A Closer Look At Tire Construction
How Are Tires Constructed?
The tires you are familiar with today didn't always look and drive the same way they do now. In fact, it wasn't until 1946 and the invention of the radial tire that consumers were finally able to get handling, traction, durability, and a smooth ride from their tires. Today's radials are modern engineering marvels! A careful and complex combination of steel, textile plies, and rubber come together to create safer and higher-quality tires than we've ever seen before.
The image above shows just how complex a tire is "under the hood." Each of these elements is vital to the safety, functionality, and long-lasting durability of the modern radial. Let's take a look at each component:
Bead: The bead bundle is a long loop of strong steel cable coating in rubber. The purpose of this loop is to give the tire the strength and structure it needs to stay in place after its been seated on the wheel. The bead is also responsible for handling the heavy forces applied by tire mounting machines when your radials are being installed on your vehicle.
Plies: The radial and cap plies are a series of textile fabrics that are layered on top of one another to constitute the body of the tire. These plies are coated with rubber to help seal in air and allow the plies to bond easily with the other parts of the tire. The strength of the tire in question can usually be calculated by the number of plies it has. A standard passenger car tire typically has two body plies, while the wheels of commercial aircraft may have up to 30!
Cap plies are not found on all radials; they're usually used in high-performance tires that are designed for faster speeds to help keep other components from shifting or moving.
Steel belts: Steel belted radial tires feature a loop of thin steel reinforcement directly underneath the rubber tread of the tire. This strong plating acts like armor for your tires and makes it difficult for the tire to be punctured by sharp debris on the road. The steel belt also helps the surface of the tire remain flat on the road, which greatly improves traction and handling.
Tread: The tread is the visible rubber part of the tire that people are most familiar with. Although all of the components that lie beneath it help it do its job, the tread tends to get the credit for providing traction and control when it comes to everyday driving. The tread itself is made from a mixture of both natural and synthetic rubbers, and specially engineered grooves and patterns are then cut into it to help it achieve it's specific performance goal. Snow tires have different tread patterns than all season tires, and high performance tires have different treads than an everyday OE passenger car tire. Depending on what the tire was designed for, treads and tread patterns vary widely.