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What are Steel Belted Tires?

By Ken Black
Updated Jan 24, 2024
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Steel belted tires, also known more commonly as radial tires or steel belted radial tires, have been the technology standard in tire construction since the mid 1970s. The tire is featured by its construction of a steel wire mesh between the tread and the body ply of a tire. In many cases, these tires may have more than one layer of steel belts.

Tires with steel belts have a number of advantages over tires without the technology, the main one being durability. The belts allow the tire to be used over more miles, bringing greater tire life for the end user of the product. They may also be harder to damage in some ways than traditional tires.

The durability of steel belted tires is achieved mainly from the way the steel belts work to increase the rigidity of the tread. This helps in a number of ways. First, it spreads the load over a greater surface. Second, and somewhat related to the first issue, is that it also helps keep the tire cooler, because there is not as much friction being created on certain areas of the tire. The cooler the tire, the less opportunity there is for the rubber to break down over time, thus increasing its overall life.

However, steel belted tires also have some disadvantages over their traditional counterparts. First, the tires are generally considered to have a rougher ride than tires without steel belts. This effect, however, has been largely counteracted by improvements in vehicle design, and especially the shock and strut system. In nearly all cases, the ride in a modern vehicle seems smoother than a ride in a 1970s vehicle, no matter what tires are on the modern vehicle. The other disadvantage is cost. The traditional tires are much cheaper to produce, and therefore much less expensive for the consumer. The additional rigidity in the tread also makes it harder to tell when the tire is running low on air, which could affect fuel mileage.

However, in the vast majority of cases, steel belted tires have more positives than they do negatives. For example, the higher cost may be balanced out by the fact the life of the tire is greater, meaning not as many will be bought over the life of the vehicle. This explains why these tires have quickly become a standard in an industry that, many times, finds it hard to agree on any sort of standards.

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Discussion Comments

By Adam36 — On Feb 27, 2013

I have had a Ford Bronco with new steel belted radial tires parked on my driveway for about three years. The tires are inflated. How safe would these be to drive after this time?

By anon261339 — On Apr 15, 2012

Yes I agree with this. I'll always go with steel belted now that I know exactly what that means. Steel belted is more than just the tire; it is a slogan and it feels good.

By SarahGrove — On Jun 07, 2011

My husband taught me a long time ago that When it comes to car safety one of the most important factors is your tires. He says that steel belted tires a definitely safer than regular tires.

He even said I don't think they even make tires anymore that aren't steel belted. They probably do, but you would have to ask someone at a tire store. We have never even looked at anything but steel belted tires. In the article it mentions that steel belted tires spread "the load over a greater surface."

That alone tells me it is safer since it has more surface area to grip the road. The fact that the tire is more durable also says something about safety to me.

Because there are so many variables I don't know if it is even possible to compare tire expenses by using cost per mile. There is really no set rule on how long your tires will last.

So much depends on your driving habits, how well you maintain your tires, proper suspension, alignment, weather, etc. For instance, jack-rabbit starts can waste not only fuel but burn more rubber. If your tires are not inflated properly, or not rotated regularly that also has an effect on how well your tires wear.

One indicator for treadwear on your tire is the Uniform Tire Quality Grading that is printed on the sidewall of the tire. Knowing the rating of the tires you currently have on your car and then comparing their grading with the ones you are considering buying will give you some indication of how long they will last. But like I said we always buy steel belted tires. The safety factor is worth any added expense.

I am not an "expert" but everything I have been able to learn about tires tells me that you are definitely safer with a steel belted tire.

By HappyDay45 — On Jun 06, 2011

I understand how steel belted tires can be more durable, but I was wondering are they safer than regular tires? Also even though they are more expensive than regular tires would the fact that they are more durable, in other words last longer, offset the fact that they are more expensive. I guess what I am wondering is when it comes to cost per mile is there any sense in buying the less expensive tires? Or can you even compare tires at cost per mile?

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