Radial-Ply vs Cross-Ply Tyres: What's The Difference? (Explained)

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

There are a few types of tyre construction, the two major tyres are cross-ply and radial-ply, but what is the difference between them and which is better?


Radial-ply are the most commonly used tyres, they are flexible and strong and feature better steering response, traction and also reduced fuel consumption. Cross-ply are still used but are less common, they're stiffer and better suited to low-speed usage.


In this article I'll explain the differences, advantages and drawbacks between cross-ply and radial-ply tyres.


Table of Contents:


man checking type of tyre

Radial-Ply Tyres

Radial-ply tyres are the most commonly used type of tyre construction used in modern cars.


Michelin invented radial-ply tyres in 1946. There was a demand at the time for more flexible tyres that could absorb shocks caused by rough road surfaces.


The sidewall and the tread of radial-ply tyres are two distinct components of the tyre which act in their own unique way.


Flexibility and strength of a radial-ply tyre are two combined characteristics that help a radial tyre absorb impact stress and rough surfaces more efficiently than a cross-ply tyre.


The flexibility of the sidewall improves vehicle stability and allows the tyre to make the most contact with the road surface, improving grip and traction and therefore safety.


Radial-ply tyres are also stronger than cross-ply, allowing heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks, tractors and buses to carry more weight and travel more quickly.


Steel cords are put within the tyre, and a belt is applied across the casing in radial-ply tyres.


Because the cord plies are stacked directly on top of each other, the sidewalls of radial tyres are very flexible compared with cross-ply.


radial ply tyre

Advantages:

  • Excellent steering and improved road contact

  • Flexible sidewalls improve driving comfort.

  • At high speeds, there is less heat produced in the tyre.

  • Increased resilience to tread-related damage

  • Reduced fuel usage due to improved energy transfer from machine to road


Disadvantages:

  • When cars hit with curbstones, for example, the fragile sidewalls are susceptible.

  • Because radial tyres include a steel belt, minor road bumps are handled less efficiently.


Cross-Ply Tyres

Cross-ply tyres are also known as bias-ply, since 1898, they have been used instead of fully rubber tyres, until radial-ply tyres were invented.


Prior to the introduction of radial-ply tyres, they were common in the automobile tyre industry.


Crossply tyres have layers composed of nylon cord. They are positioned diagonally across each other in the tread and sidewalls at a 55-degree angle.


Multiple plies overlap to create a thick layer, resulting in reduced flexibility and an increased risk of overheating. Therefore, cross-ply is better suited to low-speed and heavy-duty usage.


Cross-ply tyres have a strong and stiff sidewall that can cause a tyre to overheat when used on a hard road surface, causing the rubber to wear out faster.


Since the sidewall of a cross-ply tyre is stiffer than that of a radial tyre, it is more resistant to sidewall damage. This is useful in heavy-duty usage, such as construction and agricultural.


The tread and sidewall are dependant on each other, because of that, cross-ply tyres don't have as good traction as radial-ply tyres.


Also, the driver may experience greater vibration since cross-ply tyres don't absorb as much impact and don't handle rough surfaces as well.


Cross-ply tyres are less expensive than radial-ply tyres, making them an appealing option for those on a lower budget. But usually they are only available for heavy-duty vehicles.


The stiff sidewall of a cross-ply tyre may also be advantageous in situations where tyre flex and bounce is a concern, such as forklifts.


cross-ply tyre diagram

Advantages:

  • Improved vehicle stability and less tyre flex

  • Increased resilience to sidewall damage

  • Less expensive than radial-ply


Disadvantages:

  • High rolling resistance

  • Higher wear rate due to increased temperature

  • Limited to low-speed applications

  • Reduced comfort due to tyre stiffness

  • Reduced fuel economy


Which Type of Tyre Is Better?

For cars and almost every on-road vehicle, radial-ply tyres are used. For many off-road and heavy-duty vehicles, like agricultural and construction vehicles, cross-ply tyres are used.


radial-ply vs cross-ply tyre

If the vehicle requires stability such as forklifts, telescopic handlers, mobile cranes, etc, then cross-ply tyres are better suited for that application.


Agricultural and construction vehicles require stronger, stiffer, and due to their wheel size, less expensive tyres, cross-ply meet these demands.


Radial-ply tyres have better fuel economy, better handling, and are better suited to on-road applications, such as normal cars. Cross-ply tyres have reduced fuel economy, are less comfortable, and are best suited to low-speed, heavy-duty usage.

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