U.S. Patent 1203910, May 21, 1915, Vehicle Tire, Inventor Arthur W. Savage
  2. ^ Moran, Tim (2001-04-28). "The Radial Revolution". Invention & Technology Magazine. American Heritage Publishing. Archived from the original on 2007-12-26. http://web.archive.org/web/20071226064252/http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/2001/4/2001_4_28.shtml. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  3. ^ Sheldon Brown: Japanese cycles in the American market: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/japan.html#miyata
  4. ^ Maxxis Radiale: http://www.maxxis.com/Bicycle/Road-Racing/Radiale-22c.aspx

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Radial tire — (Automobiles) a motor vehicle tire in which the cords run at right angles to the plane of the tire (considered as a disk). [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • radial tire — A type of tire construction which has the main carcass plies or cords which run at right angles to the bead and parallel to the radius. By itself, this construction is very weak because when the bias angle is smaller, the structure is stiff.… …   Dictionary of automotive terms

  • radial tire — noun pneumatic tire that has radial ply casing • Syn: ↑radial, ↑radial ply tire • Hypernyms: ↑pneumatic tire, ↑pneumatic tyre …   Useful english dictionary

  • radial tire — a motor vehicle tire in which the plies or cords run from one bead to the other at right angles to both beads. See illustration under tire2.Also called radial. [1965 70] * * * …   Universalium

  • radial tire — ra′dial tire′ n. aum a tire in which the plies or cords run from one bead to the other at right angles to both beads …   From formal English to slang

  • radial tire — noun see radial II …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • radial tire — noun A style (or method of construction) of tires used for most vehicles, which incorporate reinforcing cords distributed radially relative to the hub (at 90 degrees to the direction of travel) …   Wiktionary

  • belted radial tire — See steel belted radial tire …   Dictionary of automotive terms

  • steel belted radial tire — A radial tire with belts of steel to provide both protection and longevity …   Dictionary of automotive terms

  • radial (ply) tire — or radial tire n. a motor vehicle tire having a foundation of plies of rubberized cords running at right angles to the center line of the tread: it provides better handling, etc. than a bias ply tire * * * …   Universalium

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